Well, it is time for another Eastasiasoft game, a shooter nonetheless. But at least this time it has come with a little bit of a twist. You see, instead of being a vertically or horizontally scrolling shooter, what has been created here in Escape From Terror City is a behind-the-hero, third party kind of perspective. I guess the question has to be – does this change work, or are we better off skipping this game completely?
Well, I’m here to cast my beady eye over the offering here, so stick with me and I’ll let you know.
First off, the story of Escape From Terror City, and while we all know that a narrative isn’t vital for a shooting game, it is nice to have one.
This one is somewhat slight, revolving around us being the only soldier in an entire army who is able to do anything. Our country has been invaded. But there has been a pact between five nations – if any one of them attacked us, the other four would put them back in their box. The problem is, the first thing the invaders have done is set up a jamming base to stop signals getting out. We have to go and find this base, destroying it. Between us and it are five levels of shooting action. Can we do it? Will anyone care? Who knows!
Presentation is a tough one to judge, as the advertising blurb for Escape From Terror City proudly states that this game is presented in “retro low poly graphics”. And that is certainly true here, believe me.
The faces of the characters in the cutscenes appear to have been melted down, whilst the rest of the game doesn’t get much better, to be fair. It plays through an ‘into the screen’ type of perspective, enemies appear in front of you as you look to clear a stage and then walk to the next encounter. The thing is, the way the screen is drawn makes it very easy to fall down holes that you can’t see, mostly as your character is in the way.
The sound is pretty limited too; various gunshot noises and bangs. While the low poly claim is certainly true, there’s no doubt that Escape From Terror City looks awful in the stills, but even worse when things are moving. Honestly, it is one of the worst looking games I’ve played this year, even though it is apparently “Optimised for Series X|S”.
Maybe the way Escape From Terror City plays is going to save it? Well, no is the short answer, whilst the somewhat longer reply is ‘hell no’. The weird thing about the way it plays is that you move the character on the screen with the left stick. So far so good, but you cannot change the way the character is facing, and so the left stick pretty much moves your character left and right in a fight, and only forwards and stuff when the enemies are dead. If you want to shoot the enemies, you have to use the right stick to aim a tiny reticle on the screen onto the thing you want to shoot, and then pull the RT button. It feels like a light gun game, but without the light gun, if you know what I mean?
There are several reasons why this doesn’t work, as I shall now explain.
Firstly, the speed that your character moves and that of how the reticle shifts are wildly mismatched. Picture the scene – you are shooting a baddy, and you see a bullet incoming. Obviously you want to move out of the way, but you’d also quite like to keep fire on your foe. A slight motion on the left stick is enough to make the bullet miss, but the same pressure on the right stick sees the reticle shoot over to the other side of the screen, completely missing the target. I found it easier to leave the reticle level with an enemy and then to walk the bullets onto it by moving my character. It’s certainly simpler than trying to aim.
The reticle is also really tiny, and it is very easy to lose it in the confusion of some of the screens. In fact, at times you’ll find your bullets seemingly going nowhere because they are coming out of the gun and going straight through the floor. Still, at least the enemies can shoot us through seemingly solid walls, so there is some parity.
The camera perspective makes the mandatory jumping sections an experience in frustration, as the pits you need to clear seem like steps; it is only by falling off that you realise you need to jump. And when you do make a leap, the animation is floaty and awful – attempting multiple jumps in a row is enough to make you want to chew your pad and give up. Add to this how Escape From Terror City desperately wants to be a bullet hell shooter, but in the wrong perspective, and the nails are ready to be driven into the coffin.
Still, being a title from the prolific Eastasiasoft, you’d expect it to come with easy achievements, right? Well, think again. The achievements are all tied to progress through the game, finishing all the levels and then completing them again on “Hard” difficulty. I’m sorry, but there is not enough G in the world to make me want to play through Escape From Terror City more than the once.
It may seem like I didn’t enjoy my time with Escape From Terror City, and that is for a very good reason – I didn’t. The controls are awkward and the random deaths for falling down a pit you can’t see are bad enough, but the shots through scenery when you are on your last sliver of health are the final straw. If you are a masochist, you may get some enjoyment out of Escape From Terror City, but for the rest of us, this is one to avoid.
Escape From Terror City looks bad, plays very poorly, and is about as much fun as trapping your fingers in a door.