Monday, November 4, 2019

Sublevel Zero Redux - Nintendo Switch Review

I feel like the creators of Sublevel Zero took 5 random keywords from a list of the highest selling video games of late and used them as a blueprint. That is to say, Sublevel Zero is a procedurally generated rogue-like space combat game with crafting and loot. It's a mouthful that meshes surprisingly well in practice, much like Breakfast pizza... However, even breakfast pizza can be ruined with poor execution.

The crafting and looting seems over simplified, but thats not necessarily a bad thing. I liked how little time I spent in the game's menus. Jump in, craft, equip, pew pew. And though there's no easy way to compare weapons and parts side-by-side, this game moves so quickly that experimentation becomes part of the fun. It's easy to swap back if you dislike a weapon... Unless you die of course.

And boy does this game love to kill you!

You'll clear a room of baddies only to be surprise attacked from around a random corner you didn't see because the visuals are fast and confusing. That's actually a great descriptor for this whole game. Fast and Confusing. It reminds me a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog. I love me some Sonic, but making me do a delicate activity within a system that forces me into breakneck speeds feels... well... bad.

Let's chat for a second about rogue-likes. I don't hate them, but I'm not a huge fan either. I really enjoyed RAD and Hearthstone's "Dungeon Run" mode and Downwell, but all of those games felt good to play. remove all the bells and whistles from a game, and if the controls and systems feel good, I'm in. Unfortunately for Sublevel Zero, as I stated earlier, It's fast and confusing.

It could very well be that I haven't spent enough time with this game's predecessors, namely Decent and Forsaken, to truly appreciate it's control scheme. But this is by far my biggest gripe. Even after spending a significant amount of time with the wide array of custom control options, and trying out the gyro controls (a welcome addition to any Switch port). I still found myself fighting with the controller. I'm afraid newcomers to this type of flying have a steep curve ahead of them.

I did have fun though. There are a good number of difficulty options ranging from you standard "easy, medium, hard" to the more nuanced unlockable ship selection. I found myself having way more fun with the easier settings. What can I say, I like games for babies.

This game is fun, It's got a rad but confusing visual style, the music is amazing, But I'm missing that "one more run" feel I get from other rogue-likes I've played. If you have nostalgia for those old "6-degrees of freedom" shooters, you'd probably love this game. But for my money I'll just go back to Starlink to scratch that space shooter itch.

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