Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Omegalodon Review

Omegalodon, developed and published by North Of Earth.
The Good: Interesting team-based gameplay, numerous vehicles to use, destructible city setting
The Not So Good: No single player content, inconsistent physics, insufficient interface, no in-game help
What say you? This indie online action game could use some more features and polish: 5/8

With the international popularity of Godzilla, it surprises me that a computer game hasn’t been developed using the license. Sure, there have been plenty of console adaptations, but nothing gracing the PC. That is, until now! Omegalodon (a name, when translated, that means “rolled sushi”) pits a gigantic monster and his hippie allies against the city and its military, with lots of explosives at their disposal. Will they stop the creature from destroying the city?

Omegalodon uses “retro” graphics, which usually means “crappy”, but here it works pretty well. The computerized, blocky font is the starting point. Next, the pixilated nature of vehicle and building design, which maintain a square theme throughout the game. That said, there is some good detail in the buildings (specifically the windows and lack of repetition). However, the building destruction leaves a bit to be desired, as buildings just move downward towards the ground and then turn into a grey pile of dust: pretty anticlimactic. Omegalodon himself looks like a giant blue walking lizard and could have had more varied attacks animated. The 3-D graphics are limited in one area: you can’t tilt your view. Other than that, though, I found the graphics to be designed well. The sound is much more basic, with repetitive effects and underwhelming voice acting that accompany a radio station occasionally broadcasting the in-game events. Overall, though, Omegalodon delivers $10 worth of graphics and sound design.

Omegalodon wants to destroy the city. His anger towards humanity is not explained, but the nuclear reactor at the city center is the target. The city itself is quite large, and the monster’s path is restricted by laser walls to increase the game round time. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes (of the thirty-minute round) of constant walking to reach the reactor, which cannot be adjusted for shorter, more intense games. The game is online only, supporting thirty-two players; this means you must find others to battle against (a tough task for any indie game) as there is no AI in the game. Games are generally unorganized, but sometimes people actually balance the teams and go after the objectives. Joining matches is easy thanks to the server browser, but there doesn’t seem to be any server balance options and you can't see how many people are on each team before joining the mayhem. Omegalodon also lacks a mini-map (though there is a full-screen map, that (obviously) obscures the whole screen) or an arrow pointing to the monster’s current location to get your bearings. Omegalodon also lacks an in-game tutorial or reference to the game controls, for those that forget to consult the readme file first before playing.

Players are divided up into two teams: Omegalodon plus environmentalist wackos that can heal the monster by staying close by, and the military and police, armed with rocket launchers and mines (respectively) to take down the monstrous threat. Omegalodon’s health is constantly reduced, replenished by causing damage to any buildings or trees from any player. Because of this, the police and soldiers must be careful in placing their destruction, as if they tear down a building the monster will benefit. Controls are typical: WASD to move, various primary and secondary attacks with the mouse, and enter vehicle. What’s that, “enter vehicle”? Oh yes, Omegalodon includes a wide range of vehicles humans from either team can enter (Omegalodon himself is a bit too large to use a pickup truck). These include cars, tanks, helicopters (both transport, which can pick up objects, and attack varieties), boats, planes, and jets. All of these utilize the same questionable physics: most everything (including the players when walking) moves as if they are on glass, sliding across the ground. Things are also unpredictable when cars slam into each other or a building. Helicopters also bounce when they attain their maximum height, which is a very odd sight. I don’t mind exaggerated physics, but the results need to be predictable within the game world. Because of friendly fire, destruction needs to be directed at Omegalodon (or his attackers), made more difficult by the lack of a aiming cursor. It’s really hard to kill other players unless you crash into them or cause their vehicle to explode (by crashing into them). That said, a large game with numerous players can really be chaotic fun, with planes and cars and mines and rockets exploding around Omegalodon as the two teams attempt to protect or destroy him.

Omegalodon is a simple action game with a nice theme that carves a small niche in the online market. While one player controls the gigantic protagonist, other players will either assist Omegalodon on his mission of destruction, or attempt to stop him at all costs. Available to both sides is a large array of vehicles with varying abilities, from jet fighters to police cruisers. These exhibit arcade, exaggerated physics, which would be fine if they were more consistent when things start to collide. The city can (and will) undergo significant destruction, with large skyscrapers tumbling down to replenish the health of the hulking beast. While the graphics have a nice retro style, Omegalodon lacks features in several areas. First, the game is online only, so you can’t practice against the AI. Also, the interface could use some fine tuning, as Omegalodon lacks all of the following: an aiming indicator, an arrow showing the current monster location, and a minimap. You also cannot tilt your view or access in-game help. So while Omegalodon could use some improvements to make the game more user-friendly, there is a good amount of online mayhem for a reasonable $10 fee.