“A Great Couch Co-Op Game With A Lot of Ugly Quirks.”
An XboxHornet review by WDesm.
I have a long-standing relationship with the dev company Andreil Game : I absolutely hate to love their games, and I absolutely love to hate their games. Andreil Game is a familiar face around XBLIG; with a stocked library such as Pioneer, Dark Seal, Easy Racing, Dungeon Tales, Pioneerz, Orcs!, Little Strategy, and a few others that I’m sure I missed, they definitely have a presence on Xbox Live Indies. And I love that – I truly do, because people devoted to XBLIG are going to learn from their mistakes, improve upon their game design, and make the market a better place (Andreil Game’s constant improvement from game-to-game is why I love them). However, Andreil Game seems to keep falling into the same, or similar, design flaws, and despite my love of their dedication and my complete awe at their creative takes on old genres, I always find myself with a word of caution to those wanting to buy one of their titles.
First off, don’t let my everlasting love/hate relationship with Andreil Game cloud your judgement: 5MinRPG is fun, and can be a blast with the local couch co-op. If you have a crew to roll with, try out the demo and you’ll probably love it. That said, there’s a bit under the hood worth discussing:
5MinRPG is basically a five minute realtime roguelike. A series of dungeon maps are randomly generated and connected, and as characters travel through these mini-dungeons looking for the boss (the clues are the colours of the arrows on the edge of the screen – yellow is a new screen, orange is a miniboss, and red is the big boss). The boss starts off much stronger than you, but through a straight-forward mix of leveling up (use an ability to strengthen it), upgraded gear (found through random chests on the map) and alteration buffs (giving unique defensive and offensive traits such as slow, haste, or regen), it isn’t hard to outclass the boss and steamroll the level. Once the stage is complete, a more complicated randomization pattern (with more exotic monsters, gear, and buffs/debuffs) is unlocked, and the cycle continues.
With 1-4 local player support, 5MinRPG is pretty fun on a couch if your friends are a little patient at learning the ropes. The in-game tutorial is (thankfully much) better than past Andreil Game titles, but with the odd translation error and vague ambiguity, it still needs work to be comprehensive. What really sinks this game is a two-pronged offense of Rewarding the Player and Customization. Rewarding the Player is an easy one to complain about – the game mechanics are basically “kill monsters so that you can kill more monsters.” Generally, games that stem from the roguelike genre have Halls of Fame, Leaderboards, Challenge Modes, or Achievements, while 5MinRPG has none. Even more confusing is that every player collects “gold” during the stage, but this isn’t used by the game at all – there is no measurement of success tied to it, there are no shops to visit, and you can’t steal gold from fellow players. It would be trivial to make a leaderboard that took a player’s gold and divided it by the number of minutes they took to beat a stage to give an arbitrary ranking and promote optimization, but because gold is meaningless, and time isn’t measured, there are multiple stages where it is a valid tactic to sit in a corner of a screen near a beehive (or goblin mound, or etc), hold down the “attack” button, and let the infinitely-respawning bees level you up to god-like powers while you watch a sports game. Hardly a tactic that encourages challenge.
Customization is itself a double-problem. The game could certainly benefit from aesthetic customization – perhaps every time a stage is beaten, a new sprite character or outfit piece is unlocked – but even more disappointing is the lack of control customization. The game has a semi-awkward combat design of “always aim forward”, but with incredibly minimal effort, all important controls could have been remapped to shoulder or bumper buttons and the right analog stick an aiming mode (aka a Twin Stick Shooter). Even if such a mode were optional, it would definitely be optimal.
Ultimately, this is just another small step forward for Andreil Game. Every time I review their game, I find equal parts to love and hate. In my dream fantasy world, ten years from now, they will make the universe’s most innovative game, and hopefully have spent enough time collecting feedback to make it flawless.
Game Score: 6.5/10.
Download a free demo of the game here.