by Bane Williams
reviewed on X360
For Whom the Bell Tolls (cntd)
Bosses are varied, which is great in a genre that is regularly plagued by stale, unoriginal boss fights. All bosses are a matter of learning their attack patterns and besting them, putting your reflexes to the test. From giant demons capable of killing your character in just a few short blows, to a poison fog emitting plant tendrils that erupt from the earth with no warning, this game has some of the most memorable boss fights of its genre.
Characters can be customized with a large assortment of passive abilities and active skills allowing you to truly personalize your character. Red orbs (which are dropped by enemies, chests and crates) are the experience points of the world, capable of increasing your characters level, expertise with a weapon, or aptitude with a skill. This rewards exploration, and a savvy player can defeat rare enemies in order to earn even more abilities.
Not all Peaches and Cream
Every game has its flaws, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy having to point them out. It is a shame that a game with as much potential as N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights has to be plagued by such a large number of what can only be described as simple design flaws. There is an array of invisible walls that will regularly hinder your progress as you make your way through the game, often jerking you from your freeform enjoyment. It’s incredibly frustrating to be trying to avoid enemy attack through what looks like an open archway, only to have your character stall and be pummeled into dust for something that wasn’t your fault.
Enemies’ orientation can never be relied on, as they are able to attack in any direction, even behind them (apparently archers can purposely backfire). With a game relying so much on your ability to not be hit, this seems like a large oversight. The first set of flying enemies you find are able to knock you down and keep you down until you die if you weren’t aware that you could roll while on the ground (something I found out after my third frustrating death to them).
The level design is probably among the weakest of games released this year, with many areas simply not making sense: My character traversed to the top of a bell tower via a set of stairs, only to find that during the boss fight there were no stairs to be seen, or doorways of any kind, sealed or otherwise. Additionally that same fight was supposed to be in a room where a unique looking altar was to be found, and once again there was none to be seen (although it did mystically appear in the cutscene at the end of the fight).
Missions themselves are not varied enough, with you regularly forced to do the exact same objective you have done in the last three missions – just with a change of scenery. This doesn’t combine well with a difficulty curve that is all over the place, or the fact that some ‘checkpoints’ are greater than 30 minutes of gameplay apart.
Finally there are the forced platforming sections that really throw the game out of balance. I understand that the designers were attempting to provide a break between the constant onslaughts of demons, but your character isn’t exactly as precise as a scalpel, and unforgiving platform edges make me want to tear my own hair out in frustration. One particular section took me, someone who is very proficient at platforming games, 27 frustrating tries to complete. The sad thing is that section was composed of three platforms, evenly spaced, right in front of each other.
At the End of the Tunnel
With all of those flaws, it is obvious that N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights isn’t for everyone. However those things that it does well it does so exceptionally that it’s worth a lot more than a cursory glance. Considering similar games on the market are so slow to evolve, it is amazing that N3II: Ninety-Nine Nights has done so much. It is a bold game, one that hit the mark more often than it missed, and it is worth an addition to almost any gamer’s collection. We can only hope the next installment cleans up the act and gives a truly stellar experience.
Many Unique twists on an old genre, rewarding combat.
Missions very same-y, platforming extremely frustrating.