Unlife Review

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I often ponder, in the few minutes I get between work and sleep, as to what I would be like in a post-apocalyptic world. What skills do I have that would be transferable in that desperate situation? No matter how long I think about it though, I always come to the same conclusion – video game reviewing and acting won’t be able to help and I’ll ultimately be eaten by mutated rats within a day. 

But that said, the gaming side of things has at least taught me that it’s hard to survive in the end of days; a world full of constant crafting, fighting and hoping. Unlife is a retro-inspired 2D shooter/survival horror game that puts you in those end of times. Have you the skills to survive?

Unlife review 1
Your adventures in Unlife begin to play out

There is a story of woe found in Unlife. In an alternate reality after the Second World War, nuclear weapons were used in all conflicts. And so, because of the constant nuclear fallout, the sun was covered in dust, the world temperatures rapidly increased, the oceans rose and the glaciers melted. But in the radiated water terrible mutations occurred in parasites and creatures. The humans adapted – of course we did – building offshore platforms where they lived. Our hero finds themselves on one of these, barely alive as he tries to escape. And that is where we find him at the start of the game. 

Unlife is all about the atmosphere and I think the developers have managed to deliver a dark tale of survival, just through visuals alone. The translation to English isn’t the best though, so in terms of the small amount of text, maybe it’s best to just dig the vibe rather than the words. But I like a story where the survivor needs to escape whatever happens to them, especially when it focuses on a cure for humanity to save the world. Whilst that may be a generic trope, it’s done well here. 

This 2D game has you running around multiple levels in the semi-dark. You have a small area of light to work with, and even when you get access to a flashlight, it’s not a big improvement. That does mean that Unlife is very good at creating a tense atmosphere, with you not knowing what is around each corner. 

Unlife review 2
Unlife is dark – even with a flashlight

Mostly, you’ll be found collecting material for survival, like food and med kits. But weapons are what you will want; like a knife and some guns which you will need. There are small elements of platforming to be had too, as you go jumping up to ledges and across small gaps. There is also some swimming, with a limited breath meter. At one point you pilot a sub too, which is quite an exciting change in pace for Unlife. 

The main problem with Unlife though is found in getting used to the controls. The biggest annoyance is that instead of any type of free roam movement, moving left and right with a thumbstick, you have to do a strange thing: you have to tap the character so they are facing the right direction and then move that way after that. It’s annoying, especially true when exploring, getting worse in a combat situation in which it all becomes very aggravating. It’s not helped that the rest of the controls in Unlife are only okay; this is not a game that is as easy to navigate as it should be. In all, that took something away from my overall experience. 

Visually, Unlife does a great job with lighting and the colour palette. I liked exploring the claustrophobic areas or connecting rooms, whilst the boss battle visuals are done pretty well. Unlife also utilises blurry and pixelated found footage clips, that fit the game and work brilliantly. Complementing is the soundtrack that comes with the right blend of tension and excitement. 

Unlife review 3
Unlife is okay, but the controls are horrid

If it wasn’t for the control scheme, Unlife could well have had something about it. The story and atmosphere are good, creating tension and astonishment as you explore the underground world. But whilst there are some translation problems with the text, it’s in how it controls where the biggest issues sit.

It’s a longish game though, with a fair asking price attached, and so ultimately Unlife is just about able to deliver some good gameplay elements and an intriguing setup.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Atmosphere and setup
  • Visuals are great
  • Nice tense soundtrack
Cons:
  • Controls feel wrong
  • Tricky at times - mostly due to those controls
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 23 February 2024 | £10.74
Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Atmosphere and setup</li> <li>Visuals are great</li> <li>Nice tense soundtrack</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Controls feel wrong</li> <li>Tricky at times - mostly due to those controls</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Ratalaika Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 23 February 2024 | £10.74</li> </ul>Unlife Review
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