Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Resin

Developer/Publisher: Rinberd

Remember when games were hard? Like really hard? Every jump, attack and movement all had to be precise or you would usually die and have to start over. Games like Ninja Gaiden, Ghouls 'N Ghosts, Castlevenia come to mind. There are some games that have come out these days that attempt to emulate that, like Dark Souls. Games that made you rage on bitter defeat and cheer when you finally struck a killing blow to that one boss.

Enter Resin, a simple looking action side scroller that is all about the fluidity of movement. The idea of the game is rather simple, but incredibly evil genius. You start the game at the height of your powers and as strong as you will ever be. Foes fall before you like dominoes one by one. Your blade slices like a hot knife through butter and you can zig-zag your way around enemies and make them spin in circles. Finally you reach one of the big bad bosses. The battle is fierce but you win the day. Suddenly everything changes and things get a bit colder. Your health/stamina bar shrinks, your movements slightly dulled, the shine on your blade seems slightly tarnished. You are weaker.

Creative writing aside you get the basic idea. Every time you take down a boss your character becomes weaker. This game reminds me of a virtual version of Bruce Lee's Game of Death, all we are missing is a pagoda.

Breaking down the story of Resin isn't really all that simple. Resin story doesn't come off straight forward in its narrative; I found the Steam page to explain more then the actual game did. You are an android lady who kicks robot tail and takes no robot names. Why? Well that is up for you to decide, in a way. The best way to describe the story of Resin is that it is subversive. It is there but more as a means to keep you guessing and keep on going culminating in a huge battle. I am not going to tell you that I was satisfied with the ending, but I was satisfied in the feeling that I made it to the end. There are multiple endings from what I understand. I got the good ending so perhaps there is more to see on the other side. To be fair Resin never really promises you explanations,  so you end up not expecting anything different from the ending. It starts on a weird note and ends on a weird note.

Where the true beauty of this game lies is in its action. When I said fluidity of movement I really want to underline how important that is to this game. Everything in the game is calculated, every enemies lunge, swoop, or attack is crafted. Bosses are no different as you fight against them you will note that the vicious attacks all have a window, an opportunity to strike but you have to be precise or die fast. I was very impressed with how bosses/enemies were crafted and how dynamically things change from beginning, to the middle, and the end. Keep in mind you have to be able to fight at your strongest and weakest. That isn't easy to plan out backwards.

Aside from movement, you only have three buttons that really matter: attack, dodge, and sheath your sword. When you first load into the game you are going to notice two large sets of bars at the top, representing health and stamina. Any fan of Dark Souls is immediately going to recognize this green bar as attacking and dodging are completely dependent on it. Beside those bars is a number. That number represents the number of bosses and what power level you are. Nine being the highest, and yes, it does go down to zero.

The Three Questions....
You move about a huge map that has multiple paths facing an onslaught of enemies as you hunt down bosses one at time. The bosses are extremely fun to fight and satisfying challenges, from having to shoot ballistas and fend off enemies. Another boss jumps everywhere and wants to pound you into the ground. Like games of old most of them have a pattern that takes a bit of learning to finally overcome them. I died somewhere between five and ten times depending on the boss. About half way through the game though things change dramatically. Suddenly you don't fear facing bosses, but just getting anywhere is a challenge. The once simple enemies you took for granted in destroying, get mean. Real mean. Near the end, any enemy is practically a herculean task to destroy and this is what I loved about Resin. You feel your weakness and miss your strength.

The flip side of that is the way you make progress through the healing stations.(bonfires basically) If for whatever reason you die before getting to the next, you have to retread all that trouble and fight tooth and nail to get there again. This isn't a huge problem for the most part, but did lead to some ragey moments.

There are items that are of a benefit to you that you can find. Scattered around the map are jars of black ooze that provide a smidgen of health. You can find grappling hooks to overcome terrain obstacles and essential items like the respirator that allow you to breath underwater.

Resin has mastered its action, level design, and bosses in very inventive ways. That being said there is one gripe that I have to mention.

Death is annoying, now I know that sounds silly, but bear with me. Every time you die you lose a percentage of health from your health bar. The way to recover this part of your health is to slay a foe, collecting its essence and then head to a healing station. The only problem is, that this becomes rather dull when dying to bosses. It creates this mentality of losing to a boss, go kill a random minion, heal up to 100% and then fight the boss. Why go in with anything less?

Yes I am aware of the argument being "Get gud' noob!" but that is hardly the point here. It's an unnecessary chore that takes away from the pace of the game. Again, a minor gripe, but a gripe but nonetheless.

Moving on, Resin does some impressive work with its pixel art and sprites as well. The game in all has somewhat of a dreary withered robotic vibe that works very well. Bosses are particularly horrifying in ways that remind me of anime monsters. The backgrounds are given quite a bit of detail and in a way tell their own story if you pay attention to them. The game is rather simple looking, mind you, when it comes to the main character and basic enemies but I find it never really holds the game back. I do wonder if the game had a bit more in the graphical department, how much more epic it could've felt.

Resin has a phenomenal soundtrack that elevates the entire game and really brings the tone of the game home. This is one area of the game that is really flawlessly done and I loved the soundtrack. It is quite a shame that the soundtrack isn't available for purchase. I am no musical savant but it has tones of 80's Tron and the type of sci-fi music we see in things like Stranger Things. It creeps you out but its exciting. When the music drops, you know stuff is about to go down. The sound effects on the other hand, do feel uninspired and never really caught my attention.

Game length can vary, as my initial play through took about three hours. If you explore, have troubles with the bosses this can be stretched out. There are multiple endings, which adds replay value to the game as well. What the differences are between those I have yet to discover. One thing to note, is that like Dark Souls or Ninja Gaiden, once you learn how to defeat a boss, it becomes like riding a bicycle; you will never forget how to do it. That initial awe and difficulty isn't as high.

I had a great time with Resin, it brings the old and new together in fun interesting ways. I admit I did rage often and there was times I had to walk away from the game to take a breather. That hardly is a bad thing though when a game aims to be difficult.

Hitting the bullet points: the game does have Steam Achievements/Cards, and features controller support. At the low price of $4.99 Resin is a steal for the amount of gameplay that it is offering. I recommend this title if you are in the market for a unique challenging game that will make you scratch your head.

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