Note: I will be judging this game as if it had as much time as it needed to be made, even though it was made in 7 days. Mostly so I don’t have to wonder what can be forgiven because of time limitations, and so I can err all of my grievances with this game. Of course, that means this review is going to be a lot more negative than it could be.
One of the problems with this game is that it is hard. That’s kind of an odd issue to have with this game, especially since I’ve played and enjoyed many a hard game before, but this game’s difficulty is made an issue because of a few other problems:
- Grindy gameplay with little depth
- A failstate
- A heavy focus on exploration
While none of these qualities seem very bad at first (like fr one of them is literally just “a failstate”) the way they manifest and combine with each other makes this game very frustrating.
Let’s start with the difficulty. The thing that makes this game is hard is the limited energy gain and fast energy loss. A single enemy spawner does not give you enough energy to survive, even if you don’t get hit at all. Combine that with the fact that early on you cannot deal damage to most enemies, and the fact that some resources are super hard to find, and this makes gathering enough energy to last an entire playthrough a herculean task. I am impressed you managed to finish this game without godmode. Of course, difficulty on its own does not a bad game make. It usually isn’t a negative, even. So to see why it is in this case, let’s talk about the gameplay and fail state.
The gameplay in this game is incredibly simple. Basically, you find resources that you can collect, whether that be trees, rocks, or enemies. You collect enough resources for you to craft a new tool that allows you to collect new resources and find those resources. Rinse and repeat until you get to the point that you can collect all resources necessary to fuel the rocket ship.
Along that path there is combat. Combat encounter function exactly the same as resource collection, except for the enemies can make you lose energy. There is a way to consistently avoid enemy attacks, as you outrange enemies. There is almost no depth to combat in this game, and no depth to be found in resource collection. But that’s not necessarily a negative. There are lots of games about collecting resources repeatedly. There’s an entire genre built around that very idea. However, as the core gameplay in these games is rather unengaging, the appeal comes in the progress made through that gameplay. Because of this, most of these games are built around the idea that progress is impossible to revert. Imagine if in Cookie Clicker, every so often, you just lost all of your cookies. That would be infuriating, because there is no real appeal to the gameplay in Cookie Clicker. The appeal is in seeing the numbers go up. Having a game built around this resource gathering loop, which takes a sizeable amount of time to complete, where it is possible to lose all of that progress by dying is very demotivating. It makes players who lose not want to do all the work required to continue, and players who are still alive constantly on edge that their work will be threatened, making it feel less worthwhile.
All of this is not great on its own, but the difficulty of the gameplay makes these problems far more visible than they would otherwise be. It takes over 30 minutes to beat this game, but 30 seconds to lose all of that progress. It makes the rest of the flaws with this system far more apparent, and far more frustrating.
I propose a few solutions:
- Completely overhaul the gameplay to make it more deep and engaging, add more content so the player isn’t doing the same thing over and over, make the randomization have far more of an effect on the way different runs go down so the game is replayable. Basically make it a full rougelike. This is the route that involves the most effort, and the one I would like to play the most.
- Remove the energy bar entirely or make setbacks in progress either very minimal and workable or nonexistent. Lean hard into the grinding part of the game. This would probably be easier than the aforementioned option but it runs the risk of this game’s main “gimmick” being less important to the overall experience.
- Making the game very easy, so as to make the aforementioned problems far less important. This is probably the least effective solution, as if players manage to fail they will still experience the fundamental problems with this system, but it’s the easiest way to make the problems far less immediately obvious while keeping the main “gimmick” of the game intact
There are probably others I’m not thinking of, but any of these three would at the very least make the issues with this game far less problematic than they are now.
Beyond that rather large complaint with this game I have a few other, smaller notes:
I actually think the energy system is a pretty cool idea to constantly keep pressure on the player and force intense situations. I do think with some balancing to the rate of gain/loss and a different gameplay style for it to support, it could do very well.
Originally I found the weapon switching system in this game rather frustrating but I now realize that at least in theory, the system is a really good idea. It achieves a 2 things at once:
- The place where the player buys tools is important, because the player can risk placing tools too far away to reach without losing a lot of energy. This makes the player consider their positioning far more carefully.
- Resources are still useful after they are used to craft tools, because it is important to have tools near the player at all times, making early game resources have more longevity and use than they would otherwise.
While it is more cumbersome than it could be to achieve this, it is still a very promising idea. However, I feel this system is hurt by the fundamental disconnect between the grindy style of gameplay and the energy system and fail state, as discussed above. As it is, this system simply makes the game more difficult and makes the problems discussed earlier even worse. Even still however, I maintain that this is a cool idea.
Another reason I feel this kind of suffers as a grinding game is that there is very little new content to find. Weapon upgrades don’t give you any new abilities. They’re all stat modifiers, and sometimes allow you to mine or attack things you before couldn’t. New abilities that change how you interact with the game aren’t necessary to make one of these kinds of games, plenty have been successful without them, but it would only make it better.
Allowing players to constantly attack/mine/chop by holding down left click instead of repeatedly clicking would do so much more disability and also would just make the game easier on the hands. A very simple change that would be very impactful.
I literally could not see all the content this game had to offer without godmode. Thanks for offering it as an option. The fact that most Newgrounds games don’t offer the ability to change the in game volume but your game jam game does is kind of saddening. Thanks for putting in the time to make that a thing too.
Now onwards, to presentation. There isn’t much to say about the presentation here, so I’ll be brief. As expected, the presentation across the board is subpar.
I didn’t like the music at all. It wasn’t unlistenable or anything, but a lot of the sounds and combinations of sounds used were not to my taste at all, and the music would cut in and out very quickly, and seemingly at random
Sound effects are not super common and impactful.
Visuals are inconsistent. While most things don’t look horrible, the definition is inconsistent and nothing looks super good either. Also the weapon sprites bear a striking resemblance to their minecraft variants.
As I said, none of this is unexpected. This is a jam game, after all. But the music was particularly bad, even for a jam game. Most music used in these games is simplistic and without polish, but this just sounds bad. Other than that, it’s routine.
That’s about it for this review, other than these nitpicks:
- Altars can spawn enemies directly on top of you. Enemies spawn instantly and without any warning.
- Spelling/Grammar errors (because I’m just that petty):
a) “infinite” is spelled “infinate” in the option description for godmode.
b) “losing” is spelled “loosing” in the tutorial’s 1st block of text.
c) “near” is spelled “neer” in the tutorial’s 2nd block of text.
d) there is an unnecessary period between “them” and “and” in the tutorial’s 2nd block of text.
d) “as well” is written “aswell” in the tutorial’s 4th block of text.
e) “altar” is spelled “alter” in the tutorial’s 6th block of text.
f) “pickaxe” is spelled “picaxe” in the tutorial’s 7th block of text.
g) in the tutorial, some blocks of text end with punctuation. Some don’t. Please keep this
- The way the instructions are shown to the player is very ugly and hard to read. Simply making them part of the UI overlay would be helpful.
- Transitions on the Menu should be sped up.
- The “Quit” button makes no sense. All it does is make the game unplayable. If the player wanted to quit they could simply exit the webpage, so why have this?
Alright, I’m finally done. Obviously, this was very negative, because I judged a jam game as if it weren’t a jam game. Sill, however, I feel that this game had potential to be a decent time, and had an alright gimmick but was paired with the wrong kind of gameplay to make it happen. Which again, makes sense. After all, gameplay with depth takes time to implement, which you didn’t have. Anyways, hope this didn’t come off as too harsh. Bye.