Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: Death Crimson OX (Dreamcast)

Like Confidential Mission, Death Crimson OX is a gun game. You shoot the targets quickly and accurately and go for the high score. However the difference between these two games is in the mechanics. DC-OX has horrendous mechanics.

Before I go further I should establish what mechanics actually consist of. Whenever something happens in a game it should make sense. Everything should be clear and understandable regardless of whether the gamer is familiar with the game, genre, or otherwise. Say you're playing House of the Dead. Shooting a zombie in the head should obviously be more beneficial to the player than say shooting them in the chest or limb. In fact if you shoot a zombie anywhere besides the head they could gain in speed and attack fast, plus you get less points. With mechanics one should get an instant response to whatever they do in any situation.

Death Crimson OX expects a lot out of the gamer. In order to score the most points one has to play the game with the lowest possible amount of life as well as hitting many enemies without missing as often as possible(since your score multiplier is reset everytime you reload). Both of these things should make sense but over the course of the game it's just not the case. Most non-boss enemies can be shot multiple times and in fact it's required as many of them will still try to kill you even after being shot once(or even a few times). However the animation of these enemies is quite poorly handled as they will move quite spastically whenever shot(even at times disappearing almost entirely from the screen). Many enemies take a varying number of shots and there's seemingly no rhyme or reason as to how many shots it takes to get a single kill. You can also shoot a few objects in the background like windows or lights but that also is not 100% as there are windows you simply can't shoot out at all. In fact for most of the stages there's really not much in the way of destructable environments, which kind of negates the idea of having them in the first place.

Keeping yourself alive is another serious issue in terms of mechanics. Most gun games establish a short period of invincibility between hits but DC-OX apparently ignores that. I guess this was the designer's intention since they expect you to play the game without getting hit to achieve the highest scores but the implementation is still terribly handled. There are times when attacks look like they should miss(as in they fly off-screen) but they can still damage the player. There are also moments where due to the lack of animation enemy attacks can come out a lot faster than they should, leading to quite a bit of nonsensical damage. 

Hitting weakpoints is probably the worst part. In typical gun-game boss-fights the weakpoints are constantly moving and tend to show themselves just before the boss attacks. DC-OX is no stranger to this ideal but its execution like everything else is simply off. This is partly due to the poor art design as the enemies are clunky messes of scraps but also due to the really poor indicators that show where weakpoints are. It's hard to judge where to shoot something when the indicator is a vague circle of twirling lines. Certainly if you've played a game long enough you'll no exactly when and where to shoot everything but that's not quite what mechanics is about. For somebody even new to videogames in general they should be able to understand what works and what doesn't. There is simply not enough appropriate feedback in DC-OX to make it a good game.

Design decisions are another aspect of videogames that's always a cause for concern. It's simply not good game design to establish that the game must be played in a particular manner to get the most out of it, but then throw in instances where even playing the game properly can screw the player up. DC-OX's biggest design issue here is the experience bar. Instead of leveling up when the experience bar is filled the player gets extra life. To fill up the bar the player has to score quite a bit of points. Of course earlier I mentioned that in order to score the most points possible one has to play the game with very little life remaining. So now does the player have to take another hit to lose the health they gained from the exp bar? Can they risk it due to the shoddy mechanics? While it's actually a very clever idea if the player actually needs the health since the extra points help fill up the bar faster it just doesn't work quite right for those attempting to master the game. On the other hand I guess the most hardened fans of DC-OX won't find fault with this system but really how is that a good idea?

Accessibility is another extremely important aspect of videogames and if the game in question is trying out some new ideas or is doing things that could probably confuse and frustrate new players it should be well-designed and sensible so that it's easily understandable. Death Crimson OX is just a poor game all-around for expecting a lot from a player yet having neither the strong mechanics nor the good game design to back it up.

Next I'll look at Crazy Taxi. I consider this game one of the best arcade titles ever made and I imagine most everyone else feels the same way. Regardless I'm sure I'll find something about it worth mentioning in here.

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