(this review will appear on steam once I can get it to work )
Oh man I really wanted to like this game, I love how it looks, I love the sad whale plot , but alas, fudge no.
Bear in mind the following on my review : I played this for an hour (when it was updated so I could get it load on the mac) , never progressed the first boss, unlocked 2 guns , 2 items and 2 heads. I'm fairly happy playing frantic games, Hyper Light Drift was totally my jam.
Anyway this game ,
"spoilers to follow for some game mechanics but nothing that you wouldn't see in the trailer, immediately discovero n playing or find out later and be unsurprised anyway because they are generic as soup"
The visuals are great but clash heavily with the gameplay.
As in there's often only a couple of colours happening (most importantly all the enemies are the same themed colour) , a lot is going on , everything is wobbling slightly , and big explosions.
Which looks great but as the game is fairly fast moving and requires an immediate response when you get hit (you have to find your head and/or gun and item) , and this is extremely punishing, you need what you are responding to be presenting everything as clearly as possible.
Which it isn't. As soon as the action ramps up you can't easily tell the enemies apart (they are all red in the first world), the explosions are covering everything, and you often get clipped by things you think you would of missed.
You get hit , you have to then try and quickly retrieve your head (and often gun and item) before your invincibility runs out.
I often didn't realise that's what happened as the explosion of shot enemies had completely obscured this and I was looking at my ammo to see if that's the reason I wasn't shooting.
Then my invincibility would run out , and me or my head would get hit (I'm still not sure exactly what kills me despite countless deaths, this is how much the visuals were a problem for me)
and I would die .
The difficulty here when too much is happening suggests that maybe I'm meant to playing more cautiously. This would seem to be the case except the first early boss is a completely gate of "handle frantic play or fuck off" .
The boss is a good example in clashing game design decisions actually:
-it's testing frantic play despite the game seemingly discouraging it
-it's multiple bosses on the screen along with multiple regular enemies . The bosses are the exact same colour and similar silhouette as the regular enemies and only a little bigger
-they have 2 behaviours that mean you need to be far more mindful of them than the regular enemies i.e they rush directly at you at great speed in any direction unless you shoot them as they do it
if you bounce on them twice in a row you get hit by the second bounce
That last one is particular obnoxious as no enemy previously had this behaviour (i.e you can bounce on them multiple times until they die) and there's nothing in the appearance of the boss or the animation to suggest that you can't do this. The action is so frantic it will take multiple attempts before you realise this is what is injuring you and not the half dozen other things going on .
-also there's 3 of them
Most often I died in seconds upon reaching the boss and learned basically nothing about them other than "gosh a lot was happening"
And again massive explosions, wobbling that seems to obscure hit boxes and single colour enemies. Which are all things that games that are frantic, and commonly regarded as fun, don't do.
Up to this point you will of encountered 5 different enemies (all are red) : dudes that walk towards you, dudes that hover in the air and then fly towards you when they notice you, hedgehogs that sometimes curl up and be invincibility and hazardous to bouncing on , snails that slowly patrol vertical spaces (mostly? maybe horizontal sometimes , unsure) , dudes that hover in the air and rush rapidly down when you are below them.
The flyers and droppers have a fairly similar profile , with the walkers and even hedgehogs blending in when the action picks up.
Droppers move fast enough to require immediate identification, flyers are less of a threat but often will be flying just above your shot path or on a near enough angle which you won't notice with the explosions until they crash into you.
As ,until much later load out options, you only shoot straight up, the best strategy for flyers and droppers is to bait them , retreat and then shoot them when are reachable with a jump, wall slide, or double jump (which you have but it's kinda pathetic).
The flyers are scripted and animated to have "oh I'm baited" and "oh I've gotten confused I will stop following" visuals suggesting this was the desired one.
Which , again with the mess of the action, is pushing towards a careful progression.
And you can have this be a fun game play element , buuut you gotta have more range and complexity in level design and enemy , to have this being fun for very long.
Aaaand the lethality and the setback of dying , I was doing this far beyond this fun point.
Sometimes I would avoid killing flyers or snails , not because of risk or resources, just because waiting 2-3 seconds to get them in position to shoot them was too boring to bother with, despite a mechanic reward for doing so.
The unlockable additional load-out and money system is obscured and it's meant to fun to work it out but nothing you are getting is changing up the gameplay enough to make this anything more than annoying .
Like "Oh wow what do these weird glyphs do " oh right they are money, I can buy a health or swap out for I've already unlocked at the shop or get a continue.
That was the most generic thing for them to be. Dunno why they had to hide that from me.
There might be further mysteries about this but at this stage my interest is so lost they will be forever mysteries.
I didn't find, see or earn new load-out options enough to want to keep playing just for the chance to find them either.
Aaand looking at what people have written in guides they are all all the guns that if you had to think up some video game guns really quickly why that's what they are.
There's a bit more gameplay elements to this with the combo system, items , heads , but honestly nothing noteworthy enough to change how I feel about it.
Also hypothetically later levels might, but I so disinterested by this stage that they don't matter.