Loved the art style. The animations were natural and satisfying and the character designs were detailed and appealing. The environments were varied and did a good job of immersing me in the game. The sound was also done really well, and synched up perfectly with all the flashy special effects.
As for the game play, I found it to be clunky and vague. There isn't much of a sense of exploration due to it's linear format, and the fights are almost universally trial and error. The prompts for combat are confusing and unclear. I never felt sure if I was supposed to click on the arrow or around the arrow, or even when to click. I was able to beat the archer, figuring it was just a particularly tough enemy, but the fight with the large demon thing just drained the whole experience. The precision timing required for the fight just isn't represented well enough in the animations and it leads to a lot of unsatisfying deaths.
Silent Hill meets Moebeus?
Art games are often hard to review in the traditional sense, because it brings up the argument of what is a good game and what is a good piece of art. The game aspect of Gyossait is rather minimal, so lets start with that. The controls were simple, the jump was a little funny at first, but I adjusted to it eventually. I'm surprised so many people complained about not being told how to play. Didn't anyone see those slabs in the background of the first level? I did, so that either means I'm incredibly intelligent, but more realistically, it means I've probably played ANY OTHER FLASH GAME ON NEWGROUNDS! The level design, from a technical standpoint was the usual platformer fair, however, I did appreciate that short cuts would upon up as you progressed through the level so any untimely death was made easier to cope with when you realized you didn't have to trek through the whole level again.
That's really all that can be said for the game play, so lets move onto the next part which requires a bit more examination.
Visuals: This game has a great variety of moody, disturbing imagery. The atmosphere is thick and menacing and i think the pixelated graphics work very well. Some may poo poo this retro design choice, but I think it adds to the spooky ambiance. Pixel art by it's nature is mostly interpretive. It leaves much of the work up to imagination of the player, and a good fabricator of horror knows that when someone is frightened, their imagination is their worst enemy.
Sound: The SFX and music were something of a mixed bag for me. Sometimes it would be great, but other times it would just be grating (see what what I did there! yuk yuk yuk) I would have preferred the looping of the music to be a little more subtle, but I can at least say that the music is always very appropriate and it does help to keep you enthralled in this dark, dying fantasy world.
Storytelling: Instead of going into the actual story, I'd rather talk about the story telling technique. Sense the game's controls are rather limiting, most of us will play through to the end to get our story telling fix. The challenge of the art game is indeed to be artsy, but you must be wary of becoming artsy fartsy. When something is artsy, it usually tries to tell us a story or evoke an emotion in an interesting and abstract way, so at first we're confused, but later on, we get that epiphany and we walk away with a greater understanding or appreciation for that story or emotion. This differs from being artsy fartsy when it feels like someone is just trying to be as abstract as possible, so no one gets it but them, and they can feel some sort of artificial sense of superiority.
If there was anything that i think needed to be changed about this game, it would be the removal of all the text. Visual narrative is a powerful and underused tool in the video gaming world. It encourages the player to interpret things for themselves, and ultimately immerses them deeper into the world. And immersion really is the defining factor of a game like this.
Many people seem confused by the games story, but feel all the text gave away a little too much. And sense it's written in a dark and surreal, poetic style, it comes dangerously close to artsy fartsy territory.
However, I don't think it's fair to call this game pretentious, or patronizing. It's actually a fantastic story that's paced extremely well, and in the end, is very satisfying to see all the way through. Art games are becoming more and more popular, much in the way art films have, and i think it's up to games like this to set the mold for future artistic gamers and game designers.
Aside from a reason to draw a lot of dead babies, this game doesn't offer a whole lot. Isaac's projectiles are unreliable and hard to aim and enemies take way too many hits to kill. Bombs are good alternative for damage dealing, but enemies seem to move at random so actually hitting an aggressor with one seems based more on luck than skill. What exactly is Isaac shooting anyway? Spit bubbles? Sense the story seems random and irreverent why not work something in that seems more appropriate like a sling shot or just some rocks? The game also seems prone to slow down if there's more than one thing on the screen, and sense Isaac takes up that spot by default, it really becomes a problem when entering a new area. I'm pretty sure it's not my computer either, sense I can play other Flash games just fine. As for the bonus items, there were so many it was hard to keep track of which ones would do which. Half the time, I forgot I had them, because I didn't want to risk using something really good on nothing, or using something that would just screw me over. I know it's to keep in line with the humor and style of the game, but if the player has to look up an encyclopedia every time they want to use a secondary item, than you're designing game elements for the wrong reason.
Randomly generated dungeons seems like a good idea on paper, but it always screws up the difficulty curve, and just doesn't make for a tight, memorable experience. Some are open and filled with spit bubble fodder, others are cramped, giving you no room to maneuver as you fight off another dead baby, some rooms had nothing in them at all, or worse, an item I couldn't reach cause I didn't have enough bombs or something. It's a scrambled, disjointed mess, and it doesn't add anything to the game. Sure you can argue it will create a new experience for every play through, but if the first experience isn't enjoyable, what reason do I have to come back?
I find the aesthetic of the game to be unappealing. Everything is such a dull, sickly red, brown or gray. Sense the dungeons are randomly generated, every room pretty much has to be the same, so there's no variety in the scenery. Although there are a decent amount of enemy types, there are only so many ways you can draw a dead baby.
When boiled down, this is a nuts and bolts, minimalist adventure game with unnecessary padding in terms of secondary weapons and randomized dungeons. Everything about it so lack luster, I'm surprised I could even write a review this long. If the game play was more fluid, and there was more structure to the level design, then I think the basic mechanics of the game would have a lot more potential.
Too many frustrations
The atmosphere is fantastic in this game. The levels are robotic, sterile, claustrophobic and sinister. The only thing that kept me from being drawn in was the fact that i had to focus so much on the shoddy controls and frustrating camera angle.. The character is slow, clumsy and awkward. Now I'm all for a simple control scheme if the level design or game play elements complement it, but neither the level design nor camera angles made the trek through each level enjoyable. It was impossible to judge distance, and the camera would suddenly switch without warning just in time for me to careen into a spiked ball or bottomless pit. Levels, despite their impressive ambiance, feature dull, repetitive, unoriginal layouts.
Level 20 is a particularly bad culprit and a shining example of everything that went wrong with this game. An instant death memory puzzle with unpredictable projectiles and a paper thin platform to maneuver with your clumsy, tank like movements. It combines all the shallowest forms of artificial difficulty known to video game design and it's unfair to the player.
Another point I should mention, is that while being self aware can be a saving grace from a comedic standpoint, in this game is presented to the frustrated player who just died twenty eight times trying to maneuver another ledge maze, so it feels like your insulting us more than anything.
I give this game a five, because before the rusty controls got to me, I was completely enthralled with this mysterious character and her equally mysterious and sinister predicament. It was a world devoid of life, and yet something was still watching you at all times. It gave me the perfect sense of displacement and ambiguity. But as time passed, my virtual world wonderment became overpowered by my real world anger.
I didn't mean to bash the game or anything. With enough patience, it can be beat so nothing about it is out right broken. I just feel a unique world like this one should have equally clever game play design.
A lot of good ideas
This game has a lot of good ideas mixed with old school shoot em up elements, but i feel they don't work off each other as well as they could have.
For starters, there are a lot foreground, background issues. Everything is moving so fast and is treated with the same level of detail, that it quickly becomes confusing and frustrating. This is an issue that many shooters have, so I;m not trying to single this one out.
The ship is too big and moves way too slow, especially when compared to the enemies which dart all around the screen like they're on cocaine. I know you can level up and equip new engines to increase your speed, but your craft is so bulky, I feel you'd end up running into bullets anyway.And that's only if you level up enough to notice a difference.
Customizing your weapons was a good choice, but so many of the weapons are interchangeable, in the end, there are maybe only five unique weapons among the dozens you can collect. Being able to control the weapons orientation, again a good idea, but the levels are set up so chaotically, there's no way you can find a good balance between shooting forward or backward.
The RPG elements are artificial at best. Sense you can only upgrade in one way, it doesn't really have any depth. Sense enemies give you less EXP as you level up, visiting previous levels isn't much of an option, but even if they still gave you sufficient EXP, the level list is so small that it quickly becomes monotonous and starts to feel more like a chore than a game.
I liked the game enough to play to the last level, but that was as far as my patience could afford. I really liked the boss battles, because they used basic shooter elements but were executed really well!
Like I said, this game has a lot of good ideas, but they end up acting as padding for a sub standard shooter. If the action sequences were tightened up, and the RPG and customization options were more dynamic, than you would really have something special for the arcade shooter community.
First off, everything was either white or grey, so already you have a ton of foreground, background issues. The ship moved agonizingly slow, and would slide all around when you wanted to go a different direction. The game play is complete trial and error, which is a big problem when your enemy has such a ridiculously huge health bar. I'm not opposed to games that are just one big boss battle, but everything about this game moves at a snails pace! If i had to sum this game up in one word, it would be "draining" because I fell my energy slipping away as I play it.
The game isn't outright broken, with enough patience you can beat it, but the game needs to appeal to the gamer, not the other way around.
This game is like a big bowl of grits. White, bland, functional for sure, but a little honey or jam would make the experience more enjoyable.
Gets better and better
At first, I found the game to be frustrating. It was hard to line up shots, and because your character is oriented in the center of the screen, zombies can get to you very quickly. I didn't find much use for the jump either but i guess it was nice to have the option.
Once i started progressing in the levels, I really started to get into it. The variety of weapons and enemy types was very impressive. Each one seemed unique, had fluid and stylish animations, and it helped keep things fresh. The boss fight on the raft was definitely a highlight of the game.
The areas you explored were also varied and had real depth and beauty behind their dilapidated elements. The shadows of the hanged men come to mind. I was a little disappointing that the last part was just a zombie rush. After the boss battle on the raft, I was hoping there would be one more big boss. It was just a little anticlimactic, and it ended sooner than I had expected.
The graphics, environments and enemies all looked great and i liked it enough to finish it all the way, but I don;t think there's enough to make me play more than once.
2 out of 3 isn't bad.
I think out of the three episodes, this one is my least favorite. The others were dark to be sure, but still had a sense of whimsy about them, like the staircase being hidden in a treasure chest or that really cool forest in the second episode. This one had the wacky characters for sure, but the settings weren't anything special. Even the laboratory at the end was a bit disappointing.
I also felt the ending was a little unsatisfying. I can appreciate that you didn't want to fully explain the story, and leave certain elements ambiguous, but to me, it just felt like there were too many holes in the story.
The puzzle solving was also an issue. Often times, there weren't many clues, you just had to revisit old areas, rapidly clicking on everything to see if something would happen. This is par for the course when it comes to adventure games, but I feel the last two episodes had much more thought put into the clues, and had some better elements involved in the pizzle solving (like the lens from the first episode).
There were still things I liked about this game. It still has that gritty mix of childhood fantasy and dark noir style suspense. The art and music were good and helped pull me into the story. I suppose i liked it enough to play through the whole thing, but I'll remember the first two as having a bigger impact on me.
A clever idea
This is a fun and functional shooter. The graphics and sound are charming 8 bit fair and the challenge is decent for the most part. My only major gripes are the fact that the game is a bit too random at times. I would go out of my way to shoot down the power up helicopters, so I could improve my weapon, and more than half the time, it was just an extra points medal.
This also plays into the fact that the only weapon worth using is the spread shot. I assume the basic fire and missiles are stronger, but the difference isn't noticeable enough to make them worth it. So I shoot down more power up helicopters, only to get a bunch of point medals and upgrades for weapons I don't want AND dodge enemy fire at the same time.
And again, this wouldn't be a major issue if you get the spread shot early on, but every time you start the next level, you lose all your power ups! This is especially a problem in the final level, because so much is thrown at you before you even see your first power up helicopter and even if you get to the helicopter, there's a chance that it won;t benefit you at all!
I was also disappointed that there was no final boss. Just a little survival rush at the end, till your crew blew the train up. Not very climactic.
Most of this review has been negative, but I actually did enjoy this game. There was a nice selection of planes, and a wide variety of enemy types to blow up.
Maybe I'll actually play the original Hawx game now!
Interesting idea, but....
The game play killed it for me. It's clever at times, but most of the time it just felt more like trial and error. The worst part is that you have to be so precise with your movements, and there's just too much going on in those little animations to get that precision.
It's a shame too, because the little things happening in the background really caught my interest, and even though I wanted to see what happens next, I could just tell that each level would be more of the same frustration.
The ideas and ground work are there, but it just moves too slow and clumsily to keep me wanting to get to the end.
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