End of Days
Developer: Superfunco Release Date: 28 November 2012 Review Platform: iOS
‘21 Days’ has a lot of MGS in it. That’s MGS as in ‘Metal Gear Solid’, the famous stealth video game. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s not MGS as in the famous Madison Square Garden in New York, and certainly not MSG as in Monosodium Glutamate which is the snister reason you eat one fast food burger, then five more fast food burgers. And chips. And a milkshake.
And a donut.
Anyway, I think you get my point. ’21 Days’ reminds me of ‘Metal Gear Solid’ because you spend a lot of time sneaking around, keeping away from spotlights (an aversion to fame perhaps?) and avoiding guards’ cone of vision. When was the last time you did that in a videogame? What do you mean ‘Every year for the past decade and a half?’ Be quiet.
The game is a stealth-em-up where you play as Sam Cooper, an inmate who was on the verge of going straight, only to be betrayed by his partner after agreeing to one last job, and ending up inside. From this starting point, you’ve got 21 Days to escape before being transferred to a maximum security prison, where presumably, you CANNOT ESCAPE EVAAAR.
You learn all this by playing through the first few levels. Other than that 21 Days throws you straight into the prison courtyard with no explanation. You must’ve committed a crime, but what? Perhaps you murdered someone, perhaps you robbed a bank, perhaps you stole a packet of Softmints from the newsagent. It’s times like these you appreciate cut-scenes.
But you eventually learn what it’s all about – back at the lockup, you’ve got 21 and a bit levels of sneaky stealth before the big-ass helicopter comes to transport you away.
Gameplay consists of you performing various objectives – usually making your way to one side of the room without being spotted by guards - dragging Sam with your finger to where you want him to go. A white dotted line appears to show where you’re headed, and you can re-route at any time, which is handy, because often you’ll want to change direction at the last second as a guard approaches with a scary flashlight. You can also make a noise by clicking to draw their attention. Comes complete with cheesy Fonz style animation too.
The biggest draw of 21 Days is it’s story. The setup of stealth missions combined with the overarching countdown before you get transported adds a fair level of interest to proceedings. True, if you think about it a little, it’s only a simple game where getting caught means instantly restarting, and even though the plot says there’s 21 Days, there isn’t actually a time countdown to ratchet up the tension. They’re just 21 different levels. But we don’t think like that, the illusion keeps us playing.
And you genuinely want to find out what happens next. It’s a good thing too, because the rest of the game doesn’t quite hold your attention as tightly.
Aside from the well-penned cut-scene drawings (Aha, there they are!) featuring some truly fugly goons – in a good way, you understand – the visuals are fuzzy and uninspired. Nothing’s especially sharp, and stuff like the shadow Sam casts on the floor looks incongruous. Especially in the night-time scenes, his shadow looks like a graphical glitch. Environments are a little bland, and at times character models don’t match up with their illustration – a burly guard who is clearly fond of a few bench presses is represented by a drawing of a stick-thin, elder gentleman who looks like he’s one escaped prisoner away from forced retirement. Whoops.
The music is also a little disappointing. If you were trying to break out of confinement by sneaking past guards in real life, you’d at expect someone to pump out appropriate CD of incidental tunes through the speakers. Considering the story is intriguing, decent music would only make things stronger. Here though, the one and only tune is only somewhat dull and repetitive.
The gameplay can also fail to set your pulse racing too. Although I understand this is primarily a stealth title, there’s a lack of excitement other than where your imagination fills in the blanks. There's no real action or combat to speak of. Sam moves slowly at all times and there’s a lot of waiting around for guards to walk past. You often just want things to hurry up.
Add to this controls which don’t always do what you want – you’ll frequently move the camera instead of Sam, sometimes costing you precious seconds as a guard approaches– and I eventually found myself wanting to skip the actual gameplay as quickly as possible so I could progress the story. A bit of a backhanded compliment there.
Overall 21 Days is an ok stealth title that is deficient in the area of thrills. It has potential, but the whole thing needs a bit of a spit shine in order to make it more attractive. Having said that, it definitely triumphs where the story’s concerned. You can leave your line-tracing mechanics, snooping around prisons and ducking the fuzz. Just let me know what happens next with those cute cut-scenes.