• Party of Sin Review

    Party of Sin began life as a Kickstarter project (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...4/party-of-sin) on January 20th, 2012. Enough people wanted to play Crankshaft Studios' blend of puzzle solving and hack 'n' slash combat that the game doubled its initial $8000 target and finished fundraising on March 2nd. Now, 10 months on, the game is releasing on Steam and it's time to see how it turned out.

    The basic premise of the game is that the 7 Deadly Sins are being held captive in Hell, and need to escape and fight their way up to Heaven in order to wreak revenge on God for their imprisonment. This is the essential plot and structure for the game, and while it's not going to earn any awards for Best Story, it provides an acceptable basis for the gameplay. The 7 Deadly Sins concept works well - each Sin has a different power which can be used separately or in conjunction with others to solve environment based puzzles. For example, in one level I used Greed's grappling hook to launch up to a higher level, then used Sloth's slow time power on a moving platform to give Gluttony enough time to ingest a button-pushing block and spit it out onto said platform. The Sins' powers are varied and none feel shoehorned in - Lust is able to activate cloud platforms used in puzzles, Envy can ignite torches with her laser eyes, Wrath can charge through walls and Pride can perform a double jump.

    It's a neat idea, and lends itself well to creating interesting and complex puzzles, but one real niggle I have found is that there is no concise and clear way to change between characters. The swap is accomplished either via key shortcuts or by holding in a mouse button and selecting the required Sin from a radial wheel - the trouble being that this doesn't pause the game, meaning that especially in time-critical puzzles it is almost impossible to use the mouse method. While the keyboard is a much better solution, I really feel as though it would have been vastly improved if there was some kind of visual reminder on screen informing the player of which key summons which Sin: there isn't even a control reference in any of the menus. It isn't a game breaker but can provide a lot of frustration, especially early on with an unnecessarily steep learning curve as players struggle to memorise the key shortcuts.

    The puzzles themselves are good, and don't overuse any one idea, keeping the game's challenges fresh and varied. I occasionally found the slightly unresponsive and fiddly controls meant that I could see the often platforming-intensive solution to a particular challenge; I just couldn't actually execute it. Platforming based puzzles in any game are only truly great when it feels as though the only obstacle to your success is yourself - in Party of Sin I sometimes felt as though the controls were doing their best to impede my progress. Overall though, the puzzles are fun and I enjoyed solving them. There are some nice set pieces in the game too - a falling platform provides an impromptu arena to face foes on, and occasional mortar strikes force you to dive from cover to cover to avoid them.

    In between puzzles, hordes of Angels, Demons and various other enemies attack your Sins and must be fended off. Unfortunately the combat is overly simplistic and fairly lacklustre, and swings wildly between too easy and unfairly difficult - the shotguns the Angels carry are ridiculously overpowered and can kill in 3 shots, yet at other times enemies are content to stand around while you laser them to death using Envy's power. This is another opportunity where an obscure character swapping system becomes a problem; in the heat of battle I found myself desperately jabbing at the hotkeys in an attempt to find the Sin I wanted. Boss battles are often good ideas but, in a pattern resonating throughout the title, ultimately falter in execution - the spider boss at the end of Hell is extremely (and I feel, unintentionally) difficult due to the miniscule platform and hard to avoid attacks.

    Co-op play is highly promoted in the game's press and, on testing, puzzles are certainly easier with two Sins and two brains working together, and it is satisfying and fun to work with a buddy to complete some of the games spatial brain-teasers. While it's nice to see local co op being included - providing you have an additional Windows-friendly controller - I find it bizarre that no online co op is featured; given that PCs aren't really designed for more than one local player (unlike consoles) I feel that online play would have been a welcome addition.

    For me, the general presentation of the game is an issue. The soundtrack and audio in particular let the game down - generic overdriven guitars and midi rock drums play repeated loops as you traverse the levels in Hell, and each Sin repeats one of two catchphrases when you swap to them, which quickly becomes grating. There are a fair few bugs as well, including some that end up cheapening the experience - I found that one of the bosses early on (a Narwhal) would get stuck on certain platforms, allowing me to laser him down to the next health level, thus avoiding a difficult fight. Other bugs, meanwhile, make for confusing and sometimes irritating situations - the turtle that was supposed to be ferrying me across lava didn't appear on some occasions, meaning I either had to try and jump an enormous gap or kill myself and hope next time it would work. This undermines confidence in the game and meant that I tended to waste time triple checking a potential solution to a problem incase the game had just glitched out.

    Menus, as well, look a little…well, browser-gamey. Text is just plain Arial looking font, and the game boots straight into the menu without any fancy title screen or cinematics or anything. I know this is a minor niggle but it all contributes to the overall perspective of Party of Sin I left with - I can't help feeling that with another 2 or so months development time, a lot more polish could have been added and the game could have been improved immeasurably.

    So, as it sits, Party of Sin is a good concept with some good ideas which is ultimately let down by mediocre combat, occasionally niggly controls and a distinct lack of finesse. It isn't a bad game, and given some more time and more care could have been a great game. Crankshaft (on Twitter) have acknowledged some of the bugs and pledged to fix them in upcoming patches, and it's nice to see a developer committed to bolstering quality. As one of the first real Kickstarter projects to come to fruition, the real indication of whether this is a success will be the reaction from the project's backers, as it was a game they wanted to see made. If you are one, let LAG and @CrankshaftGames know what you thought!
  • Rating: 60%

    Some interesting ideas

    Unique concept

    Good puzzles

    Mediocre combat

    Frustrating controls

    Overall lack of polish

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