Being a pretty big fan of sidescrolling beat ‘em ups, I expected to really like Final Exam, but I have to say I ended up being really disappointed. The art style seems like it’s trying to emulate Borderlands, but it’s sadly devoid of any of the charm present in either of the Borderlands games. The graphics barely matter, anyway, considering the camera is pulled out so far during co-op (the main draw of the game) that you can barely even make out any of the finer details of your character. To add to the list of terrible things this title has going for it, the combat is simply boring. No matter which choices you make when leveling up, the combat never becomes engaging enough to make you care about what you’re doing, even after unlocking the special abilities for each of the characters. The dreadful combat wouldn’t be as big of a problem if it wasn’t for every level feeling like it should have ended about 20 minutes earlier. As is, this game isn’t worth anyone’s time.
The intensity of the first act had me hooked, but the second act, in which the game introduces a butt load of information via cartoonish and somewhat out-of-place survival guides, was a slog to get through. Once I’d finished the tutorial, though, I was set loose into the wild again to fend for myself, and it was glorious. I love how survival plays such a big role. You’re not only killing zombies with makeshift weapons. You also have to worry about your hunger, thirst, and tiredness. I thought it would be a pain babysitting these needs, but it’s really not and raises the stakes just a hair more. Fishing in the dark is super scary… I don’t like how there are so few places where you’re allowed to sleep, though. How to Survive should have gone all out by letting you make your own huts. Missed opportunity. The game comes up short in a few other areas, too. The controls are passable but not great. Seriously, why is the right bumper the attack button?! Inventory management could have used some TLC, as well. It’s definitely a flawed game that doesn’t take full advantage of its “survival” motif, but it still makes for a fun arcade experience.
If I had played this game 1-2 years ago, I think I would have really liked it. But with the beat ‘em up genre seeing such a resurgence lately, Charlie Murder doesn’t stand out as anything special. On the surface, it’s like Castle Crashers on crack, which, let’s be honest, sounds awesome. It’s dark, violent, and very quick-paced, though those particular aspects wore on me after a while. The ridiculous amount of blood became somewhat obnoxious, and the fast gameplay made certain beat ‘em up staples like throwing items and piledriving enemies not very satisfying. In addition to these issues, the platforming sections were frustrating, and the non-traditional levels (like skating downhill or playing “Guitar Hero“) were rather boring. I did like the RPG elements, however, and there are plenty of loot drops to maintain your interest in that regard. Unfortunately, the skills you get for leveling up don’t add much to the game. It’s the magic abilities you unlock via tattoo parlors that are fun to use. They’re just not enough to really propel Charlie Murder above other modern beat ‘em ups.
Cloudberry Kingdom is the indie love child of Super Meat Boy and Spelunky. It’s another one of these “cute on the outside but ruthless on the inside” 2D platformers that generates its levels on the fly, supposedly according to your skill level. But first, the negative. The controls aren’t great. Jumping feels… odd. The presentation is also a little strange, mixing cheap-looking graphics with a surprisingly hardcore (but totally inappropriate) soundtrack. The gameplay, however, is sublime. I love it. It fixes everything I didn’t like about Meat Boy thanks to the different abilities that are actually tailored to the levels, the “lifeline” power-ups, and the full-on co-op support. Playing alone can get very frustrating, obviously, but it is a riot when played with others. Extra players are like extra lives in this game, and you’re gonna need all the help you can get. The levels are insane. They’re short, though, and retrying is quick. Plus, once you know what to do, you’ll find yourself slipping past hazards like some kind of wizard. It is so rewarding to catch that “wind,” and you’ll be hooked the first time it happens.
This alien planet you’ve landed on is one sticky hell hole. The stickiness was intentional to make climbing walls possible, but walking across a slightly bumpy surface is more annoying than it should be because of it. The slightest slope, however, will send you sliding off into the next hazard, where one puff of poisonous gas will subtract half your life. Yes, Capsized is frustrating. You do have a grappling hook to help you get around, but its range is limited and hard to aim. There’s also a jetpack, though you have to collect fuel for it before you can use it. Honestly, Capsized would have been so much better if the jetpack was always available. It’s a pain navigating to higher ledges without it. As for the combat, the weapons are cool, but the monsters are either hard to see or require a few too may shots to take down. The co-op mode is the only thing that really curbs the difficulty. Alas, in co-op, you can’t easily differentiate who’s who, and Player 2 is constantly being teleported to Player 1′s position. All in all, what started out as an intriguing sci-fi adventure turned into a clunky, obnoxious, disappointing game.
I remember being a kid and getting incredibly excited every time I saw a movie tie-in game released. While that excitement has nearly vanished over the years, I was seriously looking forward to Pacific Rim: The Game since the movie looks so freaking amazing. Turns out, I should have been a lot more skeptical. Pacific Rim has one of the most bare single player modes of any game that I’ve ever seen, as there are no cutscenes, almost no story to speak of, and the combat is incredibly slow and more than a little cumbersome. This isn’t to say that it’s never fun, but it is rarely fun. The normal single player mode can be finished in an hour, and while the challenge mode can take a little more time, it isn’t any better. The biggest problem I have with the game is that it suggests multiple times that you should create or customize the characters, but any character you create will be completely devoid of color unless you spend another $3 on the DLC that allows you to change your Jaeger’s appearance. Multiplayer is also offered and can lead to some fun matches, but more often than not, the game is just plain not fun.