xbox live indie game reviews

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Not Worth the Points

Ambitious, but Can't Overcome the WTF Factor

When I'm reviewing a game, I have a pretty high tolerance for things that make me say, "WTF?" With Shardscape Assault, I went so far past my WTF-limit that future games will be rated on a WTF scale of 1 to Shardscape Assault. The game opens with an unskippable text intro sequence, with a single line of text appearing at a time. While it's nice to see that some thought went into the backstory, I could really care less--stick it in a menu option somewhere or at least make it skippable. When the actual gameplay itself starts, you're bombarded with tutorial screen and missions, but basically the formula for the game boils down into a pretty simple idea: You're a tank. Blow shit up.

Your tank can carry a certain number of computer chips ("shards"), and that number increases as the game goes on. These chips are derived from various planes of existence (forest, fire, ice), and equipping them on your primary/secondary tank weapons gives you different types of guns. Alternately, you can use a chip to heal yourself 10% or use them to activate teleporters (with the teleporter taking you to the corresponding plane). Some teleporters will take more chips--either multiple chips of the same color to take you to a "harder" version of that world or multiple colors to layer those realities on top of each other.

Each type of world has a different enemy spawn type which spawns the bad guys of that world. Layering one world on top of the other means you have two different kinds of enemies to contend with. You can permanently merge two worlds (though you can still travel to either one independently) by finding a blue-circle and surviving a minute-long onslaught of bad guys. It was somewhere around this point where I wrote in all-caps "MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE" across my notes for the game.

The concept is kind of cool once you wrap your head around it, but the game is totally doomed by how terrible the navigation is. Left and right on the L-Stick turn your tank, and forward pushes you in the direction you're facing. This is how a real-world tank works, but it's a crappy way to drive a video game tank. The disconnect between where you want to go and where you actually end up going is such a turn-off that there's really no incentive to dig deeper into the game and figure out what the hell's going on. It's a shame, too, because other than the controls I really wanted to like the game.

The graphics are retro-styled, but actually pretty great for anyone who grew up playing older consoles. I'm a little confused as to why the main tank looks so terrible--it is, after all, the thing players will be staring at for pretty much the entire game. The enemy sprites thankfully have a bit more personality. I really wanted to like Shardscape Assault, and actually ended up playing it for much longer than I intended to. Ultimately, though, the intrigue of the game world can't overcome the terrible controls and I put it down for good. If you're the curious sort, Shardscape Assault isn't a bad deal for only 80 points... but in its current state it's just not enough fun to warrant a caveat-free recommendation.

XBox Live Indie Games Reviews