Sunday, November 11, 2007

This Is Madness

Oh man - it has not been a good week. My wireless broadband has been unreliable at best (indeed, for a time yesterday I was unsure whether I'd even be able to post this review.) I am still unemployed, and the fact that I haven't been getting to the gym too often recently is starting to show. But worst of all, I've had to play This Is Madness.

This Is Madness was developed as an homage to the Madness games. What are they? Well, you play a rectangle with a head, and you kill other rectangles with heads using a variety of firearms and mêlée weapons. Sometimes you wear a funny hat.

OK, I know that doesn't sound like much, but the Madness games are pretty entertaining, and a good way to kill ten minutes. This Is Madness, however, just sucks. But all right, credit where credit is due:

That loading screen is pretty badass. And the menu is also cool.

Rather than just a traditional list of options, you move your character around on screen and go into different rooms, depending on what you want to see or do. It's not something that you see every day, so I'll applaud the developers for doing something a little different. It's just a shame they didn't spend the same amount of time building a good game.

Anyway, they do a pretty good job of easing you into the game, and letting you get used to the controls. Which is nice, especially since you'll later learn how poor these controls are. You use W, A and D to move around, mouse to aim and shoot, and the Q and E buttons to cycle through your weapons. You start with a knife and a pistol. You have 70 rounds for the pistol in the beginning, and while that may seem like a lot, you'll soon see it's barely enough.

This is the start of Level One. You'll see these little blocks of gold around the levels, and you have to collect them in order to open a door at the end of each level. Most locked doors require a key. Some, if you're playing an RPG, might need a spell, but usually it's a key. These doors take gold. I don't know who I'm supposed to be fighting, but I don't think I should be too worried about their intelligence if they decided the doors in their secret evil base should be controlled by chunks of gold. Talk about overheads, right?

Regardless, you collect the gold and head towards the end of the level. You meet plenty of enemies along the way, determined to either stab you or fill you with more lead than a Chinese-made action figure. Fortunately you have your pistols. Unfortunately, you can't shoot for shit. I figured the easiest way to hit the bad guys would be to hover my mouse pointer over them and let loose with a few shots. But even when you're pointing your weapon straight at them, half your shots will go wildly off course. You know, if you're going to infiltrate a secret underground base, you should at least go down to the shooting range a couple of times so you know what you're doing. Fortunately when the bad guys die they'll either drop some ammo:

Or sometimes a medical kit, which will give you an often much-needed health boost:

Oh God. Just look at the colour scheme they've got going on here. It's nothing but grey and horrible, drab purple. It's depressing to look at. It's even more depressing to learn that it never changes. Every level, no matter how far you get in this game, uses those same colours.

But anyway, yeah, you keep running around, collecting gold and shooting bad guys. And you spend a long time shooting bad guys. I don't mean, you spend a long time shooting bad guys because there are so many of them. That would be fun. I mean, you can be standing right next to an enemy, unloading a clip in his face, and it will still take six bullets to put him down. These guys are like Terminators, or something - superhuman killing machines.

Do you know how many bullets it took to kill that guy? Too many! And there's nowhere for you to hide while your blasting at each other. You just have to stand there and shoot. It's just some awful war of attrition, shooting each other for God know how long until one of us drops.

And if you do make it through, what's your reward? Another bad guy! often, they'll just appear out of nowhere, too. Either that or they'll drop from platforms higher up in their desire to kill you. They manage to survive seventy-five foot drops and run to you, guns blazing.

Definitely Terminators.

But man, I haven't even told you half the story. As I mentioned, the controls suck. They're far too sensitive, and your character slides all over platforms. As well as that, there's the small problem of bouncing off every wall you happen to bump into!

You also can't jump very high, meaning you end up in situations like this:

I spent the better part of thirty seconds jumping up and down, taking pot shots at the guy above me until he finally dropped. Now I want my reward for sending him to his maker: twenty measly bullets for my pistol. But I can't get up there. I spend another two minutes doing everything I can to jump up onto that platform and get that ammo, but I'm not getting up there. That ammunition is staying right where it is, taunting me, because my vertical jump just isn't good enough.

And the worst thing? Even worse than that?

It happens again in the next level!

God fucking damn it to hell!!

Why make platforms that you can't reach? There's no way to jump up there and get the medikit. There's even a friggin' hole in the ground to make the jump that much more difficult. And don't think I can use that crate to make things any easier. Those crates may as well be painted on the wall because they're of no use whatsoever. You can't push them, you can't hide behind them, you can't even stand on them. They exist only to break up the drab interior - and they're dark green, so they don't even do that.

Since it's impossible to kill everything without wasting half of your ammunition, you'll soon find yourself down to your knife, which isn't much fun when your opponents all have assault rifles. Why can't I have an assault rifle? Oh, that's right, they cost too much at the shop.

Oh yes, the good old weapons shop, the staple of every online platform shooter. It's here that you can use the gold you collected to buy weapons and ammunition. But check out those prices!

If you want to buy any heavy duty weaponry you're going to have to kill everything that moves and pick up every last iota of gold, and that's just not possible when you have six guys carrying machine guns bearing down on you. Indeed, I quickly discovered that a hasty retreat was the best route to survival.

When you reach the store, you know you're about to meet the boss. And as far as bosses go, this one is a little different. (By the way, the following screenshot is actually the second fight with the boss. I would have gone back and captured a screenshot from the first fight, but I'll be damned if I'm ever playing this fucking game again.)

Yep - the evil genius behind this facility is a cowboy. He's got a big hat, and a big gun. He's also got a big fist, and if you get anywhere near him he'll punch you.

Seriously, that's his biggest weapon. Your character can get shot twenty-seven times in the chest with an AK-47, but God damn, don't let that guy punch you!

Should you manage to avoid the Evil Punch of Doom, the boss will run away. Chase after him and you will find...

The same shit you just went through! Nothing has changed in the slightest. Same crappy colour scheme. Same stupid platforms. Same moronic bad guys.

I mean, look at this!

He knows I'm there, so he decided the best idea would be to shoot though the ceiling. Gonna try to hit me through fifteen feet of concrete, huh? Yeah, good luck with that.

This dead dude at my feet? I didn't kill him. No, there's a guy above me throwing grenades around with wild abandon, and he happened to catch his buddy instead. Good God, these guys are stupid.

Not as stupid as me, of course. Because I still think there's a point to this game. I still think I can win. And then I see this:

Remembering what I said about sliding all over platforms, how difficult do you think this level is? Keep in mind that the controls are super sensitive. Yeah. This level is almost impossible. I won't say it is impossible, because I did, eventually, get past it. But I almost gave myself an aneurysm in the process.

But then, what should I expect from a game that's clearly designed to make sure you never win?

Mines, gunmen, tiny little platforms - I am not supposed to win this game! I am not supposed to have gotten this far. How vindictive must a computer programmer be to design levels such as this? They want to make you suffer, and you will like it.

You're probably saying to yourself, "Oh, he just doesn't like a challenge." I do like a challenge, but this isn't challenging - it's downright torture! You'll try to make the same jumps again and again and watch as your ammo and health are depleted by a never ending wave of enemies that appear out of nowhere. And there's no escape! There's no pause button, no option to give up. You just have to keep playing until you die or you win, and you'll never win.

This Is Madness? This is bullshit!

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