From AAAs to indie darlings, the amount of games on the market nowadays is staggering. It's a shame to scoop up a game that underwhelms when great ones are out there for the picking. Starting up Project Root, I had expectations that the game would deliver an old-school aerial arcade shooter for modern consoles. The inconsistent difficulty level, the lack of creativity and overall poor controls left me wanting a lot more from the game.
Some of the best memories I had at the local bowling alley involved shoveling quarters into a Sonic Wings arcade cabinet. Wave after wave of planes, tanks and boss machines would all be placed in your path. Laser, bomb and missile power-ups helped you feel almighty despite the constant onslaught of reinforcements. Project Root shares some similarities to these old-school arcade flyers, but the game suffers from the differences. For one, you must rotate your aircraft 360 degrees to fight and to traverse the level. Enemy planes and ground units are swarming all around you, and by the time you locate them you already have taken large amounts of damage. Being able to travel in any direction does not necessarily mean it is better either. I would have preferred a more straightforward or on-rails approach, in order to have a better understanding on where to go because the story was not helping me out.
I'm not one to say that story matters, but when the gameplay is so bland, it would have been nice to have a decent one. Most of the plot takes place in a text box in the bottom right corner of the screen. The text is small and the box’s placement is horrible. If you want to understand any of the story, you will more than likely waste a life following along. In short, there is some huge energy company being bad, and it is your job to teach them a lesson by blowing up their rigs. The game becomes very repetitive because the tasks are so similar; escort this person here, take out this power rig over there, shoot this. The lack of imaginative objectives is one thing, but you are forced to replay the same level with the same objectives time and time again until you don't die, which you will do a lot of. The environments are put together rather nicely, but the enemies are a dime a dozen. Even the boss battles lack any creative design to vanquish them. The title screen is bare bones and the music is alright, but developer OPQAM really brought nothing new to the table concerning gameplay.
Project Root takes most of its inspiration from twin-stick shooters, but it lacks the polish that PixelJunk Shooter or Crimsonland have. I got stuck on walls and into platforms various times while I was playing. There was also a general lack of speed from the controls. Thinking back on those arcade flyers, their ability to constantly move you forward made you feel like you were actually flying through the air at top speed. Project Root gives you the feeling of hovering over the landscapes rather that flying over vast areas of land. The game also separates air attacks and ground attacks with the two back triggers.There is no reason for this gameplay change. It makes the game worse because you are just holding down both triggers the whole time just in case a different enemy pops up. The perks that you can get during battle are abysmal. The only one worth mentioning is the heat seeking missiles, all the others are barely worth picking up but ultimately you need to because of the difficulty.
The game’s difficulty settings must be noted as well. I like to play games on hard but for reviews I usually start on medium so I can get through them relatively quick. From the start of the first level, I knew I was going to have to go down to easy. Even on easy, the game is really difficult. I have played 1001 Spikes, Super Meat Boy, and other ‘impossible’ games that make you learn and navigate through a level with precision. This game does not have that same sense of satisfaction after completing a goal, mostly because of the unimaginative and repetitive tasks. Progressing through one level is slow and meticulous. You will play through a level seven or ten times before you have leveled up enough to be able to survive until the end. Having bigger and better power-ups would have compensated for the difficulty, as well as checkpoints spread throughout each level.
Project Root is one of those games that make you feel like you are wasting your time. We play games to escape, to enjoy, to consume and feel inspiration. This game makes you feel trapped on a conveyor belt of boredom. As many games that you could be playing other that this one, there are also plenty of movies, books, and hobbies that you should try before even taking a chance on Project Root. It is nothing like the old-school flying shooters it takes inspiration from. Project Root lacks the pizzazz, gives you no adrenaline rush and makes you wish that you were doing something else. Save your cash and your time, and spend them on your bucket list.