PC | Developed By 5 Bits Games; Published By Bandai Namco

Rating: 5/5

The first-person platformer is a very unstable genre. First person makes it disorienting — you can’t see your feet and the camera is often shaking. Games like Portal and Mirror’s Edge are examples of such first-person platforming where experimentation has paid off for the former and not the latter. The bottom line seems to be that the more realistic such a game is, the less fun it is to play.

Enter DeadCore. This is a game where realistic physics are chucked out the window in favour of throwing yourself around an astonishingly large playing field — this is pretty much all the game consists of. There is no humour in the game, but the setup is kind of ridiculous: you are a faceless nobody with a gun, and your sole aim is to climb a seemingly endless tower of Tron-like mechanisms, traps and laser walls of death. You’ll get a genuine rush from soaring through the air. The mechanics of the game have been tweaked to the point that you have a very comfortable level of control over your character.

What follows is a series of challenges to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. One major flaw in the game is that you never really know where point B is, leaving you feeling rather lost if the path isn’t intuitive enough. Fortunately, this is not often the case. The game is quick to remind you that your aim should be to finish the levels with speed rather than care, and oddly enough it does this by giving you a gun. It has three functions, and none of them are lethal. You can use it to shoot gates open or disable hostile machines; it displays your speed-run time and ammunition; and it shows an energy meter for a forward-propulsion ability.

The abilities you gain throughout the game — double-jumping, dashing, charging energy — are drip-fed to you as you progress. Rather than a series of tutorials, the game gives you a new ability and then immediately presents you with the next challenge. As a result, the game challenges the player so much that gameplay never stagnates and finishing levels is very satisfying. Each level is more difficult than the last, and you have to learn to use all of your abilities in various combinations — while reacting to hostilities — in order to proceed. This method of teaching-through-playing works throughout almost the entire game, but later levels are borderline impossible due to the steep difficulty curve.

Where the game falls slightly flat is in its story and length. The story is nonsensical: you find yourself falling through computer glitches as though you are an AI, you find yourself in a room near the bottom of the tower and, though tension builds through storms swarming around the tower as you near the top, there is no resolution at all. You can collect and read logs, but they add nothing to the experience of the game — they feel crowbarred in. But the game doesn’t really need to have a plot; its presentation is lovely and the gameplay is fun, so why would you need a narrative excuse to catapult yourself around with glee?

As for the length of the campaign, it is crushingly short. There are only five levels, which are over too quickly. To be fair, there is some replay value in trying to beat your fastest time or trying to find collectible secrets scattered throughout the levels, but this gets boring quickly. There are usually multiple paths through a level, some more intuitive to find than others. However, as mentioned, this can make the player feel lost and frustrated.

DeadCore cries out for user-generated content, but there is no outlet for this. It feels like a missed opportunity, if nothing else. Don’t get me wrong: this is a slick and very fun game. I just wish there was more of it.   

This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2015.
Posted 1:35pm Sunday 27th September 2015 by Campbell Calverley.