Released this week on steam for $9.99 (or $29.99 for a four-pack if you happen to have four friends to play with) is a “2.5D sidescroller” smash’em up: Final Exam from Mighty Rocket Studio. A slick looking online multiplayer supported smash ‘em up to make the tried and true transition from Xbox Live and Playstation Network onto Valve’s Steam.
So four characters that look like they should be featured in a ‘where are they now?’ of The Breakfast Club are on their way to a High School Alumni Party. The Jocky Football guy, artsy chick, nerdy boy, and token minority (not sure which, but his skin is darker than the others) happen to be adequately trained with martial arts, explosives, and the use of several types of firearms. Since this is not a game about awkward realization that everyone else in high school has moved on with their lives and become adults instead of trying to relive their glory days into their late 20′s their car runs into a hoard of monsters, you grab a pistol and baseball bat with nails driven into it, and start a swinging.
Each character specializes on a few key skills, Jock is the big melee bruiser, nerd is the tank / explosives expert, Artsy chick is good with firearms and melee, while token guy is good at guns and explosives. Gameplay is smooth and well polished. If you’ve played any 2d style smash ‘em up since River City Ransom you know how this all works (even down to enemies dropping food, ammo, and grenades for some reason when they die). Go from objective to objective smashing things as you go. It’s certainly done well with beautiful polished levels sporting impressive backdrops along the way. If anything the levels are TOO well detailed as some areas can have quite a bit of clutter in the background but overall the game does a great job of offering you plenty of eye candy and a never ending stream of monsters to smash.
As you progress through the game you earn skill points to unlock special moves and such as well as character points to add to your character’s abilities. Basically it improves damage dealt and how much hp you have. It’s an interesting RPG element designed specifically to add longevity to a rather simple and straight forward smashing game. While it certainly is nice to make your character more powerful and makes you want to scour every level for every collectable and weapon to get all the unlocks, the abilities are actually counter-productive to their longevity cause. See with all the new weapons you find and new abilities and stats you get your character becomes too badass and frankly the combat starts to get too repetitive and dull.
The game is broken up into several missions at the end of which you are rewarded for how well you completed it. More points means more skill points. I think though the missions are just a bit too long as some of them really start to wear on me and often times I was just hoping it would hurry up and end. Also the objectives in each mission are pretty much typical copy and paste stuff that feels rather dull and uninspired. After having to fetch crap (be it gas cans, weapons, machine parts, lab assistants, or children) every single mission you get rather tired of it after a while. And while the game has a pretty cool and perhaps a little edgy (and chuckle worthy) style the story is just so inanely pointless I have no investment in it or the characters to care enough to keep playing.
I was ready to praise Final Exam, for the first few hours I played it was fun, fast, furious, and a fresh break from the usual slow paced games I play. Online was likewise even more fun and a great fast paced romp with random strangers. But after the sixth mission I just hit a wall and suddenly I didn’t care anymore. I’ve killed a thousands of these dang monsters, only have a faint idea why and really don’t care if I save the day or not. Just about every mute NPC that I’ve come across in my journey who helped me ended up dying in some kinda humorous way (usually squashed by a mini-boss) and I was just tired of the game.
This game made me seriously consider just how long should a game keep me entertained? Obviously it should do so at least from beginning to end, which sadly Final Exam fails for me. But even if it did keep you satisfied to the end you might replay the game again just to get all the unlocks. But then what? Once you’ve filled out all the skill and ability trees there’s really little to do unless you’re the kind of person who wants to get their name up on a high score list. This is clearly a throw-away game at best that you play through once or twice maybe with a couple friends and then forget it ever existed. It’s almost sad really, as the developers did a great job of making a crisp clean and pretty fighting game. But repetitive boring mission objectives that have been used a million times in MMO grinds (go here, collect, bring back. Go here, escort, bring back. Go here, kill, kill, kill, kill, keep killing, and kill some more.) ruined an excellent fighting game. Combined with a completely uninteresting generic carbon copy story that gives me absolutely no connection or reason to keep going and we have a game that really falls up short.
If you like smash’em up games I might suggest giving it a try but don’t expect anything life changing.
Game Play: 7/10
Music / Ambiance: 9/10
Read more reviews on my blog!http://markofithian.com/
Posted: November 26th, 2013