“I really hate doing this” sums up this review. Why? to give you an idea why you need to know the backstory: I’ve literally played thousands of games. No really
you name it – chances are I’ve given it a try. I enjoy difficult games of all kinds such as Ninja Gaiden & Sigma series, Super Meat Boy and platformers / action titles set to
make you pull your hair out. Metroid series? been there, speed-run through that. I know Super Metroid better than the back of my hand.
As far as XBLIG games go most of them are terrible or “meh”. So when a title pops up offering platforming, shooting/fighting all in one package my brain says give it a try and spend the MS Points. Was Platform Hack a good choice? Read on to find out.
Platform Hack puts you in the role of a hero which can swing a sword, shoot a gun, use a grapple-beam and utilizes a shield. The game has a weapons upgrade system which gives you abilities you need to complete some levels. A short story is told in the beginning but I skipped that and went through the first 2 levels. The game passed my 60 seconds test which is a test that consists of me trying to figure everything out without looking at any instructions – if it passes that and I was able to figure out what I’m supposed to do, more likely than not I’ll buy it.
After playing the demo / buying the game I immediately visited the developers website and read the whole thing from beginning to end. The game is supposed to be similar to Super Metroid mixed with a bit more platforming. The developer documented the creation of most parts of the game, describing algorithms and programming tricks and all the geeky stuff we love. Code was shared and things explained so that everything is understandable.
The next day I decided to actually play the game more than a few minutes and started discovering things that now end up in this review.
Graphics: functional is the word. The enemies/character and the foreground are fine, the background is a pixelated mess. The textures (tiles?) don’t line up in some areas. The menus are cool and the map screen is welcome(found it by pure luck). The enemy animation is average but gets the job done. The main character needs more animation and needs to face the direction that he is running in, not towards the person playing the game. An idle animation for the main character would not hurt either. What really sucked is that the graphics except for the enemies lack any style. There is nothing to break up the repetitiveness and no feeling of immersion. Thinking back to 16-bit days, a few layers of parallax scrolling would make the whole thing more enjoyable. Throw in some random scenery stuff and don’t make the thing look so flat. The healthbars are too freaking huge and the mini-map/radar thing is not very useful.
Sound: Some type of freebies from the usual community pages. The music actually fits the game but the sound effects are terrible. The trumpet sound at the end of each level doesn’t belong in any video game. I also did not notice many enemy sounds except when you shoot them.
Gameplay: this is what it is all about – does it hold up in this department? The answer is yes to a point. It controls fine – maybe not as good as some japanese titles but the
usual mechanics work. You shoot stuff. Then you jump around some platforms and shoot some more. Rinse and repeat – though this is not always a bad thing. Standing in front of a wall and jumping straight up makes you jump backwards unexpectedly – and no this was not the wall jump kicking in. I like the fact that you can swing a sword and shoot a gun with a press of a button. You can’t however rapidly switch up between the two because the animations would not start that quickly.
You earn purple points by killing enemies and these in turn level you up. Level up and receive some points which unlock things such as double health, high jump or the rapid fire spread gun. The enemies range from simple monsters to somewhat larger dragons – oh and there are end bosses. If you take your time none of the situations should be difficult even when there are spots that have like ten enemies on the screen. The first end boss you can just button mash through more or less. I actually had more trouble in those spots with the dragons and birds. Health automatically regenerates. The level layouts are decent but some spots are tricky – good that you can look around with the second analog stick.
Replayability: at this point in time not much. There is so much room for improvement that I can’t even think of anything. Anything really.
Potential: The reason that I mentioned the developers website in the beginning is because the game engine is solid. There are different kinds of attacks and the game plays like
you would expect it to. Things don’t go too crazy, the collision detection is okay and the character is not jumping through walls. The game has menu screens and those little extras you expect. But this is where it ends.
The accomplishment is therefore the game engine but not the content.
A bit more fine tuning with more stuff to do(replayability) is what this title needs. The game has potential because as soon as the right content/artwork is created and bugs squashed(WTF random doors in walls after boss fight and you can’t exit) you would have a game of value.
I rage quit the game on The Tunnels level.
Why? The grappling beam is broken broken broken and you can’t predict what will happen when you use it. No really we sat here together 2 hours and no one was able to not only finish the level, we could not get the grappling beam to work as intended – this is absolutely nothing like Super Metroid because in Metroid if you hold the button you stick to the ceiling. In Platform Hack it randomly makes you fall and if you do stick it pushes you to the floor/makes the rope longer. To make matters worse you spend 2 minutes getting to the spot where you need to go only to die. My death count on Super Meat Boy (please look it up) on my first playthrough was 13,996 deaths – I don’t give up that easily. I nearly threw my TV out the window but I beat that game. I can’t beat this game because an essential mechanic broken.
This screen makes me angry:
this is a fail.
Conclusion: A game that could be great that is held back by the content available and some bugs that break the game. I do want to see more titles from this developer but think that it would be wiser to perfect what is already a good engine – better than most titles on the XBLIG service. Give me a game that controls like Super Metroid and everything else I can turn a blind eye to. Give me a game that has not really been play tested / makes me rage quit and we come back to the first sentence in this review.
TOTAL 62 of 100
I would have given it a 80 if the grappling-beam would work