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Surreal Sci-Fi Romp

  • amerk
  • 06/04/2014 06:52 PM
Here is a game that actually caught me by surprise. Like a lot of other games I’ve downloaded in the past, this one seemed to have been floating around my hard-drive, all but forgotten amongst the 300+ other titles I’ve downloaded over the last several months (and years) and have yet to play, until I recently saw a brief Youtube playthrough and decided I had to give this one a go.

Which is sad, because while this game doesn’t break into any new fields, it is a fun and casual adventure set in the future on a derelict spaceport of sorts, with one very interesting twist: The characters you play and meet and fight against are all robots. And while the story tends to fall into some of the same clichés that plague other known games, the fact that they’re all robots and seem to question their own existence makes this all the more enjoyable, while it begs to ask the question:

Just what makes us human?

This would be the one major caveat, in that it’s a fairly generic game, with average game play and combat. It’s strictly linear, all taking place in one setting – the space station – and there are no optional side quests to contend with. In fact, the game plays out more like a story-driven dungeon crawler, and each segment of the station works more like a stage than it does anything else. In between these stages are friendly areas, where you can buy items and chat with the other robots, though most of the other robots are too busy performing their programmed functions than spending time talking with you.

Each level gets progressively harder, but never downright difficult. Combat is generally quick, making experience grinding almost non-existent, and this is a good thing, since combat easily falls into the spammed hack n’ slash method, with each character solely relying on a specific skill for the most part.

Throughout the game, you’ll come across plenty of save spots and free heal zones, allowing you to save your money for other things. There are a few opportunities to upgrade your equipment and items, as well as purchase of skills. Each equipment class has a different level (such as the cannon going from cannon m1 to cannon m4), and the higher the level the better its offense. While you can pick and choose the equipment types amongst your group, I wound up staying with whatever type they were initially given and just upgrading those, as I found the setup to be already well balanced.

The aesthetics makes the combat look nice, even if the mechanics aren’t anything great.

To break the monotony, the dungeons do have some obstacles to contend with that at times may require a bit of thinking and some quick speed reflexes, but again, nothing that most gamers haven’t ever had to deal with.

Overall, it’s simple and fun, but not deeply engaging or mind-blowing, but considering the game is aimed at a casual audience with a few hours to spare, it definitely works, and it plays smooth without any sort of glitch or error.

My rating for Game Play is 2.5/5. I thought long and hard about whether to push this to a 3 or not. However, I finally had to go with my gut. It's fun for a casual experience, but it's also fairly average, and the lack of game play mechanics, side quests, and engaging combat also means the replay value won't be very high.

The story here is pretty simple. E1 (the primary protagonist robot) is smitten with his robotic love interest, H6. Of course, the moment they profess their desire to remain together, we just know trouble is brewing, and it comes in the form of some robotic guards who have received orders to have H6 relocated. So E1, along with his close friend, X3, sets out to try and find H6, only to discover there are some sinister things going on throughout the space station.

Now take a moment to translate that into something you see in every other game and you’ll understand why it’s very clichéd: A boy meets and falls in love with a girl, said girl is taken away, boy sets out on a journey with friends to save said girl, and has to fight some sort of growing evil along the way.

However, it’s not the kind of story he’s writing that makes this one unique so much as the way he writes it. For a change, we get to see our heroes through the eyes of technology, and we get to see how these robots live and think and function. It’s not so much a “save the world” kind of a quest as it is a personal quest of survival and self-discovery, and having to contend with a society that is quick to dispose of its technology the moment they find it no longer useful.

The cliff-notes version of the story?

Robot boy gets robot girl.

Robot boy loses robot girl.

Robot boy decides to find robot girl...

… and discovers something sinister along the way.

My rating for Story is 4.5/5. Don't let the simplicity of the game's plot fool you. It’s written stylishly well for the most part, and its simplicity makes it even better, although there are occasions where the phrasing appears awkward.

Aside from story, this is where I personally feel the game shines the most. It’s so simple and yet very pleasing to the eye, and it becomes more of a surreal environment with subtle touches that make it stand out more so than a game that would rely heavily on detail. The music is carefully chosen, as are the tileset pieces that go into the mapping of this game (and none of it appears to be ripped from other known games).

While perhaps not the best mapping skills around, I really felt the developer knew how to make the scenes comes alive. Each area is appropriately mapped with the right song to set the mood. My favorite of these was the waste dump, which is about as gloomy as the name sounds.

I could make a joke about the waste dump, but I'd rather not.

The only thing I was not a fan of was the portraits used for the characters, as shown through some of the screenshots I’ve provided. They clash with the rest of the game and stand out in an odd way. However, this is relatively a minor thing, as the rest of the game is very appealing.

My rating for Atmosphere is 4/5. While not as perfectly mapped as other games, it does handle its own very well.

If you’re like me, undecided about whether or not you should play it, you can always check out the first few minutes of an LP and decide. You’re not going to find an epic classic here, but you will find a fun romp through a sci-fi environment with an engaging cast of characters and a story that will hopefully put a smile to your day. Plus, it’s only about five hours long, which is the equivalent of a sunny afternoon.

Final verdict is 3.66/5.


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Thank you for your review, Amerk. I was starting to think that Central Impulse was already getting forgotten and abandoned, but guess I was wrong.

I am glad you generally enjoyed the game and liked the concept. Admittedly enough, the battle system was indeed a bit too simple in this game. In fact I think it's been the weakest link in all of my games so far, which is something I am hoping to change with my most recent project. Hopefully though the puzzles and mini-games have made up for it.
Definitely enjoyable, in spite of the combat. But in a way, the combat felt second nature to me, and not really the focus, since it wasn't a grind-heavy game, so the atmosphere surrounding the game, the puzzle moments, the story and music, and the relatively easy combat made up for it.
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