After basically dumping out and then ignoring DSiWare and WiiWare, I feel like Nintendo’s been doing a good job of actually caring about the eShop. Every few weeks you can open it up and be surprised by something neat looking, either on the Virtual Console or just on the store front page, and it’s much improved and more usable than their previous services. One of the developers that’s been getting on board the most, though, is Renegade Kid, who have put out two games on the eShop since it launched. Planet Crashers, their latest effort, is unfortunately not as good as the others they’ve put out, and is really an entirely uninteresting release. In preparation for this review, I’ve opened my thesaurus up to synonyms for “boring,” so let’s see how far down that list we can get before the end.
Planet Crashers is set up as a turn-based dungeon crawler, giving you a series of planets that you have to clear on your way to stop an evil being who is stealing people’s souls and threatening to extinguish the sun. Apparently, the best way to do this is to go on a series of achingly dull fetch quests that have nothing to do with the plot while fighting in battles that don’t even attempt being interesting.
Alright, that’s entirely unfair. The battles certainly attempt to be interesting, they just fail at it remarkably. Much like the Mario RPGs, it sets up a button input system that, if well timed, powers up your attacks. Unlike the Mario RPGs, though, you can only do it when you’re attacking- so any enemy is able to do massive amounts of damage to you, and you just have to sit there and watch overly-elaborate attack animations, and you can’t do anything about it. You earn the attacks as you finish certain quests, but for a while, all of the attacks do the same damage, which just seems entirely pointless. When you do get ones that do more, it changes so that you have to get the difficult-to-time button presses or it doesn’t do any damage. Some of these are really annoying because, while it may be one attack you’re doing, it randomly chooses which animation, and the inputs pop up at different times during each animation, so you always have to be on your guard. Instead of making the game more interesting, though, this just makes it more frustrating as you watch yourself whiff a bunch of attacks in a row.
You do level, but I wasn’t able to really figure out where I could go to see how much experience was necessary to get to the next level. I just know that I was over-leveled by the end of the game (I was 41, the game asked me to be 30), but some enemies could still kill me in two hits like I was actually too weak. I don’t think this is them trying to adjust for my level or anything, I just think it was poorly balanced from the get-go. Also, there is no difference to the enemies besides their look. They all fight exactly the same.
This is just one example of how the game is devoid of depth. There are no status effects or buffs, and magic attacks work just light physical, only with an elemental look instead. Weapons don’t have stats beyond “attack power,” so it just means that every time you get a new weapon, it’s guaranteed to be better and you can just switch over. The biggest attempt at strategy is the game giving defense and offense buffing items, but those barely do anything, and I just came to see them as a waste of a turn, especially when I wanted to get out of the irksome battle scenarios as it was. The developers also attempt some depth through leveling,allowing you to choose which attribute (of 3) to level, but even then, it’s easy to see the best strategy and just level yourself towards that. Then, more fetch quests and bland dungeons until you hit the entirely unsatisfying ending, complete with predictable twist that renders the entire game moot.
Enemies do appear on the dungeon maps, but it makes no difference- you can’t avoid them. They come right at you, they’re way faster than you, and it’s just a matter of time until you have them on top of you and you’re running from a battle because you’re just not in the mood for it. The dungeons are also pretty repetitive, as you go through the same rooms a million times, only kind of with a new color and elemental motif (aka water or lava or something like that). Basically, it’s an idea you’ve seen a million time before anyways, and that idea is all the game does.
Though technically competent, the actual design to the visuals is unadorned and unmemorable. The texture work and colors are nice, but it all coalesces into an overall bland experience as you walk into the same rooms again and again.
Character design is straight from the first page of the Big Book of Tired and Cliché Character Designs, with big heads, small bodies, and overlarge eyes everywhere. You can customize yourself, but it doesn’t really add too much; while you may be in a Santa hat, the graphics still haven’t changed to be more interesting anywhere else.
I’d also like to note that the 3D also doesn’t add anything, which is a real shame (if not a surprise). Mutant Mudds, from the same developer, used the 3D in some cool ways, what with the background-foreground aspect of the gameplay, but the effect doesn’t even seem to do anything expect sink the screen back- a shame, but seeing as 3D wouldn’t have made the game better anyways, it’s easiest to just leave the switch down.
The most fun I had with this game was the fact that there was a character who had a jester’s outfit on and would say “jinkle” when he talked, like it was a bell ringing. Isn’t that adorable? Unfortunately, the rest of the game can’t even rise to this (admittedly low) level of charm or intrigue. The story is garbage and really doesn’t extend past “there is a bad thing and go kill it because.” Not every game needs to redefine story, but this story is actually somehow worse than if they just didn’t have a story in the first place.
Running around to fetch useless items got so old that I wound up only accepting missions that gave new missions and moves. I never was low on gold, and was over-leveled anyways, so I didn’t feel like I missed anything. Making it worse, you can’t even complete multiple quests at once, despite having a quest log. If you have 3 missions in the Blue Dungeon, then you have to do one, then turn it in, then dive right back in. The goals can be right next to each other, but it doesn’t matter, and you can’t even switch missions in the dungeon. Outside of the dungeon, if you switch from one mission to another, the progress is overwritten in the first one, so you have to restart anyways. It’s like 20 years of RPG progress just never happened!
I will say that the game did seem to get a little better as I played, but in reality, it might have just been some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. It still didn’t get that much better, and I know my enjoyment came from the fact that I found the most powerful move in the game, so I could exit battles much more quickly than before. And when the best part of the game is finding ways to avoid key parts of said game, you know that you’re playing something bad.
You never go into a game hoping it’ll be bad, and as I saw the Renegade Kid logo flash across the bottom screen as the game opened, I hoped I would be surprised. After all, they had done the excellent Dementium games, as well as Mutant Mudds and the recent Bomb Monkey. I was definitely surprised, just in a bad way, as I experienced how shallow the experience was, and how passionless the whole game seemed. This should be something I’m playing for free in a browser, but instead, I’m being asked to fork over $10 for it. It’s not the sort of experience a developer like Renegade Kid should put out, and it’s not the kind of game I’d advise you to waste your time or money on.