By: Sixjoy Hong Kong Limited
The Next Studio’s Death Coming has a really clever premise and I was enjoying it for a while. The idea is, you died and now have to become a reaper (yes, kind of like Dead Like Me). But instead of just reaping specific people, your goal is to kill everyone in a scene. You don’t have to do so in order to pass a level, only to get a higher score, so there is some forgiveness here. The problem is, I don’t like games wasting my time, and this one does just that.
I’m each level, you have an isometric view of a location. It might be a small village, a factory, or a museum, just to give some examples. Each of these places is brimming with little pixelated people just going about their day, completely unaware that they’re on death’s door. You don’t have an avatar, but instead use your finger to tap on objects and turn them into death traps. If you tap on something and a red circle appears around it, tapping it a second time will trigger the trap. The idea is to only do so when little people are in position to be killed by it. For instance, you can drop an air conditioner on someone’s head or electrify a pool full of people. Timing is a big part of it, though, so you can’t just go tapping everything without any planning.
Like I said, it’s good fun at first. I’ve mostly been messing around to see what happens, not worrying too much about my score. I figure I can go back and work on improving it later if I feel like it. In each level, you have three specific targets to hit, as well as a minimum number of people you have to kill in order to continue to the next level. At first I thought you had to kill all three targets to progress, but it turns out you don’t. That’s a relief because I spent a good while on the third area but couldn’t figure out how to kill the third target. I was worried I’d never be able to pass the level without solving that conundrum, so I was happy to see I could.
The problem is, the game is essentially all trial-and-error puzzles without any room for error. I’m fine with games that ask me to mess around with things just to see what happens, like the adorable Bring You Home. But that game has short levels, so trying and failing doesn’t result in a half hour — or more — of lost time. With Death Coming, not only do you have to worry about timing when you set off a trap, but you have to somehow know exactly what’s going to happen with a trap you’ve never seen before. Each level introduces new traps specific to its theme. For instance, the factory has a robot arm that can grab a person and the museum has a sleeping vampire you can wake to wreak havoc. Often, there’s a chain of events that need to be done in order or a trap is wasted. The problem with this is that each area is quite big, and until you know what things do, you’re likely to waste traps, especially those that can only be used once. You might also mess up a chain you didn’t even know existed.
On top of that, an angel appears after every fourteen kills (announced via “fake news.” Sigh.). These angels fly around and if you’re spotted by one of them, you lose one of your three hearts. If you lose all three, you have to start the level over, no matter how good you were doing otherwise. At first, they didn’t seem so bad, but once I had to kill 68 people in a level, they became a real nuisance. I learned the hard way that they don’t have to do so much as spot you killing someone, but even just tapping on an item to see if it’s a trap. This means you can’t tap on an item and wait for someone to get into position, because an angel can catch you waiting for them. This is where the game lost me, as I came very close to losing my last heart when I had almost met the criteria to pass the level. It became too frustrating to be enjoyable.
What’s especially odd is that the angels are unnecessary. The game is already hard enough without them. I get that the idea is to replay a level to do better, but it shouldn’t be so easy to mess up entirely and miss your opportunity to clear the level at all. After all, it’s fun to poke at things and see what happens. The game should play to that strength and give you more room (and time) to experiment. Instead, it constantly looks for ways to punish you. Either for not being psychic, not having good timing, or not having eyes everywhere.
I may still mess around with the game, but between the false trial-and-error nature of the game and the irritating angels, my interest is waning. I would love to see a way to just play around and undo your mistakes, even if it impacts your score. I’m all for games that reward perfection, but at least let me make mistakes without it wasting my time. I think the game is too punishing for its own good, giving conflicting messages about what it wants to be. But if you’re still curious about it, I recommend watching some of my gameplay videos above. It’s also cheap enough that even if you don’t complete it, there’s still fun to be had for the $1.99. So if you’d like to take a chance on it anyway and reap some unsuspecting souls, you can download it here.
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