STAFF REVIEW of DeadCore (Xbox One)

Friday, July 28, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

DeadCore Box art Puzzle platforming games don't seem to get the recognition that other genres get; however, there is undoubtedly tons of merit and value to be found should a game of this nature be executed properly. This was the belief that led developer Grip Games to release their latest puzzle platformer, DeadCore, on the Xbox One. Armed with guns that shoot, think of this game as the spawn of titles that have come before it, like Portal and Quake. There is one simple goal in DeadCore, make it to the top of the tower as quick as you can, and of course in one piece. It seems oh so simple right? However, is it worth the $7.99 price point to pick up a game that came out almost 4 years ago on PC? Let's hop to it and find out.

When you start off there are a few things you'll notice right from the beginning. First off, the game looks beautiful in the visual department. An entire swirling celestial atmosphere that is enveloping this seemingly colossal structure. And all of eye candy is joined in harmony by a minimalistic, almost "Tron" type soundtrack that settles nerves but also stages a false narrative by misleading you into realms of comfort when none really exists.

At the beginning of the game you are given some options, but I would strongly recommend checking out the settings before diving right into the story, which shouldn't really be called "story" as you just need to complete room after room of puzzles. Nevertheless, once you hit that button for story mode, get ready for the ride of your life, virtually speaking.

When you start you'll find yourself tumbling in a free fall decent, and when you land (I'm guessing in a super hero way) you'll be taking your first steps towards many, many failures. The game doesn't do much in terms of hand holding, so your controls may feel a bit off at first. For example, the default jump button for a lot of games is what, the A button? Maybe the B button? In DeadCore the jump button is LT. Yup, the LT button is your jump button where you can also press it twice for a double jump move; however, this is where you'll also be introduced to one of, if not the biggest hiccups of DeadCore, the gameplay.

Earlier I mentioned have elements of the games Portal and Quake feel like they are incorporated, and that is because these games offer a gameplay control setup that is very "floaty" and focused on speed. This is the same style of movement that you will find in DeadCore, which makes the narrow, rotating platforms that that you have to jump to seem half a mile away, almost impossible to hit. I say almost because since you're going to die A LOT, you'll eventually have a run where your twitch muscle movements will pay off and you will solve the puzzle and proceed on to the next one.

DeadCore is a game where you literally live the iconic Top Gun line "You don't have time to think up there, if you think, you're dead." This is thanks to the fact that the game places its own devices in your path to stop you from completing the puzzles. These items include things like turrets and thruster jets that propel you in the direction they are pointing.

Now, you may be thinking that with floaty controls on narrow and tiny platforms and surfaces, placing things like this to add more challenge would make the game impossible, and in some cases you would be right; however, DeadCore grants you items to use, such as your new best friend your laser rifle to help you. This gun will shoot at opposing obstacles and temporarily turn them 'off', which will allow you crucial time to make the critical jumps to life saving freedom, and DeadCore is a game where you'll need every spare moment you can find. So, as you can clearly see, the game is trying to create a puzzle platformer that is simple on the outside, yet extremely challenging when you get into it and that got me thinking.

DeadCore could have been better had the gameplay been more precise. There were countless times where I hit a vertical platform and had no idea where to go, so I ended up looking downward so I could see the area that I had to land on. Other times I would do what would normally be a simple jump and it would seem like I hung in the air for multiple seconds waiting to just land so I could continue on.

While games like Portal and Quake managed to incorporate a highly sensitive and floaty gameplay mechanics, this open puzzle world of DeadCore doesn't fit within this scope that much, if at all. And then when you factor in the fact that countless times you will be required to perform split second actions, you start to get the sense that this game is designed to set you up to fail and fail, and fail some more. While some may think of this drawback as relatively minor, sadly it isn't and here's why.

When your game is dependent upon trying to tirelessly get one's jumping and reflexes to be pinpoint accurate, you have to have a mechanic system in place to allow for those actions to happen, and sadly that isn't found here. So, when your entire structure is already flawed in terms of how the user interacts with your game environment, then every moment you experience DeadCore will lead you to the same, controller smashing frustration. And while yes, it does offer a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you complete a section, those moments are few and very far between, especially since you'll probably end up giving up well before then anyways.

The big question though: "Is DeadCore worth the $8 price tag?" In terms of value for dollar, not really. In terms of a challenging platforming puzzle game for fans of the genre, yes. DeadCore tries to draw its inspiration from other games; however, it lacks a solid gameplay structure, and therefore doesn't allow one to effectively interact with the game. You have to get the basics right before considering any extras and sadly DeadCore falls flat on its face here. While it may excel on a PC platform, trying to make the switch to consoles isn't always a successful transition as evidenced with DeadCore. Only die hard puzzle platform fans need apply here.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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