Saturday, September 15

Review: Defunct [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s no doubt about it, in order to stand out in the crowd on the eShop you’ve got to do things that are somehow both different and familiar. Whether it’s combining genres, using elements of play that are reminiscent of other series, or throwing in a bit of speedrun appeal to cover multiple bases there are many ways you can go. In the case of Defunct the developers actually shot for a little bit from all 3 of those columns, making a racing adventure of sorts that shifts between some exploration and puzzle-solving and almost Sonic-like speed sections. Unfortunately between the overall lack of direction, unusual control scheme, and quite a number of technical issues its title is almost ironically accurate.


In the game you’ll play the part of a relatively cute little robot who doesn’t seem to be having a great run of luck. Jettisoned from his ship your goal is to help him get back from off a somewhat strange planet. To do so you’ll need to make your way through a variety of zones, sometimes really just needing to speed through and not fall down pits, and other times needing to complete objectives like re-enabling power stations. Working with your Gravitize engine you’ll be able to gain speed when going down hills or eventually move around on the walls and ceilings. Picking up orbs or Enerjuice will also give you momentum, and while speeding around you’ll be able to jump off of ramps and grab onto wires as well in order to provide alternatives for traversing the environments.


In principle all of this has the potential to be fun, and in certain segments that feel more like a Sonic title it can provide a bit of a rush. Unfortunately the controls and performance really get in the way. Though you can get a bit of a rhythm going for picking up speed on downhill areas your degree of control while jumping or in the air is a bit of a mess. In general I’m a bit baffled why this mechanic is present at all since in the end it more often acts as a barrier to fun rather than something that adds to it. The thing is, just like in classic Sonic games, as you go shooting by various alternative paths it just feels like so much is going to waste. I suppose the idea is that you’ll return to find all of the secret items hidden about or to get a better time but given the aggravations you’ll run into I don’t imagine many people will be inclined to continue to go back.


The reason I say this is that the overall performance of the game is a mess. Pauses, stops, and starts are pretty commonplace during the action and given this looks like a game from a previous console generation (or possibly older) it’s hard to understand what’s causing that. While the areas often look vast and open there are invisible walls all around you which you’ll suddenly hit and sometimes even go flying off of, making the exploration for secrets particularly aggravating since you have no way to tell which areas are there to explore. While sometimes your ideal path can be determined by following the orbs in others there’s really no good way to tell where you’re even supposed to be going, something that’s exacerbated by the lack of definition for the limits of where you can go. Throw in a few problems where I clipped through walls and on a technical level Defunct lacks in polish and care.


Overall, while I can appreciate some aspects of what the developers set out to do Defunct seems to be rushed or possibly just given up on. When everything clicks, you get your speed up, and you’re jumping around it has its moments of fun. Unfortunately, those are few and far between with the bulk of your time spent trying to slowly get around, cursing the weird movement and jumping physics, and hitting performance hitches. Perhaps with more work Defunct could have been a better game but in its current state the title can practically double as a one word review.

Score: 4.5

Pros:
  • When you hit areas that flow well it can be a bit of fun, though these are short-lived and infrequent
  • Some of the mechanics of play are unique

Cons:
  • Consistent issues with performance and various glitches
  • Invisible walls with no indication of where they are mixed with an occasional lack of clarity where you’re supposed to be going
  • Despite some areas where there appear to be multiple paths to explore all of the game’s shortcomings make them somewhat wasted