Thursday, March 21

Review: Apocryph [Nintendo Switch eShop]

It’s time to go old school, grab a weapon, stomp some demons, and listen to blaring metal while you kick some ass. Apocryph channels the feel and many of the elements of classic FPS games from back in the day with a look and feel reminiscent of the likes of Quake and Hexen. That said, the valid questions are whether that style of play holds up, and whether on top of nailing the audio and visual experience what about the art of strong level design? I expect the answers may vary wildly based on tastes and exposure.

Starting with the positive Apocryph has a lot in common with the games it’s looking to emulate and honor. Some crazy-looking demonic enemies of various kinds? Check. Some cool weapons for doing damage? Yes and no, but you do get some cool weapons and are able to bust heads in a variety of ways as you progress. Killer soundtrack? Though I had to turn down the music volume a bit I applaud the selections and energy it helps bring to the table. A challenge? Yes and no, and it varies as you go, but as a whole the game isn’t a cakewalk (and you’re able to set your difficulty up front so you can cater it to your tastes as well).

So then on to what isn’t as ideal. What hits you first, and almost immediately, is that there’s no real in-game instruction of any kind. You’re thrown in and there are no prompts or direction. This made opening the first big door I encountered more of a challenge than it should have been. Do I need to clear the area first? Do I just punch it? It turns out there’s a button for that but that isn’t the only control confusion and issue. I didn’t even know I could jump until I hit the second level, and again I just tried every button to find that out. You can get over this hump but it would be a problem easily remedied, which makes it aggravating.

The other thing to note is that while the look and most of the essence of classic FPS gaming is here as a whole the quality of the level design unfortunately didn’t come along for the ride. The most notable classics from that era weren’t only about guns, gore, and craziness, they also often had excellent level layouts that were smart and surprising. There are some surprises here, with doors that will trigger and release enemies on you but as a whole the level layouts tended to be confusing, with it being unclear where to go or what to do at times, and some cases where it leads to cheap and frustrating deaths. This makes a lot of the gameplay taste pretty good but it’s not terribly filling either.

On the whole fans of the classics who are starved for a taste of nostalgia will probably enjoy the hell out of Apocryph, warts and all. Some of my complaints about the controls may seem a bit overblown but accessibility and quickly getting people into the experience are important when there’s so much competition out there so stumbling right as you start the game with something so simple is a letdown. As long as you keep in mind this is more about honoring the past and not necessarily doing anything to advance or modernize it you should get some hours of enjoyment out of this one.

Score: 6

  • Looks and sounds a lot like the classic FPS games that inspired it
  • As you get deeper into the game there are some crazier weapons and gear that make for some good fun

  • A general lack of instructions and direction make the game less accessible than it could be, which makes for a frustration pretty well immediately when you start out
  • The level design, as a whole, is pretty lacking in creativity or inspiration when compared to most of its source material
  • Lacking nostalgia for the likes of Quake or Hexen there may be limited appeal for this sort of experience