Posts with ‘OvineByDesign’ Tag

Exile II

By: Guest Reviewer

On: November 13th, 2007

Exile 2

[Guest review by haowan]

Having been dreading the release of this game for some time now, it was with a kind of desperate excitement that I fired up the Ovine fan-sequel. I’m a hardcore fan of the original game so I was worried that I was pre-disposed to hate the game and think that it was a complete abomination and that it urinates all over the original game. Sadly, the game is so bad that I feel that regardless of my bias, I would not enjoy this game. It’s not fit to bear the “”">Exile" name.

It starts out well, with a nice intro to set the atmosphere. That’s about where the awesomness ends, though. First up is the menus, which, and I realise this is nit-picking, are annoying because they stop recognising your input while they do transitions even between individual menu items, so using them is a slow and frustrating process; the key definition screen refuses to accept bindings to already-bound keys which prevents easily swapping two keys around. The joypad support works.

Into the game, you’re dumped in the player’s craft just like the original game. The jetpack is extremely weak, so controlling your player in the first stages of the game at least is very frustrating. Firing is achieved by pressing and holding the fire key; the shots will be fired in whatever direction is being held and continue to do so in that direction until the fire key is released. You can only fire in 8 directions; this is the first of many gameplay-critical game design mechanics that has been removed from the original gameplay to make this game much much worse than its inspiration.

Exile 2

The graphics manage to be even worse than the weird-but-functional art in the original games. It’s impossible to tell what is a wall and what isn’t. All colours used are garish to the point of being an eyesore: bright, saturated reds, blues and greens are everywhere, and liberal use of cyan and magenta are abundant in most of the man-made structures. The rendered character graphics clash with the enemy graphics, which are pixel art, and much of the particle work is done in primary saturated colours. The particles themselves update at about 3 fps, so they look totally out of place. There are some nice wind and mist effects, although the wind suffers from the particle stutter.

On to sound. The bleepy synth noises seem totally out of place for a modern game, and all of them manage to be annoying. Especially the jetpack noise, which, as you’ll be hearing it on a constant loop for most of the game (a problem exacerbated by the weak jetpack causing much overshooting of where you want to go and having to jet all the way back), is mind-gratingly noisy and audibly looped. I had to turn the sound off after hearing a grenade explode. The intro sequence had nice music.

Gone is the sensible teleportation and health mechanic from the original game. In the original, if you get hurt, your player cries out in pain and your suit starts to heal you – your health regenerates over time. If it goes below a certain threshold, you teleport back to your last stored location. If you have no stored locations, you return to your ship. This is a useful game mechanic as it teaches you to think about what you are doing, place your teleport storage points in sensible locations, and if you “die”, you get to try again after a brief rest. It’s like a mobile continue point system. In Exile II, you have a health bar that does not recharge. You can still store locations and teleport (in this version, for some reason, a gigantic techno warp symbol appears on the screen and the store location key is unusable for a second or so making quick storage of the same location several times a chore), but if you “die”, you are returned to your ship and ALL of your stored locations are removed. So what was, in the old-school, a sensible design mechanic allowing players to think for themselves and plan ahead (and retry if they made a mistake) has been replaced in the new game with a punishment system the like of which I thought we’d left behind with 8-bit computer games. Yes, there are health pickups, which are few and far between and restore half of your health. These are completely unimportant in the face of how much time you lose if you are killed (and indeed how often you will be owing to the silly weak jetpack). It frankly astonishes me that such a sensible and useable system has been replaced with something so cruel and twisted.


Screenshots from the C64 version of the original Exile, via Arne’s Exile Page

The original game has a carrying system whereby you could pick things up and store smaller ones in your pockets; this has been replaced with a Thrust-style tractor beam that essentially places a stick between you and an object and binds the two of you like a dumb-bell. It makes taking anything anywhere a frustrating chore, particularly as the physics system is glitchy and objects are prone to getting stuck on corners. It’s nearly unplayable.

Saving your game is another step backward; where in the original Exile you could save anywhere, now you have a completely nonsensical “Save Bar” which fills up over time. You are only allowed to save when it’s full. Why would you do this? Why would anyone put this into a game? It’s so utterly stupid that for a while I thought it was a joke. It’s doubly strange because of the step backwards it represents; not only is it a meaningless concept and an annoying idea, but the original game has a better save game mechanic.

This new game also has pickups, for seemingly no real reason other than to populate the landscape with something to do. Some of these pickups give you points. Some, like the red bottle I found (which i was told after I’d picked it up was a bottle of Jack Daniels), reversed my controls or reduced the effectiveness of my jet pack to an even less playable level. It scares me that there are people out there that even think it’s still appropriate to put things like this into a game. I mean, really – reversed controls? Slow down? How is this fun? How does this make my time playing your game more fun?

Another step back: In the original, even in the BBC game, enemies can’t see you through walls. New game: Enemies can see you regardless of where you are. It just doesn’t make sense. In the Amiga game, meteors would fall from the sky at random. In this game, they only appear if you stay still too long – and then a huge flaming rock will appear directly above your head and land on you. Every 10 seconds or so. Right above the head. Never anywhere else. Always right above the head. I even had them appear indoors, although that’s a bug so I can forgive that.

Overall, playing this game, I felt that the creators had not realised the first thing about what made the original so great. Literally all of the gameplay mechanics that made it good have been replaced with something absolutely inferior.

It’s a crying shame.