Heavy Metal Thunder

Heavy Metal Thunder might not be the game you expect. That depends, of course, on what your expectations are. If the title sounds like a cool stealth-based shooter with mechs, well, you'll certainly be surprised. It isn't really a game; it's an interactive book with what barely passes for mini-games.

As a piece of fiction, Heavy Metal Thunder is an uninspired by-the-numbers horror game at best, and an unremarkable display of mediocre writing at worst. The story plods along with no pacing and no thrills, and does the absolute bare minimum required to keep the player entertained. Perhaps it is simply because the author is inexperienced, but his own voice is neither strong nor prevalent. In fact, if the title screen didn't mention it was Kyle B. Stiff's Heavy Metal Thunder, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish its style from any other author from the dregs of the self-publishing bargain bin. Awkward phrasing, Mr. Stiff's reliance on almost cringe-worthy similes, and predictable tropes make the writing dull and instantly forgettable. Even the main character, a faceless space marine with a bulky suit, is insipid and trite. The character is essentially Dead Space's Isaac Clarke sans characteristic blue LED lights and personality.

Behind the paper-thin (no pun intended) writing, you'll find lackluster mini-games and a wonky RPG skill system. The mini-games boil down to rolling dice. In combat, you have to roll a minimum threshold score (say, nine, for example) while the enemy pummels away at your hitpoints during each roll, because they have a seemingly nonexistent threshold. Or the computer magically hits the threshold on its rolls nine out of ten times. It's a system that just doesn't work, and does nothing to help an already vapid experience.

As for the RPG system, it just involves you putting points into various attributes (stats) and choosing skills. Do they really affect the outcome of the game? I have no idea: it really doesn't seem like it makes much difference. Even such a simplistic system as dividing stat points at the beginning of the game is borderline broken: be warned that the app gives you exactly zero indication that a point has been applied the stat you clicked on. So the first time I pressed "Intelligence," nothing happened; so I pressed it again, and then tried tapping another stat to find that, oops!, two of my three points had been applied to Intelligence... and that the developers didn't think to include any way of undoing it.

Depending on how much you like choose-your-own-adventure books, your enjoyment of this gamebook may vary from mine. Due to the subjectivity of literature, there is a chance (however slim) that you may consider Mr. Stiff the Isaac Asimov of gamebooks; however, in my opinion, I would say a more apt comparison would be to call him the Stephanie Meyer of science fiction. Regrettably, despite my initial interest in Heavy Metal Thunder, and my high hopes for a piece of gripping and thrilling science fiction set in an inspired and fleshed-out universe, the final product failed to entertain me with every dull page-turn.

I don't think I ever won a single fight in Soulcalibur II. Thankfully, I'm marginally better at reviewing than I am at fighting games.