Saturday, April 7, 2012

Video Game Demo Chat

Demo Talk for April 7th, 2012. I'm playing through downloadable demos for Closure, Scarygirl, Blades of Time, I am Alive, and Elevator Action Deluxe.

This game's default audio level is REALLY LOUD. I played it on the absolute lowest setting my TV can use without muting it and it's still louder than I play most games. How does this even happen? At least there's a volume control in its options.

It's an indie platformer with stark black and white graphics. It's like a higher contrast version of Limbo without the gore. You play as a spider-thing surrounded by darkness that can only move while it's inside of lit areas. You can pick up lanterns, rotate lamps, and illuminate special zones in order to make the stage traversable. Any area that's dark will cause you and the blocks you push to immediately fall through. The goal of each stage is to simply find the door to the next room.

The game works well enough and I like its mechanics. Its style is fine, but it still feels like it's yelling "Look, I'm an indie game!" instead of doing its own thing. Not a big deal. The music ranges from nicely atmospheric to overwhelmingly loud in more than just the volume sense. Overall, seems like a decent game, but not something I'd rush to buy.

Scary Girl
My first thought is, "This game's intro has nicely drawn art, why does the game itself use cheap looking 3D models instead of these nice hand drawn graphics?"

It's a beat em up/platformer starring some kind of zombie/skeleton/tentacle girl who was adopted by an octopus. The style feels quirky in a very manufactured way and the narration feels like an attempt to reproduce the great job Stephen Fry did in Little Big Planet, only without the same quality of writing. Like Little Big Planet, the physics feel bizarrely floaty.

The combat involves mashing on two attack buttons and using R2 to grapple. You can also use L2 to guard, creating exactly the same type of shield used in the Smash Brothers games. At certain points you can press L1 to enter a powered up super mode where you're invincible.

The demo contains four partial levels, which seems to be a pretty nice sampling of what the game has to offer. It ends right before a boss battle, which is dumb since the quality of the boss fights could change my mind on this game. As it stands now, it's not terrible by any means, but it's not exactly compelling.

Blades of Time
That is one stupid looking heroine. It's a Devil May Cry style action game with an awkward camera. The environments look decent, but the characters and enemies really look awful. In addition to having swords and guns, you can use magic skills after building a meter.You hold the Circle button to ready yourself and then press one of the other face buttons to use a spell. This should be more fun than it is.

As far as I can tell, there's no way to dodge or block attacks, which feels kind of wrong. You can dash, and I guess this works as the game's dodging system, but you travel so far when you do so that it feels totally separate from an effective dodging system like, say, Bayonetta's. You can hold L1 to rewind time to solve everyone's favorite video game puzzle, Holding Down a Switch to Open a Door, or to do extra damage to enemies. You can use R2 to dash and grab enemies, which feels a lot like Nero's grappling in Devil May Cry 4 only sloppier. You can use R1 to execute finishing moves when prompts appear on screens. I found myself having to mash the button to get the game to recognize I was pushing it at all on more than one occasion. You use R3 to enter aiming mode and L2 to lock on to enemies. This game uses every single button on the controller, which I'm sure will feel awful to a lot of people. I got used to it, but I didn't like it.

The character herself, aside from her awful, misogynist costume, feels like an attempt to parrot Devil May Cry's sarcastic banter and failing completely. Dante is a lovable doofus. The girl in Blades of Time (the demo doesn't even tell you her name, making her feel further like an object and not a character) just comes off as dumb. She's a Treasure Hunter, like Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, if someone looked at Lara Croft's clothing and said "This character is too conservative." She's a sarcastic Swords and Guns fighter, like Dante. Everything about this character feels cheap, embarrassing, and derivative.

This demo's awful. Don't waste your time.

Elevator Action Deluxe
I haven't played the original Elevator Action extensively. I rented the NES version a couple times when I was young and had fun with it but I never owned a copy. The menu for this demo tells me that the full game contains a complete port of the 1983 arcade version in addition to the new game. That's awesome, all remakes should do that.

The game play is exactly what I remember from the little time I spent with this game on the NES. The objective is to scale a building using elevators and stairs while avoiding enemies by hiding behind doors. Along the way, you need to steal secret documents and may need to shoot some dudes.

Visually, the game is ugly. The environments are drab and the character models look cheap. The arcade and NES versions have more personality in their graphics. I really hope there's a toggle in the full game to use the arcade graphics or something because god, this is ugly. The sound effects are appropriately old school and sound nice. The music isn't exciting and feels mostly ignorable, which I guess is appropriate for an elevator-heavy experience.

This is definitely a fun, arcade style game. I'd be interested in playing the full version, and the arcade version being included really is a nice incentive. I really, really don't like its art style, but other than that I've got no beefs.

Also, the loading screen showed me a CLASSIFIED INFORMATION envelope and it had Bub from Bubble Bobble on it. I loved that.

I am Alive
A survival game set in some sort of post-apocalyptic America a year after THE EVENT. Writers should be able to come up with a better phrase than that. The game uses very muted colors and music and I think its style works pretty well.

You start the game with a gun with no bullets and a couple of food items. From what I can tell, you're supposed to be a normal, every day guy in this game, but to no surprise you can still perform huge jumps and crazy climbing feats that. Of course, chest-high walls can still stop you. It is a video game, after all!

The climbing sequences are pretty exciting, even if they do seem kind of stupid for a realistic hero to perform. If you overexert yourself, your maximum stamina gauge will be reduced until you eat something. When you encounter other humans, you can back away and prevent unwanted encounters with some but will be jumped by others. Once attacked, you can bluff your way into making enemies walk off cliffs with your empty gun, shoot if you manage to find a bullet (there aren't many) or attack using a machete you find early on. The combat feels very poor, and not in a "you're playing as an average guy" way. I can tell this could get really repetitive really quickly, I feel that this game would be better off if your encounters with other humans were kept to an absolute minimum and the ones you did encounter all had some kind of relevance.

I encountered a wounded man that I couldn't help because I used up my first aid kit in the terrible fight right before I found him. This is a perfect opportunity to develop a character; give him some dialogue, or give the player a dialogue prompt. Instead, there's no way to interact with the wounded man at all if you don't have the item he needs. There's an ambulance nearby that would likely have some bandages, but of course you can't interact with it either.

This game definitely has a nice, harsh atmosphere to it, but immersion kind of gets ruined when you get gameplay hints on load screens and a giant MAP UPDATED flashes on your screen every time you come to a dead end. The demo ends leaving me wanting to see what happens next, but the teaser video is full of combat shots and more crazy acrobatics. I want to see more character and atmosphere, not more Generic Video Game Badassery. That's boring.

I like that this is a survival horror type of game that isn't about zombies. I definitely want to try the full game, but I'm honestly really wary after how much I disliked the one major combat scene. The game's only $15 though, so it's not a huge investment.

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