I’m always a little suspicious when a new game appears on the Xbox Store having had a previous life on mobile platforms. And I mean mobile like iOS and Android, not a Nintendo Switch.
Having caught wind of another game making this transition, I decided to check it out. That game is Dead Station from developers HooDoo Bear and published by ChiliDog Interactive, described as an old school platformer, set on a deserted space station.
The story of the game is very old school as well. We are sent to the space station Soyuz-1 after all communication was lost, and we have to find out what happened. Any similarities to Dead Space end right there however as we start with nothing but harsh language in our inventory, left to make our way through the space station, discover what happened, and survive! What could be easier?
Presentation of Dead Station is pretty effective, to be honest, in the fact that this is very much an old school, side-on platformer. The main character looks like a cross between Doom Guy and a character from Among Us, and has a nifty line in jumping and walking, to begin with. As you explore, the habitat you are in stays pretty much the same; all claustrophobic corridors and dark spaces, and while it never varies, the setting is pretty effective. The design of the enemies that you meet is again simplistic, but it works – they look like bugs of some description, and come in a variety of guises, from small, to ones that shoot projectiles at you, to giant ones.
Sound-wise and again, it’s okay and very much on the minimalist end of the spectrum, with just jumping, fighting and the enemy bugs making a noise. See, our hero is the strong, silent type, obviously. All in all, after looking at the game for a while, I was pleasantly surprised and starting to warm to it.
There are two elements to how it all plays: combat and a kind of light puzzling to take part in. But when I say there are puzzles to solve, you don’t need to worry – you don’t need to be a member of Mensa to work them out. They usually involve either finding a keycard to unlock a door, or moving a switch to open a trapdoor to either allow enemies to fall, or useful items to appear. Moving crates into position is about as complicated as it gets. There are secret areas to find too though, usually by battering your way through a seemingly dead-ended corridor, and notes to find and read as well; helpful when you want a bit of a clue as to what is happening. All in all, it is pretty satisfying.
Combat is a whole other story, however. At first we start off empty handed, but by exploring we find first of all a metal pipe, good for breaking boxes and opening secret tunnels, but sadly lacking when it comes to combat. Later, comes a shotgun, which is much better at combat, taking nasty bugs out in a couple of shots, but ammo is very scarce for it. Which to use? Well, for the majority of the time, the pipe is best, as there is a bit of a nasty boss fight to look forward to, and I would recommend having as much ammo and health packs as you can find for that. The combat is a bit numb though, and trying to kill bugs with the pipe is an exercise in frustration as you have to swipe, run away, turn, swipe, run away and so on until the bug falls over. That gets a bit old, a bit fast. The shotgun is also an odd weapon, as once you have fired it, the next press of the attack button cocks it, before you can then press again to attack. Remembering this in the heat of battle is pretty vital!
Luckily, as you kill bugs, you gain skill points, which can be used to upgrade your little guy. These range from vital skills, such as increased health, to useful ones like additional ammo drops, and many more besides. As long as you kill everything you see, you’ll soon be unstoppable (well, nearly). As you carry on exploring, in a move that brings Dead Space comparisons again, you will find tool benches that allow you to upgrade your weapons according to the number of gears you have found as you wander about. Having tooled up weapons obviously makes your life easier.
You will probably be fairly impressed with Dead Station. It is short, don’t get me wrong, but for only £4.19, it is a reasonable price for a reasonable game. The atmosphere is good, as is the gameplay; it’ll certainly keep you playing until the bitter end. That said, you’ll need to put up with some annoying platforming and jumping – especially the pixel perfection that is required with the latter.
Dead Station is on the Xbox Store