Spandex Force Review
By Adrienne Dudek |
Spandex and superheroes go hand in hand, where only the privileged few are able to don the skintight suit. Not only do you need an 6-pack, you need an alter ego as well. In the case of Spandex Force, it's Awesome Man/Woman. Karjasoft delivers an addictive casual game in a bright environment where you take on the role of a wannabe superhero and work your way to the top.
This casual RPG-puzzle game that makes fun of itself through corny dialogue is a quick and easy game to pick up and play and has the ability to suck you in if you're a fan of the match three (think Bejewled) style of gameplay. You begin by choosing either the male or female superhero. Awesome Man's is just the default name, but with a name like that, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to change it. Unfortunately there are only two character models to choose from, but you do have the ability to customize the color of their hair, eyes, skin and spandex outfit down to the stripe.
As a recent graduate of Champion U, Awesome Man/Woman is ready to face the world and fight crime in Vigilance Valley. The city isn't very big and when you begin you are only able to detect crime within a small radius around your base. You upgrade your base a total of three times throughout the game, and eventually you will be able to detect crime throughout the entire city. The goal is to help the citizens of Vigilance Valley by playing mini-games and collecting reputation stars to increase your rank and fight villains to advance to the next episode. Each time you help a citizen by completing a mini-game, you will gain experience points and, depending on how well you did during the game, additional reputation and money as well.
The city is packed with people milling about and when they start to sparkle in distress, that's when Awesome Man/Woman comes to the rescue. You never really "lose" in this game. The gameplay for all the mini-games have the same idea whether you're putting out fires, rescuing cats from trees or saving the same old lady from being hit by a car--they're all match three games with some variation. It starts to get repetitive after awhile, but since it is an RPG, leveling and collecting items might be enough to keep you going, but not always. You don't have to save every citizen in distress; you can pick and choose so it won't count against you if you decide that grandma isn't worth saving. The dialogue with grandma is amusing as it does change each time you save her, but after saving her a dozen times it will start to repeat.
Similar to Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest, Spandex Force includes the traditional swapping of the items to get three in a row, but it also has variations of this theme. There are three elements that you need to collect to complete the mini-games: mind, body and elemental power. Each mini-game involves building up these gauges by matching three of a kind. Included in the mix are gold coins, reputation stars and sometimes clues. Click 'n Drag mode involves highlighting at least three of a kind to make the pieces disappear. You aren't able to move your pieces and this is probably the most difficult of all the puzzles since you need to plan ahead which pieces you want to make disappear, and you're on a two-minute timer. There is a Slide 'n Drag mode where you slide the entire row to match up three of a kind. As you progress through the game, other mini-games will open up that will change up the gameplay. One of them is like Puzzle Bobble where there is a wall of pieces moving down and your goal is to shoot one piece at a time to get rid of as many pieces as possible. Another one involves you running down a road to dodge and collect items. You need to build up at least a chain of three and if you time it correctly, you can pick up some additional stars, gold and clues. In addition there are a couple of very simple mini-games that give you a chance to gain some extra resources. One involves a grid and you click to uncover the criminal. Colored squares indicate how close you are, and your prize is larger if you can track the criminal down in a limited number of clicks. The other is like a slot machine where you just need to stop each column to get three in a row.
Nabbing muggers and boss fights puts you in combat mode where you need to build up your elemental gauge to use your superpowers on your opponent to take down their hit points. Superpowers cost a certain number of points, but you are able to see what your enemy is saving up for, which allows you to hog certain pieces if you don't want them to build their gauge. There is no time limit in combat mode, so you can think carefully for chains and ways to hinder the enemy. You also lose your turn if you mess up so it's always a good idea to take it slow. There can be some strategy involved later on in the game, but the AI isn't the brightest and you can get away with making several mistakes and still come out on top.
There are eight episodes to go through and each level has a villain or several mini-bosses to track down and fight. In order to locate the boss, you need to first collect enough clues to determine where the villain is hiding. This is just another excuse to keep playing those mini-games so that you don't just blow through the entire game in three hours. Spandex Force took roughly 12 hours to go through, but you can always go back and play the mini-games and purchase artifacts and superpowers.
You have four superpowers to start with and can be traded for a cost. The gypsy wagon in the park will have a random selection of superpowers that constantly change. It would have been nice to be able keep your original superpowers and swap them out as needed. The villains and criminals also have far more interesting powers than your own. There is an old man by the sea who sells artifacts that boost different stats or gives you a percentage bonus on experience, reputation, clues or money. His inventory is also random and changes often so you need to check back frequently to see if there's anything you can afford or use. Certain items require you to be at a specific level or rank but by the time you achieve that, the item is gone and you have to wait for it to show up again.
There is actually quite a bit of variety in terms of things to do in Spandex Force even though you're stuck in Vigilance Valley. It's a colorful city that has a comic book feel. The backgrounds for the mini-games aren't very good looking and the animation (which consists of Awesome Man sliding left to right and really cheap fireworks) is rather limited. But the graphics fit the style of the game and doesn't take away from the experience.
The music is decent for a game like this. It's hard to come up with a tune that won't become irritating after several hours. The themes are repetitive and there aren't a lot of different tunes but most of them are upbeat and fun without being annoying. They aren't catchy to the point where you'll want to hum along, but you never know, you could get really into it.