Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Alaskan Adversary

Having reviewed more than fifty Flash and Shockwave games since I started this blog last October, I'm used to concepts that are a little off the wall. But Alaskan Adversary has left me somewhat confused. The goal of the game is to beat up Alaskans. Why would you want to do that? I mean, I don't want to make any assumptions - maybe Alaskans are all bastards - but it seems to me like most of them don't really deserve getting stabbed in the face with a home-made spear.

The game doesn't waste any time, throwing you right into the thick of it from the very beginning. What I don't understand is why it starts in the Alps. I know most American teenagers can't find Iraq on a map and think Paris is in England, but this is a geographical fuck-up of epic proportions. You started with the best of intentions, heading out to gut unsuspecting Alaskans, and now you're killing the wrong people! I for one understand if they retaliate. Fortunately they don't have the same range as you, so dispatching the enemy is easy enough.

Like most action platformers, Alaskan Adversary has its fair share of boxes with giant gold coins in them. I believe the idea is to collect them so that you can use your "special ability", which amounts to jumping up in the air and swinging your spear at the ground on your way down. It may not look like much, but it's effective.

There's just one small problem - by the time you've collected enough coins to use your special ability, you'll more than likely have killed pretty much everybody, rendering the special useless. And of course, the special ability does not carry over to the next level.

Speaking of which - Alaskan Adversary likes to add a certain amount of variety to proceedings, and Level 2 sees you diving through the sky trying to collect these scroll thingies. They're all over the game and probably help fill your special bar, but usually you don't have time to think about it. Sure, it may be nothing more than a glorified bonus round, but it breaks up the monotony of running around stabbing... well, everyone but the Alaskans.

On our return to the platform part of the game, the developer chooses to ruin any and all enjoyment we may have been receiving from playing. Not only are you immediately thrust back into combat, but you're surrounded and have to fight three enemies at once. Getting cornered is guaranteed to cost you health, and as you try to find a better position the bad guys snap away at your heels. It doesn't help that you can't run and attack at the same time. Having to stand stock still while you swing your weapon leaves you wide open to attacks from behind.

The mission here is to collect four keys to unlock blubber (I kid you not) and reach the exit. It's easy enough, except retrieving a key can mean intentionally taking damage. There are poisonous plants, spikes and razor sharp brambles, and if you want to complete the level you have to take whatever punishment they dish out. It should come as no surprise that I hate any game that forces me to intentionally risk death. Obviously, in a platform game there should be enemies trying to kill you, but I shouldn't be punished for simply wanting to reach the next level.

As is often the case, I finally came unstuck in Level 4, which involves riding an inflatable life raft down the mountain.

Jesus, there's a sentence you don't write every day...

The key to completing the level is to allow the front of the boat to rise up just enough so that you can get over obstacles, but not so much that you flip right over.

How did I do?

I can only blame myself for not being able to complete this level, and maybe with a little more practice I'll get past it. But what would be waiting for me after that? Another half-baked, frustrating combat level? Alaskan Adversary is in the dubious position of being a platform game that's non-platform elements are its best parts. Movement is slow and ponderous, and the levels are designed in such a way that you don't know what's solid ground and what's a one way ticket to the bottom of an icy abyss. You'll play worse games than Alaskan Adversary, but you'll also play far, far better.

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