|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 19 May 2008|
I could have also titled this “bargain bin game review that most of you won’t bother reading”, and that would probably fit just as well. However, I played it, I’m gonna talk about it. I think that by playing through this, it made me realize that yes, this is a very mediocre game, but at the same time, there are things to appreciate about what the developers constructed. It has a decent metroidian progression that slowly unlocks
the entire game to you as you complete areas, it has good music, interesting (if sometimes annoying) play mechanics, and some decent enemy designs. For $7.99, I got my
money’s worth. Scurge: Hive is really just a loving homage/blatant knockoff of the Metroid series, with a heavy space/sci-fi theme, a female bounty hunter protagonist, similar game progression, multiple beam weapons, some metroidish looking enemies, and even some plot elements from the games (like environments constantly hurting you from Metroid Prime 2). Wrap this all together, give it a 3/4 perspective and some slightly cartoony graphics, and that is Scurge in a nutshell. While this sounds like the makings of a good, albeit unoriginal, game, the mechanics and layout of the game start becoming less and less appealing as the game goes on. Frankly, one of the biggest issues is the perspective. I’ve never been a big fan of the pseudo-3D, 3/4 perspective, and this game certainly doesn’t change my mind. For action games, it doesn’t work that well. This game has a lot of jumping across chasms, and unless you are jumping forward, it’s a pain to line up the jump by running diagonally, as well as how far you have to jump. What makes it worse is that if you miss a jump, you usually fall to a lower level that may take you 5 minutes to get back to the same area again. After missing the jump more than once, you’ll want to kill the game. In the same vein, aiming at enemies coming at you from a diagonal position is more than a little frustrating. Another problem is the enemies, the constant respawning, and how much of a pain in the ass it becomes to get rid of them. In the beginning of the game, you can simply blast any of the enemies with regular weapon and they will die. However, in what might be a case of pushing too many enhancements at the player, the game gradually becomes a confusing beam selection nightmare when you have 4 different types of enemies coming at you at once in the same room and every single one needs to be killed with a different weapon. To make matters worse, if you hit them with the wrong beam (“oops, this tick creature is Fire, not energy beam!”) it raises their attack. So you can have a massive amount of enemies following you and there’s just no fun or easy way to take them out. This gets old when you know you have to hop across chasms or do something in the level requiring skill because these bastards follow you everywhere. It’s really not a case of just bitching at difficulty either, because they aren’t that hard to beat, its just annoying to constantly have to grind through every room in the game. And if you forgot something and have to backtrack right through a crowded room of enemies you took out? Well, start all over because they are back. While there is a reward for killing enemies (it’s a level/experience-based system of getting more health and power), it probably would have been better if they omitted that and just let you run from them most of the time, since once you get the “Adrenaline” upgrade, you’ll likely just use it to slow down all the enemies and run past them anyway. Another issue is the Infection meter, which monitors how the environment is constantly infecting you. When infection hits 100%, your health starts dropping like a rock. Only save stations allow you to disinfect yourself, and while they are reasonably spaced, the entire idea to start with is one of those things, along with stealth and escort missions in action games, that most gamers would headinhands over. It’s not fun to be constantly rushed, period. The graphics are total GBA-quality sprites (not surprising, since the exact same game was released on GBA simultaneously), and while the character’s sprite isn’t all that great (she bounces around far too much and looks a little out of place), the rest of the art direction is pretty solid. The levels are varied and interesting, the bosses are pretty cool, and the artist for the character portraits is very solid. The DS touch screen isn’t really used except to show a map at all times (instead of going through the pause menu). This is actually pretty helpful since it is easy to get turned around sometimes, so this is a case where a quickie GBA-to-DS port actually improved the game a bit. The music is done by Jake Kaufman, the reason I even picked this up. As usual, its a very good soundtrack. It has a bit of that Metroid feel to it, but with a little more animated, less serious tone, which matches the description of the game perfectly. Without a decent soundtrack, it might have been a lot harder to finish this. So yeah, I spent a lot of time trashing this. And that is a little unfair, since I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece here. If I got anything out of playing this, it is that sometimes you need to appreciate what the game is instead of what it isn’t. To the game’s credit, it has a very solid system in place for advancing through areas, and it’s not such a long game that it becomes incredibly annoying to play. After 10-12 hours, you should be at the end. Additionally, the game levels you up pretty naturally so even a consummate slacker like myself who would prefer to avoid fighting when possible can be at a level near the end where beating the game is possible. It also has a very even difficulty, sitting right at moderate, and then slightly difficult in bosses and special sections. As I mentioned before, the music is also great and adds a lot to the vibe of the game. There’s also a decent story here which sadly could have used a bit more exposition at some point, but nonetheless keeps the game moving. It seems like there should have been a long story break sometime in mid-game but it never happened. Regardless, it’s still decent. And I badmouthed the game mechanics, but they really are done pretty well, they just needed to make the game so that the multiple different types of enemies didn’t attack you at once. It breaks up the flow too much to constantly change out your weapon type. In all, the game really walks the line of “hey this isn’t that bad” and “ugh why is it like this?”. It’s solid in its own little world, but in comparison to its Metroid inspiration and other peers, it’s not near the same quality and it has some questionable design choices. The game leaves the door open for a sequel, though I doubt we’ll see one, which is a shame, because with a bigger budget and some small changes, this could be a pretty cool series. As it is, it remains a acceptable one-off action game. I can’t say I would recommend you go find this game right this second, but it is undoubtedly cheap, and if you want something inexpensive that has slightly more personality and better music than your average action game, this isn’t a bad selection.