Saturday, 29 March 2014

Batman Arkham Asylum: Game design review

Winner of multiple awards, Batman Arkham Asylum needs little introduction. I enjoyed my time playing the game and even went back to find all the collectibles and hidden items. That being said, there are parts of the game which I feel could be improved.

Game issues:
1) Camera is a bit too close when walking or gliding- Often your cape will obscure the action making it hard to see where you're going. This is especially annoying when gliding because you can knock people out if you glide into the right spot so its important to control where you glide.

2) Lack of freedom to decide when to engage in a brawl and when to stealth- I found as the game progresses that it was extremely limited. You have to Brawl here, you have to be a Predator here the game says. There are no multiple pathways or multiple choices like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Here's another instance. Near the end of the game, I wanted to avoid the enemies in the main areas of Arkum asylum. So I went to one of the doors to the next area only to be told "You have to defeat the enemies in the area". Why couldn't I just walk through the door like I had done countless times before? It wasn't locked or anything except by the contrived requirement I beat the bad guys.

Its a small nit pic considering the game has solid action and gameplay but something I feel could have been done better.

3) Stealth system- Its sometimes hard to know when guards detect you and how hidden you actually are in Predator mode gameplay. This occasionally leads to situations where you think you're safe but get spotted or vice versa. Also, you can't hide unconscious bodies which makes guards go into the alert when spotted.

4) Detective mode is too useful to ever turn off- Detective vision is great but way too useful as it reveals important spots and enemies. It also dyes the entire world greenish grey and the only reason to turn it off is to enjoy the world in normal colour.

5) Brawling camera and distance- Brawling is fun but sometimes the brawling camera is sometimes too close. Occasionally it is also sometimes hard chain combos sometimes as its hard to judge distance and direction of how far Batman can actually attack.

7) Finishing enemies that have been knocked out is too slow. Almost pointless in a brawl as there's no way to knock enemies away so attempting to finish an enemy leaves you vulnerable to other enemies attacking

8) Boss battles are boring- Boss battles are nearly all about fighting henchmen rather than villains which is a shame really. What boss battles there are aren't particularly exciting either.

9) Villians aren't really fleshed out. No real story or understanding of their motivations. Assumes a familiarity with the world. This is good and bad in a sense. I enjoyed it being a comic book fan but others might not.

10) Instant death scenes like in Scarecrow or killer croc sections. These sequences can be very frustrating as a misstep can lead to instant death and requiring a somewhat lengthy wait for the sequence to reload while the villain mocks you.

Batman certainly deserves its accolades but the lack of flexibility in the gameplay in my opinion serves to remind us even great games have flaws.

Megabyte Punch: Game Design Review

Megabyte Punch is an action game inspired by Super Smash Bros and Megaman with a graphical style of a Nintendo 64 game. Its the first game by a new indie studio Reptile games. There are several modes to the game. A single player campaign, a challenge mode and multiplayer modes.

What I liked:

Combat and bounce mechanics- As an action brawler Megabyte Punch is a great game. The way the robots move, fight, fly, punch, jump and use special moves are spot and feel very responsive. I can't think of a better game except Super Smash Bros itself with such great handling.

Like Super Smash Bros, you have to knock the opponent off screen to win a match and just like in Super Smash Bros, as a robot takes damage, the robot becomes lighter/bouncier. So just because you're taking damage doesn't mean you can't fight back, it just means you have to be careful not get knocked out of the arena.

Customisation and a wide of variety of parts- Once you've earned or collected arts in the game, you can then swap parts on your robot giving them new abilities or upgrades. You can only up to a maximum number of 3 active skills helping balance the game. And there are plenty of upgrades and weapons ranging from the fairly normal as the sniper rifle, to the more exotic such as teleportation.

Graphics- The block like graphics of the game are great and perfectly fit the game giving it a unique retro feel.

Destructibility- Parts of the levels and multiplayer maps can be destroyed by explosives or by attacking them. It's a good way of expanding the level as you play.


Swapping and parts interface is terrible- The menu to do this is just plain terrible. Rather than being unlocked, parts you find are stored individually. For example, if you find two of the same leg parts you have to manually transfer them from your parts vault into your inventory and then equip them individually. It's a clumsy system that does nothing for the game.

Single player levels lack variety- As a multiplayer combat game, this game is awesome. As a single player game, it feels slightly anaemic in my opinion especially when you have to play through the single player to unlock parts in the multiplayer.

The levels feel boring and repetitive after a while and every couple of screens, you get locked into a room and have to fight some more robots. At the end of the every area, you fight a boss character one on one just like you would in a multiplayer game. There's nothing that you haven't really seen after the first few are.

There is some exploration but its mostly moving from left to right. The game really should be 'proper' Metroidvania style game rather than the current linear levels.

Lack of collectible radar and list- A large part of the game is about picking up robot parts after defeating enemy robots and collecting colour capsules. However the game doesn't tell you if you've collected all the possible parts and capsules in the area. Nor does it provide you with a list of what you've collected so you have no idea of just what you're missing.

Lack of enemy variety and bosses- Despite all the parts as mentioned there's a distinct lack of variety and boss creativity. I was looking forward to some creative large enemy units and buildings to fight like you would see in games like Megaman. The bosses (with the exception of the last boss) are all your standard robots with special parts which you get to keep after you defeat them.

I like Megabyte Punch, the combat is extremely solid and the ability to customise and create your robots is brilliant, but the other parts like the interface and single level design really need to be addressed. I only hope that the developers develop a second game to address the concerns. If they do, I'm sure we'll have a real classic on our hands.