Ever wonder what it would be like to play the bad guy in those classic platforming games? That’s the premise that the team from Star Blade have gone with for their game Nefarious. It certainly is an interesting take, instead of the hero, getting to finally be behind the controls of the giant machines trying to squash those do-gooders for once. With the wealth of 2D retro inspired platformers lately, it’s this switch that makes Nefarious an interesting option just on that idea alone. Time to man those weapons of doom and take it to those heroes.
The story is the big hook with Nefarious as it follows bad guy Crow’s escapades. Crow begins with his usual kidnapping of a princess, although this time his usual foil decides, rather than stop him, to break up with the princess right there and let Crow take her. Now with nothing else to do, Crow decides it’s time to take over the world. His plan involves capturing various princesses to help power his ultimate machine that will ensure that no one can stop him. The interaction between the characters provides some genuinely funny and amusing moments and is pretty well done. It may be a bit surprising to find out how much cooperation Crow gets from those he captures. In the end though, he is still a villain at heart after all.
Unfortunately for Nefarious, the gameplay doesn’t match the standard set by the story. The platforming elements and enemies are all rather ho-hum at best. There is nothing particularly challenging or interesting to the level design. The levels seem to be essentially the vehicle to move the story along. If the story doesn’t do it for you, the gameplay certainly won’t. Crow’s arsenal (punching and grenades) doesn’t fare much better. His attacks can be “upgraded” to include some variations; however, they are just variations and not upgrades. The different types of punches all seem to do the same damage, same goes with the grenades. That leaves the only useful upgrade being an increased amount of health.
The levels are split into 2 sections: pre-kidnapping and post-kidnapping. After abducting the princess in the level, Crow gains various abilities. Most of these newly gained abilities don’t seem to change gameplay much, if at all, for the majority of levels. Only 2 really stood out as being notable: one that leaves smoke trails to the grenades to use as temporary platforms, and the other provides infinite ammo to spam. This only lasts for the back end of each level though.
Of course, there is the hero battle at the end of the levels. What’s the point of being a video game villain if piloting one of the crazy death machines isn’t an option? Again, it’s more of a good concept with not that exciting of an execution. First up is a machine with a giant wrecking ball. This quickly becomes an exercise in fiddling with a physics engine. There are other various machines throughout, all seemingly to mimic other iconic boss machines in other games. Still, what should have been pretty cool experiences didn’t really live up to the expectation, as they feel more like mini-games rather than being in control of powerful contraptions.
While the level design is rather straightforward, the real challenge comes with trying to accurately control Crow. The movement controls are a bit mushy. The response to movement inputs seemed a bit slow. Falling in a pit of lava due to user error is one thing, having to navigate areas by jumping alone becomes irritating when adding slow response time to controller inputs. Also, unless you have an extra finger or two, good luck trying to aim grenades when jumping on the move with a controller. Most of the time it is completely unnecessary to use the right stick to aim, but when it does become a need, working the left and right stick while trying to press A and the right trigger is a real exercise in finger acrobatics.
The art in Nefarious is nicely done for the most part. Everything looks rather uniform in style with only one or two exceptions. The most glaring exception being the underwater level. It feels really out of place to have a beautifully drawn world all around, then to drop down below and have rather basic, one color objects. This might have been a style choice, although that leaves the level feeling as if it was either a rush job or an afterthought. The only other noticeable thing with the art is far more minor. The Princess Peach doppelganger looks rather different between the dialog screens and the in-level representation. Minor, but I was slightly confused as to whom I had previously abducted at one point until talking to them.
The music itself isn’t bad, although it doesn’t always seem to blend well with the game at times. Whether it is important or not, some songs don’t loop very well, specifically during the ending credits where the song is just slightly short of the screens and a noticeable pause can be heard. This particular song probably wasn’t designed to loop, but it is there. If this occurs with in-game music, it wasn’t as obvious.
Release Date: 21st January 2017