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Someone's dream on a disc
on 18 October 2009
First, a foreword of sorts. This may very well be the only review I ever write on Amazon, but I feel compelled to because Double Fine Productions simply don't get the exposure they deserve and I really don't want this game to fly under the radar while everyone literally wets themselves over a certain other adventure game that was released on the same day in the UK! At the time of writing I'm about 53% of the way through the game. I'm not going to cover everything because I just tried and no one would read everything I just wrote!
The problem I'm going to have here is, how to possibly take the images, sounds and sheer weight of the imagination that is being projected from my tv screen and translate it into words that will inspire you to buy this product. Simply put, the game is excellent, but I'll try and break it down in a more comprehensive manner.
If you've played any of Mr. Schafer's games before you'll recognise the art style at work here immediately and it works to stunning effect.
The World I've seen so far does not disappoint. It's like nourishment for my imagination and if the idea was to create an ode to Metal, this World seems to have achieved that in spades. You'll see massive guitars jutting out of the landscape. Vast, hilly plains punctuated with monuments to rock and the remnants of the titans that were here before. Oh yes, there is certainly a very awesome back story to this world and it's told in a somehow understated yet completely mind blowing way all at the same time as you unchain statues buried across the land. I'm not a metal fan but to top it off even I can tell that the soundtrack is all metal. I had a look through the playlist and there are all sorts of sub-genres being indicated that I didn't even know existed. What I can say is that the music is great and it only helps immerse me in game.
The characters simply belong in the lush World being offered to you and the main features/attributes of these guys are emphasized in an often comical manner. For example, you'll notice that the headbangers, your basic troops, have extremely thick necks. In the game, these epic neck muscles have been forged from the bangers slaving away in the mines for only the Fire Beast knows how long, until you come to liberate them with the sweet sound and epic power of Metal! Your bouncers have been blessed with massive arms and hands, and your 'stealthy' yet formidable roadies are armed with massive amounts of sound equipment, which they carry on their mighty backs and use to knock anyone in range off their feet. These are just a few of the units you'll encounter in the game. There are many more and a majority of them seem to offer varying design styles and attacks. When fighting with any of your units you'll be able to team up with them for a double attack. The headbangers will surround you and simply bang their heads against anyone that stands in your way. The bouncers will launch off your back and land on your unlucky target fists first and so on.
Finally, the wildlife. These look like they were torn from someone's dream and nightmare all at once and thus, fit in with the landscape to the extent that after you've examined and admired them a couple of times you'll simply accept their presence. It's a pity that there aren't more of them, which is the one objection I'll come back to later.
So, you've explored the land a little and now have an idea of what kind of World you inhabit. What next? Fighting. This is something I've taken a little while to get used to. It's a mix of 3rd person hack-n-slash and RTS-lite. As I said I'm only just over halfway through the game and I'm still having new features introduced to me so maybe things will change, but so far I have no real complaints about how Double Fine have merged these 2 genres. It's clearly just a learning curve for me.
The basics work like this; you, Eddie, are given an axe and an axe. One is used to hack away at your enemies while the other is strummed for ranged attacks. So far, they can both be used together in what appears to be fairly simple yet satisfyingly devastating 3-4 hit combos. I'm not sure if there are more complex attacks waiting for me. You can lock onto enemies and roll around to dodge and close in for quick attacks then back out of the way again. All fairly standard fare yet, crucially, fun. I actually never get tired of practising my fighting style on the roaming enemies I encounter as I go about my business. You'll also be able to upgrade your axe and strings at the Motor Forge. This is a 'holy temple' in which dwells Ozzy as The Guardian of Metal. Here, you'll be able to change the attributes of your guitar and axe. You'll also buy upgrades for your hotrod, more combos and effigies for Mount Rockmore. Sorry, what was that? you want to read more about your car? 'The Deuce' is just your main mode of transport which you'll be able to summon virtually anywhere on the map at any time. It's your baby and you'll learn to love it very quickly as you dress it with additional armour, weapons, nos and even paintjobs as time goes on. Again, there is a small objection here in that I note that I can't summon a hog and again, I'll come to the objections right after I've covered the side missions and RTS section of the game!
The main story battles all appear to take place in 'stadiums' you build. You'll be given a supply of fans that you'll have to defend and win from your enemies in order to build the troops you'll be ordering around in order to outflank and overrun your adversaries. You have 4 basic commands that at first you'll be giving to all and any troops nearby, but you can eventually apply to individual units. Attack, Defend, On Me, Hold Position. Simple stuff. If you know anything about RTS, you should have a fairly good idea how this works. The fans work as resource points and it's simply a case of ordering your troops into battle, then joining in the fray until new troops/orders are needed. So far, you win when you're at the enemy's gates. Easy to grasp and fun. Lots of fun.
You know what else is fun? Side missions. Infuriatingly, I was a little put off when I read in the reviews that there were only about 3 different side missions in the game. Nonsense. Have these people even played the game? So far, I've helped a headbanger get laid, ambushed the enemy (the most popular side mission), helped one of my bouncers (the other half of Tenacious D, I believe) bomb the enemy by calling air-strikes to my location then legging it and I've turned my beloved 4-wheeled friend into a turret and shot the crap out of my nemeses. Also, I've raced what sounds like an Irish monster, but I can't put my finger on where he's from. Basically, there are definitely more than 3 side mission types!
So, I obviously love this game. What are my objections? It's simple, really. More! I want more of everything! More wildlife, more attacks, more land to explore. We're talking about the mind that brought us The Milkman and helped create Monkey Island for crying out loud! Of course, I may be jumping the gun, but the fact I bought the game on Friday and am now over halfway through tells me that my worries may be well founded. It's not that the game isn't good enough, it's just that there isn't enough of it.
So, we've been given striking visuals, a great story, a gaming female lead that I'm ashamed to admit I'm actually attracted to (she may be a fictional character but in my defence so was Jessica Rabbit! Come on, those big wide eyes, that stubborn determination and spirit, what's not to love!?) and imagination seeping from every single nook and cranny of the disc. There is more that I haven't mentioned because I wouldn't want to completely ruin the experience for you. Let me put it this way; on Friday I also got Uncharted 2. Another great game. However, having spent some time with both, I'm making sure I finish Naughty Dog's offering off first so I can properly take my time and really enjoy this one. It's witty, epic and original. I'm not sure what else to say. Do yourself a favour and don't miss out on this fantastic game!
Oh, and feel free to let me know what you thought of the review! Cheers