I’m well versed in talking to myself as I play games. I’ve screamed at the horrors found in Resident Evil and I’ve whooped with joy as that 40 yard thunderbolt nestles in the back of the net on FIFA. I’ve shouted out loud when being killed for the 50th time in a deathmatch battle on Call of Duty and cried in disappointment at not making the podium on a whole range of racing games. Never though have I complained so much, in such a short amount of time, as I have with 8DAYS. In fact, I’ve been sat here for the best part of the last week, muttering, cursing and near on crying at how unfair 8DAYS actually is.
And believe me, when something is this unjust, it ain’t no fun.
Which is a shame, because the premise behind 8DAYS seems a good one.
For starters, it comes with a great story, one in which you’ll find yourself taking on the role of two crazy mercenaries; Lola ‘Wasp’ Cruz and Mike ‘Ghost’ Doe. Now these guys have been recruited by G.O.D. Inc, the world leader in the Private Military sector, tasked with bringing peace to areas which have been decimated by conflict. It’ll be up to you – and a local co-op mate should you so wish – to battle your way through five chapters, unravel secrets, find hidden areas and fight off bad guys in order to keep the peace. The story isn’t going to blow you away, but for something found in an indie title, it is pretty compelling and gives reason to the action that follows it.
Playing out as a top-down shooter which utilises twin stick mechanics, 8DAYS should therefore be great fun, giving you the chance to gear up with multiple weapon types, check out a whole ton of explosive action and dish out the very best aggression to those who stand in your way. With old school pixelated visuals, and a cracking soundtrack to boot – seriously, the music in 8DAYS is great – it’s a recipe for utter joy.
But unfortunately the difficulty level, the uncompromising nature and the sheer unfairness which smacks you in the face every five seconds stops it from being anything but. Although strangely, I think that BadLand Games and, in particular the developers at Santa Clara Games, have reveled in creating something with such toughness.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a hard game – okay, I don’t like Dark Souls hard – but I’ll pretty much give anything else a go. And actually I like to test myself with the best of them, happily taking in a death or five as I work out the best course of action for me to succeed. But 8DAYS isn’t just hard, it combines that difficulty with some utterly annoying practices.
First up, is a combination of a severe lack of ammo and twitchy, imprecise, shooting capabilities. I can cope with the latter normally, at least when a ton of ammo is sent my way, but 8DAYS seems to play on the fact that ammo is in scarce supply and really cannot be wasted. Mix this up with stray bullet precision, and the fairly swift speed in which much of the game plays out, and it’s beyond a joke. With enemies coming at you from all directions, and little chance of you being able to out run them, every single shot you make needs to be spot on, nailing its target precisely. But that in itself is nigh on impossible, leaving you to cope with cheap death, after cheap death, after cheap death.
And whilst that in itself wouldn’t be so bad, the checkpoints in which it throws you back to are also severely inconsistent. With much of the game running as a scroller, the only time you find a respawn point is when you head through a door and enter another area. Now, this may be just 30 seconds away, or it may, as seems to be the case far too often, be spread out over the course of a lengthier amount of time. Breathing a sigh of relief when you make your way through a specific section is all well and good – especially considering much of your progress is luck based – but then when you happen upon multiple more bad guys, with just a single bullet in your chamber, and see another death come your way, it just isn’t fun repeating everything over and over again.
Health is also in seriously short supply, with additional packs scarce to say the least. You initially start with just three bars keeping you alive, with every hit from an enemy taking that life force down a notch. With so much going on and the opportunity for tens of bullets to be on screen at once, dodging them all isn’t an option. Again, that old friend death rears its head and throws you back to a point you wished you would never have to see again.
All of the above is tricky to cope with at the best of times, and instead of hiding in the shadows, waiting for that prime striking opportunity, you’ll need to resort to frantically running around in order to find an exit and the next checkpoint. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but with slightly twitchy movement controls and tight areas, you’ll once more find yourself coming a cropper more times than you can imagine.
But hey, at least once you manage to make your way through to the end of each chapter you’ll be treated to a whole load of ammo, preparing yourself for the end of stage fight ahead, won’t you? Because you know, that’s how videogames work isn’t it? They provide you with enough of the destructive stuff to ensure that each end of stage guardian is able to be destroyed. Well, yep, normally that would be the case. But not in 8DAYS.
You see, again, I’ve been left frustrated, disappointed and kicked in the mouth with every single boss – and mini boss for that matter – that I’ve so far come up against. One in particular had me flummoxed for days, before finally managing to get lucky, whilst another had me thinking he was impossible to take down – only when I managed to coerce a friend into the action did we see his head roll. And that, frustration, disappointment and pain is pretty much how 8DAYS decides to roll throughout. And no game can ever be fully enjoyed when it delivers such a combination of feelings. Unless you’re some kind of freak who gets pleasure from that kind of thing.
So, we’ve already worked out that 8DAYS lets itself down massively in the difficulty and fairness stakes. But other than that, what do we have? Well, you know what, something that would otherwise be fairly decent.
On the whole, the levels are well created and allow for a fairly decent degree of exploration. In fact, there are some glorious hidden areas which really do need seeking out, especially if you can manage to see through the trial and error approach that is required at all times. There is also a decent mix of ideas included, with each chapter and stage found within the 8Days walls pretty damn unique from the next.
The enemies themselves are well placed too, and even though it’s a bit too easy for them to spot you hiding behind what you initially thought was an obstruction (yep, that results in more death), there’s enough tactical nous allowed in order for you to take them down – ammo permitting of course. The weapons are pretty cool as well, and whilst you can only equip two at a time, there is enough variation in each one to allow you to play 8DAYS slightly differently every time you pick up the controller. I mean, who doesn’t like taking hold of a rifle, flamethrower, silenced pistol, rocket launcher or more?
If you are happy to put up with the pickiness of 8DAYS and are up for a serious challenge, then you’ll probably like what you find, but perhaps dragging a friend along for the ride would quite possibly be the better option; at least then you can take out your frustrations on each other instead of your own mental well-being. There is no online option, but the instant jump-in of the local multiplayer makes things a little easier, if only so you can try and cheat the game by hopping in and out of areas, in order to see a previously downed partner magically revive.
There are no extra bits of ammo or weapons included once a mate joins though, and the two-player scene most definitely requires a bit of teamwork. See, chances are at least one of the two will be without ammo, very low on health and pretty much a sitting 8DAYS duck for most of the playthrough, so communication is key – or at least a darn load of luck is – should you wish to succeed. It definitely helps having two bodies in place to take on the bigger bosses though, if only so one can completely distract the brute in question to allow the other to concentrate on taking him down.
But, a local two player run isn’t going to save 8DAYS from the mid table mediocrity that it’ll find itself in for the vast majority of gamers. If it wasn’t so damn annoying and completely irritating, then I’d happily be gifting it a bigger, better score, but the truth of the matter is that many will find too much they dislike for it to ever be a fun little title.
And that’s a shame, because it could well have been pretty damn neat.