Insecticide Episode 1 Review
By Chris Commodore |
Adventure gaming is dead. It's been said to death. Developer Crackpot Entertainment is attempting to take a crack at "reviving" the genre by adding a little more action to the mix with Insecticide Episode 1. How does the first episode in the two-parter do? It's like eating chocolate-covered ants. The chocolate's good, but the addition of the ants is an awkward choice.
Insecticide takes gamers to a gritty film noir world filled with crime, murder, and mystery. It's all pretty standard classic Hollywood storytelling, except that in Insecticide, you're a six legged bug. As a matter of fact, there aren't any "normal" humans in Insecticide which definitely lends itself to a sci-fi experience. Consider the game part "bee-movie," if you will. The story starts off by throwing you into the underbelly of Troi, the game's grungy and bug-infested city. You take control of female Detective Chrys Liszt, and team up with fellow arthropods to unravel a mysterious death at the local Nectarola soda factory. If it sounds nonsensical, it is. I've beaten the game more than once and still don't know what's going on. There's a lot of in-game vernacular that will go over your head, but if you're confused, it doesn't hurt the game much. It's obvious that Crackpot loves the mythology it has created; but even though the story is cute, something is lost in translation. You hardly ever care where the story goes, even though the game thinks you do. Insecticide is certainly a scene-to-scene, story-driven game.
The game has plenty of style and charm.Unlike games like Sam & Max and Grim Fandango, the game isn't a pure adventurer in the traditional sense. As a matter of fact, Insecticide feels like half adventurer, half shooter/platformer. While the adventure portion of the game features the traditional click-on-stuff game play that fans all know and love, the action parts feature a third-person shooter control scheme, ala Ratchet and Clank. You use the WASD keys to move, spacebar to jump, and the mouse to shoot your various guns. The game's levels are clearly segmented into either action or adventure. While the action portions aren't bad, the shooting mechanics feel pretty shallow and pale in comparison to the puzzle portions.
Luckily, the adventure aspects of the game shine bright as fireflies. Besides the aforementioned action parts of the game, Insecticide is very cohesive in nearly every aspect of its presentation. The backbone of its success relies on the world and characters that Crackpot has created. This is all joined with a quality script. While the story does feel a bit convoluted and confusing, much love and care went into crafting the humorous dialogue contained in the game. Insecticide is by far the "punniest" game I've ever played. There will be moments where it's nearly impossible not to crack(pot) a smile. That last pun was not one of those moments.
Thankfully Insecticide has a well rounded cast of voices. The lines are always spoken with conviction, which is pretty amazing considering the game has a lot of nonsensical dialogue. In addition, the casting for the game was well done because every voice seems to fit the characters they represent. The sound overall is good. While the sound effects don't stand out, the detective Jazz music fits the vibe well and adds to the game's overall character. While we're on the subject of characters, even though you may not fall in love with any of Insecticide's cast members, some of them are pretty charming. It also helps that they are well designed.
Unforunately, the gameplay isn't consistent.All of Insecticide's characters come to life in 3D via the game's solid graphics engine. Even though the graphics won't blow you away, the noir detective art direction is consistent throughout and feels eerily similar to the Majesco published Psychonauts. The only real gripes I had with the graphics are that the computer generated cut-scenes are compressed and there are also problems with the lip syncing (aka there is none). While Insecticide does have a lot going for it, the game does have its fair share of issues.
With the nature of episodic games comes episodic length. The game is really short. It will take you about three hours (more or less) to beat the first episode. It doesn't help matters that the game is real easy. Since the guns you carry aren't that effective, I found it easier to run up to enemies and melee attack them for the quick kill. You can also run away from your bug-eyed foes, as enemies will not pursue you if you go beyond certain predetermined segments of the levels. Conversely, your foes are not the only ones to be confined to segments of the game. The game has a couple invisible walls. While they are certainly not detrimental to the game, it really ruins the illusion. Even though your enemies may not kill you very often, the platforming might. The game has a decent number of clumsy miss-the-jump-and-you-DIE segments. Luckily it never becomes "too" frustrating, and there are tons of checkpoints.