(Reviewed on Xbox One by Games of DAYNE)
Pixel-art animation will always hold a nostalgic value for those who grew up in the pre-Xbox era of video games. There is something fun and playful about the pixelated design of a game that adds to its charm and despite releasing in the year 2020, developer BeardyBird Games’ Ailment continues the trend.
Taking place in the year 2036, the main character wakes on a spaceship in the deep void of space after being unconscious for 3 days following a rescue mission. The narrative largely unfolds via monologues from the main character as his memory slowly returns while also uncovering the root of the infection that has befallen his crew that have turned against him.
The gameplay in this sci-fi action game is very simple and accessible, requiring little more from the player than to survive and shoot their way through 17 levels, each of which provides a new weapon to take down the zombie-like crew that want nothing more than to ensure no one makes it off the ship alive. The weapons themselves feel unique and offer a wide array of methods to survive at all costs such as flamethrowers, machine guns, shotguns, lasers and many more. Getting surrounded by a horde may at first seem overwhelming but the firepower at hand and the speed of the player makes it easy to circle the room and zig zag out of the way of danger while gunning down the crew in masses. There are a number of brutal, blood drenching death animations that add a nice layer of detail to an otherwise simplistic experience. Despite being incredibly outnumbered in most encounters there is little fear of death as the damage vs health system seems too generous as not once did I lose more than 25%, regardless of how many enemies were hitting my character at the same time.
While not gunning down hordes of infected crew members, the player must find and activate computer consoles to open doors that lead to other computers, more crew to slay or new weapons though it would be nice to have a little more to do than just shoot and activate computers. The mini map displayed on the HUD is very helpful and makes it extremely difficult to get lost or disoriented. Each level is relatively small too, which adds to the ease of progression, each not taking more than just a few minutes. Taking a little more time to explore will reveal countless references to existing sci-fi movie and games.
The character tends to speak to himself and it is this dialogue that really fleshes out what has happened. Along the way other characters that have not suffered the same infected fate that seemingly all of the crew have, accompanying the player and assisting with keeping their former comrades at bay. The interaction between these companion characters also dives into the mysterious circumstances at play and when all is said and done, the resolution does provide satisfaction.
Roughly 2 hours at most is all it will take a casual player that is playing at a leisurely pace to get through the 17 levels of the BeardyBird Games developed title. As an independent title Ailment is the perfect length, the simplistic gameplay doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and at the same time does not feel too short or restricted by the story it is trying to tell. The decision to use pixel art to tell this story is one that works, giving at an old school, nostalgia feel that still holds up today. Ailment is a simple shooter that packs in a great art style, fun but simple gameplay and a story with a few more layers than expected.
+ Pixel art style adds charm
+ Simple and accessible gameplay
+ Diverse arsenal of weapons
– Shooting and opening doors is all there is to do
– Low enemy damage removes risk
Developed by: BeardyBird Games
Published by: EpiXR Games
Release Date: February 21 2020
* A review code was provided by the Developer/Publisher for the purpose of this review *
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