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What Lucy had to do with it, I’ll never know

Space Funeral is a weird game by catmitts (aka the catamites) that has gotten lots of acclaim in lots of places that aren’t here for some reason. It has a unique and strange appearance, which comprises much of its appeal. However, as a game, it leaves something to be desired.

The visuals and atmosphere in Space Funeral are really its strongest point. The graphics are (almost) all completely custom, and just generally completely bizarre. Your main hero lurches around in an erratic fashion, you meet people without heads, you see grimacing trees and arms sticking out of puddles and all kinds of crazy stuff everywhere. And the shopkeeper is Lucy. From Peanuts. wtf?

To complement all these strange visuals is a soundtrack that somehow matches the established level of weirdness. The BGM choices accentuate the graphics of each setting to really bring it all together. The tracks are appropriately creepy/weird throughout the game.

All this rampant oddness makes the game a joy to explore. There’s goofy stuff to see and hear everywhere you go, and it keeps you wondering what the heck you’re going to find next. My only gripes in regard to graphics were the surprising lack of animations. Many NPCs you encounter are not animated, or are very limited in their animations. In a game where the custom visuals are such a strength, this is somewhat disappointing. Some things are harder to animate than others, but I think the effect would be worth it here. Anyway, overall it succeeds very well in this area. It has an atmosphere all its own with a unique appeal. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the game’s other aspects.

The game stays true to its 2k3 engine; it’s an RPG. You fight strange baddies, level up, gain abilities, buy better equipment, gain party member (not plural), the whole bit. But the game itself is really, really, really, really, really, reallyreallyreally…

…easy. So easy that hardly anything matters. It’s a real shame, too, because the game looks like it has a lot of potential in this area. The skills picked up by the party members have a decent variety that you could form some interesting strategies with. The trouble is that there are never any circumstances where these strategies would do you any good. Your standard attack is usually more than enough to destroy your foes, even the bosses. You hit something and do, say, about 40 damage. So you use your defense-lowering skill, hit them again, and do…about 40 damage. So you try the buffing skill instead, raising your own strength. You hit them and do…about 40 damage. If these moves had any effect at all, I couldn’t tell. The same was true of the status problems and elements supposedly in place. They’re not the average fare you’d find in RPGs (for example, bandits being weak to the ‘Moral’ status effect), and the game spells out a few of them for you right at the start. But trying to exploit these weaknesses feels like a waste of time. It’s hard to tell if they worked or not, it’s hard to tell if they’re having any effect or not, and 99% of the time you could have gotten the job done faster just attacking outright instead. The game lacks balance. The difficulty level also renders nearly all healing items null, as you can get by just fine without them. By the end of the game, you’ll likely have a fine stockpile of things you never needed (and never will). I can forgive it for being easy, though. Not everyone’s up to a hardcore challenging RPG with all the bells and whistles. But if the battles are being downplayed so much, why have the bells and whistles at all? There are other areas where the game fails to deliver as one, too.

The game took some liberties with the system sets 2k3 usually has that can make things troublesome for the player. Namely, text color has been removed entirely in favor of pure black and white text. The problem here is that it makes it impossible to tell a number of things, such as what items or skills can or can’t be used at certain times. Likewise, in shops, there is no indicator showing the effects of an equipment item on your stats. The battles are so easy that this doesn’t amount to much, but it can be quite a pain to have to leave the shop menu, open the pause menu, find out what you already have, and go back in to buy. These basic intuitions are sorely missed.

The things that irked me most outside of battle were the mapping and how the inter-map warps were handled. Don’t get me wrong, the mapping with all the weird stuff is good. It gives the player interesting things to navigate around and investigate as they explore. But there are many times where the player can reach the edge of the map even if that side of the screen doesn’t lead anywhere. With everything around being so bizarre already, it can be difficult to tell where exactly you’re supposed to go. You can sometimes guess by the general placement of random path tiles, but you’ll mostly blunder around the edges of screens wondering if you missed something. It doesn’t help that there are some places where you can walk that it doesn’t look like you should, and other places where you can’t walk that it looks like you can. For example, all the cliff edges are completely blocked from being passed through, so you’re limited to navigating only in the center of any plateaus. The openness of the areas also leaves the settings feeling somewhat undefined. Some places (the Blood Cavern particularly) are so bare bones and open that you have no sense of positioning in them. There’s plenty of crazy junk catmitts could have used to give the locations better definition. Preventing the player from reaching screen sides that lead nowhere would help alleviate the empty space problem significantly.

As for the warps, there are two kinds in this game. Outdoors, you can use a warp by bumping into it, so your screen-side blundering will eventually be rewarded automatically. But when you’re using a door, you have to press enter to activate the warp. This makes sense on the outside of a house, but you must also press enter when leaving the house as well. This isn’t very intuitive, because the warps you would use to leave a house aren’t in places you would arbitrarily walk upon anyway. It’s not like the player is going to accidentally leave, and it’s certainly not like reentering the building would be such a chore. It’s a minor nitpick, for sure, but you shouldn’t have to press enter to leave just because your avatar is kind enough to close the door behind him.

The game has a story to tell, but it’s a very simple one and it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. Or rather, it takes itself seriously, but the premise is very silly, so the player isn’t expected to be serious. It may not be the most enthralling plot of the year, but it is enough to keep you progressing through the game’s areas. Most of the characters you meet along the way are unimportant NPCs. They’ll usually have something semi-relevant to say, and sometimes not. They like to use CAPITAL LETTERS for things that may or may not be IMPORTANT. This is a trend I can APPRECIATE as a fan of MS PAINT ADVENTURES. The game isn’t a joke game, but it has a great deal of underlying humor that’s quite charming. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing enough to keep you entertained.

In Conclusion…

Space Funeral has succeeded in creating a unique atmosphere; something that can be quite tough to pull off these days. Its charismatic draw is enough to make it popular in quite a few places. Its drawbacks as a game are forgivable, and it’s still enjoyable in spite of them. However, the game is far from perfect, and players looking for a challenge should look elsewhere.

All things considered, I give this a 2.5/5.

Oh, and the Astonishing Captain Skull totally has a cameo in there.

Posts

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Thanks for the review! Lucy is in there because she rules. I was reading a volume of the Complete Peanuts when I was making this game and I felt like including a shoutout (also I think I mentioned it somewhere but Phillip's character design was kind of influenced by Charlie Brown as well). I guess here is as good a place to mention that the phrase "Au revoir, kid!" which Lucy says when you rent a boat is actually said by Peppermint Patty in the original comics. I deeply regret and apologise for this blatant departure from the Peanuts canon.

The static characters were kind of inspired by Gary Panter's "Jimbo In Purgatory" comic which has a lot of really stiff and uh compressed looking grotesque characters moving awkwardly around in fixed poses. I really liked the effect.

The battle system in the game was basically a long chain of compromises. The defence problems you mention are something I tried over and over to get rid of but never really did, partly because I wanted to keep the numbers generally low and simplified and this isn't an approach that works well with the RM2k3 battle formulae. For a while I considered trying to make a very basic CBS by just scripting out all the possible attacks etc in the battle events tab but this was a lot of work and hard to do with the commands available. Even the "MYSTERY" option bugged out for some people. It's a poor craftsman who blames their tools etc but ultimately I wasn't interested enough in battle systems in general to try to work out the kinks. I also wanted to make the game finishable by people who aren't interested in rpg battles (like myself) so the skills were more used as an optional way to make the battles go faster than as something necessary to use.

Also yeah there is a Captain Skull cameo! Captain Skull rides on.......
This is a strange review. I don't know, it feels like you put too much weight on things that were irrelevant to the game in the first place (like catmitts just said), and didn't consider much what was suppose to matter about the game. I agree with stuff like the map edges thing, but some things are just too picky. Font colors? Shop equipping?

I mean... I like Space Funeral cause I see it as some sort of clever parody, a critique, it's full of metagaming reflections. It's an RPG that makes you think about RPGs. The bizarre atmosphere and the humor are just a plus. A very nice plus, anyway. These are the things that make people everywhere like and admire this game, I believe. You make this game looks like "a game with pretty atmosphere and bad mechanics". Well, maybe that's what the game was to you, in which case I wouldn't blame you for not liking it. :D
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14878
It's not to say I didn't like it, because I did. But I'm not going to overlook technical faults just because that isn't the focus of the game. Perhaps I viewed this from too much of a design standpoint, but simple things like text color and whatnot did bother me, so I made mention of them.

Also, after reading Deckiller's review (and the comments following it), it seems a lot of the game's deeper meaning went over my head. Whether that's just me or not, I don't know, but I played it and presented my experience here. I can't talk about things I'm not aware of.
brb gonna play pokemon hunter expecting political satire and overarching themes
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