by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Besides how they sound, the characters universally look terrible. I’m a big fan of hand-crafted visuals when they’re done well (see The Swapper or the modern Rayman games), but whoever drew (and whoever animated for that matter) the character models should not work in games anymore. I don’t mean that in a subjective “I didn’t like the style” way, I mean it in a “they don’t understand core concepts of illustration” way. The way things are composed ignore basic tenets like logical textures, lighting, or shading, with both just thrown in seemingly randomly to deliver muddied, unpleasing design. Animations don’t do the artwork any favours, being choppy and awkward. There clearly aren’t enough frames in almost every single animation, both with the characters and in the environment. This makes anything moving look bad and makes precise control occasionally difficult. Movement is also stilted and unnatural, and swimming looks like a robot trying to moonwalk.
Take a minute and think of what’s important in a 2D platformer. What comes to mind? Did you think of precise controls? Understandable direction? Stable and consistent mechanics? If so, you just made a great list of things that Residue does poorly. Each of the three playable characters in the game possess unique mechanics, which can be cool when implemented effectively, but becomes a negative when none of those mechanics are actually interesting or work all that well.
Emilio is the most basic of the bunch, able to jump, climb, and swim. All of these pretty much work as advertised. Jumagul skews more towards the dysfunctional with his incredible speed and useless skill. By incredible speed I mean it’s incredible that anyone would put a character in a platformer that moves that incredibly slow. Seriously, I know he’s an old man, but you’re often following/supporting Emilio, and he looks like Barry Allen compared to Jumagal. That brings me to his unique characters skill. It’s holding a flashlight. Yup. That’s it. Actually I lied, he can open some doors too. His gameplay is always boring, and combining that with his preachy dialogue made him my least favourite character to play. Last is Nikolai. He actually made me laugh, and he wasn’t supposed to be a funny character. He uses a grappling hook, which just looks ridiculous. There really isn’t any consistency to what it can latch onto, and the physics of manoeuvring while hanging can only be described as magical. He’s like the crappy horror movies that play at 2AM, trying to deliver a serious message one minute, only to be running around chucking grappling hooks and floating around the next.
Residue is the least fun I’ve had playing a game all year. It has the production values barely higher than that of a mid-level online Flash game, and struggles to present anything better than functioning gameplay. The most interesting part of the game isn’t really even part of gameplay. Scattered throughout are documents that give background information, and actually give some insight into the historical happenings at the lake. Some of those were interesting, but hardly make up for how near-physically painful the rest of my experience was.
I feel bad harping on a game whose intention is to bring attention to an important event not many people are very familiar with, but it fails at both being history-centric enough to be an educational tool or fun enough to be a piece of entertainment. If only Residue would dry up and disappear like the lake it’s concerned with.
The music is nice, and some of the reading is interesting.
Literally everything else.