Odium to the Core

June 7, 2020
Developer: Dark-1
Publisher: QubicGames
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Another instance of a great core concept gone bad. This one-button game works a bit like the old helicopter Flash game (or Flappy Bird, I guess, for the young-ins out there): You hold the button and you ascend; you release and you fall. In addition to this old mechanic, the world rotates around you. This is done "to the beat" of mostly R&B and some rock tracks, and I guess that's supposed to make it a rhythm game. It also purposely advertises itself as "difficult", so I went into this expecting a challenge.

Unfortunately, all I ended up with was frustration. While the art style is nice, the way the game plays is simply awful. It's not very easy to pick up and play for casuals—which isn't the end of the world, since it seems to market itself at more serious players—but the casual-ish mechanics aren't interesting enough to give you the control over your character that you really need for a game like this. While the beginning of the game is doable enough, much of the second half of the game involves navigating obstacles that you can't even see until you're already out of time to react. Anything this game could have done right is ruined by this game design. The last few levels are especially guilty of this: There are such varying distances between checkpoints and such wildly unpredictable sections of level that anyone with a serious interest in game design will find themselves wondering what the hell the developer(s) were drinking when they designed them. The hit box of the character (or maybe the hitbox of the collide-able objects) seems to extend just a bit too far, so as to make the game seem unforgiving. Even with the collectable orbs that function as coins in Super Mario leading you in the right direction, it is still incredibly frustrating to handle both the controlling of your character and the navigation of completely unpredictable obstacles at the same time. After finally finishing the game today (which I stopped wanting to do around level 12 or 13), I found myself not wanting to go back and complete any of the additional objectives. There is also apparently a "nightmare mode" that removes checkpoints and orbs entirely, which are the only things struggling to keep the game from being a complete train wreck.

If you are the type of person who loves difficult games that are just difficult for the sake of being difficult at the expense of well-balanced game design and fairness to the player, this is right up your alley. The last boss is actually fairly entertaining despite two sections that I would still call unpredictable—and there are some fair, but solidly challenging sections in between the unfairness—but the total un-fun-ness of those intermittent sections totally tanks this game in my mind. Bear in mind this is coming from someone who loves challenging games. Those games, however, must feel fair: Not as if they are robbing the player of agency. That is not my definition of "fun".

To put it another way: this game has one foot in the Dark Souls "I play games that are purposely hard for the sake of being hard" bucket and the other in the I Wanna Be the Guy "ultra unforgiving and impossible to predict" swamp. To me, neither of these are fun, nor reminiscent of good, fair game design. But there is the core of a fantastic game somewhere in there, just dying to get out.

(I'm not out to bash this publisher, by the way. I just happened to have two games published by them that both suck.)

Final Rating