Some games have a simple premise, but manage to stretch it far enough to gain the most out of it. Portal literally only involved the action of placing two separate portals down to solve a variety of puzzles. By the end of the game, the idea had grown exponentially that it created a whole identity of its own and is now considered one of the greatest games of all time. Aborigenus obviously lacks the budget of a game of that calibre, but nothing stops the creative spirit of someone’s ideas. As an adventure-platformer with light RPG mechanics, you would assume there’s more to play with. By the end of the first level however, Aborigenus reveals its hand almost instantly – it’s not a winner.
As a member of a peaceful tribe, your world is threatened by invaders. Everyone sent out to rescue your family and friends have not returned, so now it’s up to you. You can just imagine your tribesman now, sending out the carrier pigeon with these words: “If you let them go now that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.”
Okay, so that’s Liam Neeson in Taken. The character you play as is definitely not that and the particular set of skills you possess aren’t highly impressive. Aborigenus is built around an RPG-lite system which has all the weight of a promise from a politician. It’s broken into various skill trees which seek to upgrade your attack, health and other abilities. Through the game’s short length, the upgrades are earned so thick and fast that it’s hard to truly appreciate any sense of progression that comes with them. How I felt at the beginning of the game was exactly how I felt at the end. Enemies seem to roughly scale with how far you are, meaning that the upgrades are just constantly balancing the scales.
What doesn’t help is the health system. After my less than two hours experience completing Aborigenus, I still don’t know how my health was determined. There’s a bar in the top left corner, but it never seemed to go down or represent any of my abilities. I’m unsure if this is due to poor game design or a glitch. Perhaps I’ve simply missed something important, which is entirely possible coming from the person who has frequently ordered takeaway food to the wrong address. But if that’s the case then Aborigenus hasn’t defined clearly how your character reacts to the world.
Outside of the RPG elements, there’s a host of platforming and combat to sink your teeth into. Unfortunately, said game you’re biting into has all the layers of a crisp. You’ll jump, you’ll grab onto a vine and you’ll jump from that vine to a nearby platform. That’s it – that’s the platforming. To class it in a genre which has seen incredible 2D platformers arrive over recent years would be a mistake. I’m more inclined to state this as a 2D-beat ‘em up, but without any of the refinements.
Combat is also downright uninspired, bland and boring. You’ll start with a spear which you can use to mercilessly flail at an enemy, reducing their vitality and, ultimately, their life. Enemies can withstand an insane amount of attacks. Honestly, after beating a ferocious chicken with my staff over ten times, I’m surprised the RSPCA didn’t get involved. The heinous crimes I’ve committed against poultry alone probably isn’t going to ruffle the feathers of PETA, but it was enough to want to send me clucking. Of course, it isn’t just chickens you fight, but other enemies as well. They all resort to the same bullet sponge effects that will make battles a case of spamming the attack trigger while scrolling Facebook and seeing who’s been ejected from Love Island.
To say there is a stealth mechanic is enough to startle Solid Snake. What it revolves around is crouching and, again, whipping your staff around hoping to prod something in anger – this isn’t a euphemism. By the end of the game, I learned that I could easily drop down behind an enemy who is facing the other way, crouch and instantly end their life. While it saved a bucket load of time, it never felt satisfying or pulled any punches.
Aborigenus isn’t a pretty game. It’s unfair to place that on a clearly small development team, but the small budget has not been utilised enough to create a clean presentation. The environments are removed of character, the enemy design craves personality and the lack of variety makes the short journey feel longer than it actually is. To its credit, it does try to mix in some different gameplay segments such as riding a chicken to showcase its world, but even these feel so undercooked that they’re more a case of the developers experimenting with their world, rather than placing something that feels natural.
Aborigenus on Xbox One feels like an idea that was good inside the developer’s head, but a sloppy mess when put to paper. It’s a world that lacks focus, identity and, most importantly, any sense of fun. Every element inserted is the most barebones approach to that system that could have been implemented. Aborigenus’ worst fault is that it is quite simply boring and, like the tribesman poking his staff, is found constantly missing the target.