Pros: Solid gameplay, amusing cut scenes, colorful graphics, low price.
Cons: Minor camera issues.
Some games arrive in my mailbox preceded by a blaze of press coverage and PR releases, but other games appear suddenly and unexpectedly. I open up the envelope and think, what on earth is this? Often these are terrible games the publishers just toss out on an unsuspecting public, but every once in a while such a game is surprising enjoyable. Such is the case with The Kore Gang: Outvasion from Inner Earth, which in spite of obscurity and a troubled past is a polished and entertaining platformer.
Developed by: SnapDragon Games, Zoink Games, Unique Development Studios
Published by: Atari
For ages: 10 and up
Release Date: Nov. 8, 2011
The Basics: A Multi-Use Suit Against Evil Outvaders
Reading up on the game in wikipedia, I learned that it had started out as an Xbox game and passed through a number of developers and publishers before finally coming out almost a decade later on the Wii. But rather than looking like some half-assed hodge-podge, Kore Gang is a slick and well designed game whose quality belies its budget pricing.
In the game, inner earth denizens have plans to take over the surface, beginning by torturing a scientist until he answers the crucial question: “which way is up?” All that stands in the way of this terrible “outvasion” is a young woman named Pixie who discovers the scientist’s super-suit and rescues two companions, a boy named Madboy and his dog, Rex.
The super suit, officially called The Kore Suit, is robotic armor that forms itself to the characteristics of its occupant. When building-climber Pixie jumps in the suit it develops a double jump and a grappling hook used to climb buildings. When Madboy takes over it becomes a weapon, able to punch and throw objects. With Rex in charge, it runs quickly, can follow scents and can eavesdrop on distant enemies. Rex can also, surprisingly, crack safes, which I’m pretty sure is not a skill dogs generally have.
All three characters sit in the suit, with one in charge, and players can instantly shift from one driver to the next. Thus you can quickly scale a building with Pixie then switch to Madboy on the roof to battle the inner-earth creatures waiting for you.
The Gameplay: Standard But Fun, With Only Minor Issues
The game is a fairly typical platforming mix of action, exploration and light puzzle solving. The world of inner earth is full of floating platforms, spinning gears and odd mechanisms whose only purpose would seem to be to give egress to enterprising intruders. Monsters roll, run, reach out with long arms and in other ways make life difficult. Most of your enemies are pretty easy to vanquish, although occasional boss battles can be tough. However, the game is very gentle when it kills you, generally resuscitating you with little loss of progress.
Any gameplay issues are fairly minor. The greatest weakness of the game is the camera, which often must be manually adjusted to give players the right view. This is most noticeable when climbing buildings, which involves shooting your grappling hook at grappling points. Often I would have to shift the camera, either to see the point or because the camera angle didn’t allow me to shoot for it. The game ameliorates any difficulties by allowing players to take all the time they like to find the next point, but this makes climbing feel rather lackadaisical.
The Presentation: Fun and whacky
Much of the fun of the game is in its presentation. Cut scenes are funny, nicely animated and supported by excellent voice acting. The outvaders are lead by three brothers, one of whom has syringes for fingers, another with a cuckoo clock in his forehead, who sometimes burst into songs in praise of their most fiendish weapons. There are also goofy touches during gameplay. Often you have to find creatures that act as buttons you can punch once they’re inserted in holes, and the button creatures will often shout “make it hurt” in a cartoonish German accent. If you’re attacked by robot dogs you can put Rex in charge of the Kore suit to make your attackers peacefully follow you around with love in their eyes. The game has a solid score and colorful cartoonish visuals. And in a small but very nice touch, the load screen when you move to a new level is not some boilerplate animation but instead is an animation of your traveling that specific way to that specific level.
The Verdict: A Solid, Unexpected Game
Kore Gang is impressively well-made for a budget title, and never fails to be entertaining. True, it pales in comparison with a high-profile game like the recent The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, it also costs less than half as much.
Kore Gang is a very good game, but it never manages to push itself into the category of great. The level design is solid, the monsters are varied and the gameplay is not too repetitive (although I did quickly get sick of safe cracking). But as much as I enjoyed myself, I felt little of that obsessive inability to stop playing that distinguishes the best games. The story was entertaining and the characters amusing, but I never really cared how it was going to turn out. But for something that arrived in the metaphorical dead of night after a troubled and uncertain journey, it’s awesome.