Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday Morning RPG - Not Another Nostalgia Game!!

Don't let my title fool you. This game fascinated me at PAX East. I must have played it for an hour. I had no clue what it was about but I want to buy it. Sure everything about it makes me nostalgic for a childhood I haven't experienced in a while but that's exactly why you'd want to buy it. It was back in April when I started this review. Instead of writing a first impression pieceI knew the developer was releasing on PC so I kept tabs on the port development for the past 5 months. I don't have it on iOS and won't be getting an Ouya anytime soon so I was really excited when I saw this on Steam Greenlight.

For a while the developer went pretty much radio silent everywhere about progress and that made me apprehensive that this game would even be completed for PC release but if I've posted this review that means by some divine intervention this was finally released for PC. Even more miraculous is that I still decided to buy it after constant empty release date promises from the developer. If you are a developer reading this blog please know that gamers will love you more if you communicate with your audience. Contrast is being released a whole year after it was Greenlit on Steam but the fans didn't mind too much because the development team constantly responded and kept us that were interested in the loop.

Now onto the game.

The nostalgia aspect is bleeding through the ears in this title. From the moment you launch an episode you see an old analog TV with the blue tracking VCR screen. Then you're given a magical Trapper Keeper notebook and the list goes on and on. This game doesn't just make old video game and TV references from the 90s. It makes full blown life parodies of my childhood. A nice thing about this game is it doesn't sacrifice gameplay for comedy or parody.

There are about 4 to 5 episodes. Episode 1 was a little more than an hour. It has full controller support and you can switch between keyboard and 360 control on the fly. I noticed to get the controller buttons to show up in the menus you have to manually apply it in the settings. This is something you'll have to set each time you play or else the game thinks you're playing with a keyboard and during mini games in the fight sequence it becomes a guessing game of which button is bound to what key. It's not a game breaker, just a mild annoyance.

Now on to the fight sequences. This game uses a turn based fight system. Your character, Marty, has pretty weak basic attacks so I find myself normally charging up the multiplier before issuing an attack. That way you are bound to kill at least 1 enemy in a single shot. So what ends up happening is you'll just charge and spam special attacks, rinse and repeat. Thank goodness there's 3 ways to charge up. You've got a button masher charge, gauge based and auto-charge, which doesn't give as big a multiplier as the other two. This is great as button mashing can get very tiring in a short while.

Fighting becomes more of a tedious repetitive thing as you only have so many abilities available per match. There is a cheat menu if you pause during battle but considering purchasing cheats is disabled I'm guessing it was a leftover from the iOS version that someone forgot to edit out the PC version.

Each chapter's story is self contained and loosely has anything to do with the previous. Marty is mainly fighting the army of his nemesis Commander Hood but he faces various problems and dangers in each episode. The locations are just as varied as the missions. You'll be in a cave trying to stop a wedding in one episode to school then riding around town to stop the sinister plan of just about everything that threatens your home of Shadow Valley. This small town is prone to as much danger as Sunnydale (Buffy reference) and you're the only one capable of saving it.

Graphics: (^__^) - You know there's something to be said about a game that uses 8 bit characters with a rich and vibrant 3D rendered environment. Not exactly sure what but it's pretty damn beautiful. The developers did well to not go overboard with the retro style graphics. It sets it apart from all the other full blown retro parodies out there.

Controls: ^__^ - I enjoy playing a game with controller support but also can switch to keyboard on the fly. Now if the devs could fix the interface to automatically show gamepad buttons instead of keyboard controls in the menus I'd be set. Other than that the game responds beautifully and makes intuitive use of a simple layout.

Overall: (^__^) - Yes this game is a port but is was done well and I think this makes a better PC game than iOS any day. It just happened to be made for iOS first. What you've got in this neat package is a game full of 90s nostalgia, parodies, funny dialog, chock full of achievements and it has an Endless and Arena mode to add another level of gameplay after you're done with the main story. Giving you more reasons to go back after you've played through the main episodes.

Buy it Now: Desura, DRM Free
Vote for it on Steam Greenlight

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