Hidden in a Perfect World – Colonies: Neociv Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
For many Xbox 360 gamers, the indie section goes overlooked. There are mounds of games and apps to sift through, but if you dig deep enough, you can find something you’ll truly enjoy. Colonies: Neociv is one such title. Developed by Twist-Ed Games, this title sets out to show us how good indie games can be.
The game takes place in the near future, in a perfect, trouble-free colony called Neociv. The need for tedious work has been abolished, and people now only work towards their passions. Every soul is provided for; everyone smiles. However, things may be taking a turn for the worst, as our heroine Nessa finds out. She receives an early morning call from a man named Sterling, the founder of the colony, asking for her help. Regardless of the vague details, our heroine accepts his request and gets dragged into a plot against Neociv that she was neither ready nor trained for. Now, Nessa must learn to fight along the way, as she is the only one that can save her colony. The storyline and overall theme of the game are quite interesting, with a well written (and sometimes wacky) script that will provide a few laughs.
Accompanying this adventurous tale is some pretty simple yet fun gameplay. Neociv plays as a point-and-click style puzzle game. Players must move their cursor over what they want to interact with by using the right stick, then pressing A to search, move to the next area, or pick something up. Items of interest could be hidden anywhere, so keep a sharp eye and a witty mind. Certain data fragments can also be found, and if three are pieced together, they give some extra information on items or enemies. To combine these pieces, players must put the data fragments in the proper order, such as A B C or baby child adult. This order varies from piece to piece, and players must figure it out themselves.
Should the player run into an enemy, a blaster is available to help take down the foes. Combat is essentially the same as exploration, except that your character may move either left or right on a line parallel to the opponent. To dispatch hostiles, players must move their cursor over the enemy and use the right trigger to blast them into oblivion. Should the foe’s aim be accurate, one can take cover behind crates or panes of reinforced glass.
To help ensure survival, an energy shield surrounds your character which will absorb damage until the battery cell is depleted. Your blaster is also attached to these batteries, so finding a medium between the two will help avoid death. Should you make a mistake and take physical damage, you can regain health by taking a shower, assuming you find one along the way. Soap and water may seem to be a strange way to remove plasma burns, but I’ve heard of worse home remedies!
It should be noted, however, that combat is much more difficult than it would seem. Play on anything over Easy mode, and you’ll be dying again and again, since being hit seems to stop you from moving, preventing you from taking cover, and ultimately killing you. Also, no incentive to play on Normal or Hard mode is given, so there really is no reason to play on them. Stick to easy, and the game will be very enjoyable.
With such simple gameplay, one would figure that the graphics would follow suit; however, this is not the case. The visuals of the game are impressively well done, shooting most indie titles out of the water. Smooth and polished textures are complemented by fairly good animation. In addition, the character and world design are also quite interesting, with brilliantly conceived sets of armor and beautifully crafted environments. The entire game, from start to finish, is free of any visual anomalies. To date, this has to be the best looking indie game I’ve played.
Unfortunately, somewhat ruining otherwise grand character design, the main heroine is something of a floozy. Armed with a dress so short it’s in essence a shirt, and a body designed after a Barbie-doll with butt implants, she seems to be crafted more as an object than a woman. This feeling is augmented by racy shower scenes, which are supposed to be about healing, that are borderline pornography. Chances are many female gamers will find her offensive and demeaning.
While graphics are for the most part stellar, the audio is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde. On one hand we have sound effects and music, but on the other we have voice acting. The sounds of blasters firing, steam coming from exhausts, elevators whooshing, and a robot’s servos whirring, are all well placed and match the futuristic setting. To counter this is dry, lifeless voice work that seems to be there only because it has to. While lower funding may have played a part in this, the game might have benefitted from going with a ‘classic’ feel, omitting voice-overs entirely.
The best part of the audio, and possibly even the entire game, is its fantastic soundtrack. Like a love-child between the music of Mass Effect and Deus Ex, Neociv often uses tense, swelling chords in minor keys with running synth lines overtop and an active bass line below. Each note coming from the game is an absolute privilege to hear, easily making it one of my favorite game soundtracks. The composer, Milosz Jeziorski, should be proud.
After sitting through all the great aspects of the game, players may notice that it’s quite short. After only about two hours, I had completed it from start to finish. In a standard XBLA title, I would have serious problems with this. However, there are limits to how large an indie game can be in the Xbox marketplace, and I’m sure that this is the reason for its petite length. I’m hazarding the guess that the story will be delivered in an episodic fashion, with many sequels to come.
From front to back, Colonies: Neociv shows that indie games can be more than just apps and silliness. With a great story, polished graphics, and a soundtrack worthy of AAA titles, this independent title is one that gamers would be proud to have in their library. Twist-Ed Games have a real winner on their hands, and I look forward to seeing what else they cook up. Colonies: Neociv is available for 240 Microsoft Points on an Xbox near you!
Final Score: 4.5 / 5.0
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