Posted on July 16, 2010 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
If you’re a fan of the pulps then the prospect of a decent rocket-pack game set in the 1930s will have you squeeing with glee. Indeed I can’t remember a rocket pack game since the Atari ST and so, despite all the reviews warning about Darkvoid I caved in and purchased it – albeit preowned for only a tenner. Unfortunately, this isn’t the game pulp fans have been waiting for though there are the seeds of a potential, good pulp or rocket-pack game contained within this disappointing effort.
While Darkvoid does have a story it’s something of a confused mix of David Icke lizard-conspiracy, fascism, Bermuda Triangle disappearances and vague mysticism. Our hero gets turned around in a storm over the Bermuda Triangle, carrying his ex (who has become entangled with a mysterious group called The Adepts) and ends up crashing into a mysterious island inhabited by cod-Aztecs, Nikola Tesla and mysterious mechanical men and snake-robots called The Watchers.
Our hero and his ex work to recover aircraft parts and repair their own plane and in so doing learn to use one of Tesla’s devices, a sort of jump-pack, little brother to the rocket-pack. This is your tutorial for later use of the rocket-pack and at the end of it there’s an attack on the cod-aztec village and your ex is, apparently, stolen away with the villagers and taken who knows where…
In pursuit you finally don the rocket-pack and take to the skies, fighting and then chasing The Watchers through to The Void where you fall in with The Survivors and The Adepts and become part of a revolt against the lizards to keep them out of the real world and to stop them supplying the fascists with advanced weapons.
That makes the story sound a lot less confused than it is, it jumps all over the place, suddenly veers into new elements (like a giant monster) that just seem to have been thrown in, dispenses with Tesla in a cursory fashion and contradicts itself over the big focus of the story, crossing back and forth from The Void to the real world, which apparently still happens regardless of all your efforts.
This is a standard third-person shooter for the most part with the addition of an expanded third dimension but, much like Mirror’s Edge, the game is so impressed with itself and what it can do as regards movement that it overuses it. The controls are sluggish and in the transition from ground to air you’ll often find yourself diving into the ground or a wall as you switch from one to another as the movement controls shift, which is clumsy.
You have to really pour the damage onto your enemies to destroy them, for the most part, and aiming with the thumbsticks is clumsy, though there is a slight bit of aim correction under some circumstances. There are some slight RP elements included in that you can upgrade your weapons by collecting ‘tech points’ though these are represented by glowing spheres, which don’t particularly draw you into the idea of scavenging tech parts.
Rocket-pack flight which should be a ‘YAHOO!’ moment is frustrating and dogfighting is much more luck than judgement. Even worse, your character flails around like a puppet with broken strings every time you take off, which really stops you feeling remotely heroic (especially when combined with crashing into the ground and bouncing off the walls every time you take off).
The lizard conspiracy feels a little out of place as it’s a modern interpretation rather than the lizard people that were found in various pulp novels and planetary romances. While the islands and peculiarities of The Void are atmospheric the screen is often so dark – even with the video option brightened – that you can’t make out where you are or what you’re doing and ‘atmospheric’ turns to ‘annoying’ with great rapidity. The voice acting is average, not terrible, but the story has so many glaring contradictions and jumps that you’re never really drawn into it.
The environments can be very beautiful but overall the character animation and graphics are only average for a third-generation console and the character models are a little bug eyed, almost disneyfied, which could have been a good direction to take it (if the game were cel-shaded) but just looks off and creepy as it stands.
At a playtime of only around 6 hours I’m very glad I didn’t pay full price for this. There’s the seeds of a good game in there somewhere but the controls, the darkness and the inconsistent story all cut the legs out from what could be a great game. If they’ve made enough money to justify a sequel they might be able to fix these problems and hopefully a more pulpy fight against the Nazis and their alien allies across war torn Europe would lift the story issues out of the mire.
Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough