Let me start out by saying this: I love puzzle games. They are one of my favorite genres because of their ability to challenge the player in ways that most modern games cannot. They force the player to sit back and think before they leap into a section. And the joy you feel after finally beating the level: pure bliss.
That being said, the puzzle games genre is a subject that may be off putting to certain people. Some might attest that their disdain for the genre is due to the puzzles being too hard, or that the game has no story, or that the controls are bad. Unfortunately, DeadCore fits each and every one of those complaints almost to a tee.
While officially DeadCore is an FPS-platforming game, it’s very easy to see how it checks off all the boxes for a puzzle game. Each section of each level often requires (at least for me anyways) copious amounts of time just sitting and thinking of exactly what move you want to make, and how you want to make it.
During the course of DeadCore you are tasked with simply making it from point A to point B, by whatever means you can. During your journey you’ll use your gun, which allows you to deactivate and activate certain objects. Some may be doors blocking your path, while others may be droids trying to push you off a ledge.
Although there may be a couple obstacles in your way, you’ll mostly be jumping from platform to platform, but it isn’t fun. One false move, and you’ll almost always fail the level. It also doesn’t help that each level is incredibly long. I spent four hours of the game on just the first three levels alone. Now, I of course spent a ton more time with the title than that, but that should just give you an idea of how long each level is.
With the game’s length in mind, DeadCore is incredibly boring. The fact that the main mode you play is called “Story” is almost laughable. While the game does provide a tiny bit of narrative via logs, that’s all the story you are going to get — even then I still had honestly no idea what was supposed to be going on.
There is no voice acting, no other characters; hell, I’m pretty sure you’re character doesn’t have a name. All you know is that you have lost all your memories. Granted, the developer, 5 Bit Games, is comprised of only six people, vastly limiting its potential. However this doesn’t excuse the problem. There are plenty of things the developers could have done to rectify this lacking dimension, like having your character say at least one word, even if it’s just a piece of text on screen.
The second mode you can play is Speedrun, and, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the two modes. It seems almost identical, with the only difference being the fact that some extra music plays in the background. At first I noticed that the Speedrun mode has a timer on the gun, thinking that that may be one of the differences. However I soon realize that the Story mode has the exact same timer, which then puzzled me as to why there was even a Speedrun mode in the first place.
As mentioned earlier, players are tasked with using their gun to activate and deactivate certain propulsion systems, enemies, and walls, which brings us to another major problem in the title. The controls, at least in the console version, just don’t feel right. Aiming with your gun is tied to the left stick, navigating the menus is a hassle due to the inability to use the d-pad, and movement in general is extremely floaty, and, because of this, I found myself constantly over-shooting my jumps.
Now this part is obviously intentional due to the fact that some of these jumps simply wouldn’t be possible with normal movement. But when core gameplay is based off of controls that simply don’t feel good, one has to question the developers. Although I absolutely hate using them to play games, using a mouse and keyboard would be much easier than using even the most comfortable, and precise of controllers.
That being said, even if you get used to the problem of the floaty controls, you then run back into the problem of the game being boring, as you just keep doing the same type of jumps over and over again, with little to no variations.
In addition to this, the checkpoint system also feels widely inconsistent. Levels are comprised of ten or so different sections, each of which having a checkpoint before each one. However, there seems to be no patterns with the placement of these checkpoints. Sometimes, what feels like it should be the end of the level isn’t, while other times you reach a checkpoint before anything meaningful happens. It’s not a major complaint, as it won’t hinder your experience most of the time, however I believe it’s something worth mentioning.
I’ve been griping a lot on this game, but there is one thing that I absolutely love about the DeadCore: its atmosphere. The moment you’re dropped in the world, you feel like you’ve just been transported to the Tron movies.
Also, the game’s soundtrack is on point. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of electronic music, but it felt right at home with the game’s sci-fi/futuristic feel. Every single time I bounced off one of the propulsion pads and it made a small electronic noise, I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
All in all, DeadCore is not a very good game. While it’s $7.99 price point may be appealing at first glance, it pains me to say that it quickly descends into a incredibly boring, and clunky jump-fest, with its only saving grace being its theme and atmosphere.