The combination of a wacky steampunk-inspired world and over-the-top arcade racing and shooting action in Pressure from independent developer Chasing Carrots sound as if they're the perfect ingredients for creating an entertaining and unique gameplay experience. Unfortunately, the actual experience couldn't be further from the truth as repetitive and uninspired level design overshadows much of what makes the game entertaining and addictive.
It also doesn't help that the game's narrative is overly simplistic in its execution. The narrative, or better yet lack of narrative, has players controlling the character Morgan that is tasked with returning water to his river after it's been stolen for use in a "uber-spa" being created by the evil Count Soap II. Beyond a few cutscenes spread across every few levels, the extremely-minimal narrative is neither compelling nor entertaining.
The gameplay is the normal affair of shoot-em-up and arcade racing, but is altered slightly with the addition of an ever-draining pressure meter. Players must speedily race through checkpoints in addition to destroying enemy vehicles to ensure the pressure meter doesn't become depleted. As with the game's description, it seems like an interesting gameplay mechanic in concept. However, it's actual execution doesn't warrant much of a result other than the requirement of continually spamming the attack and turbo buttons to keep the pressure meter filled. Even with the pressure system in-place, the shooting and driving mechanics are especially entertaining when confronting multiple enemy vehicles in addition to sliding around corners and jumping over level gaps. The few boss battles that are included remained the most entertaining experiences that the game had to offer, which would have been even better if their mechanics translated to normal enemy encounters.
Unfortunately, the game's description of 30 levels doesn't mention the fact that a majority of them share the exact same visual design and layout. The inclusion of more varied levels and environments would have greatly improved the overall gameplay experience. Even the enemy vehicles introduced throughout the narrative remain relatively the same in regards to both their design and tactics. Aside from the single-player campaign, the game also features a local and online cooperative multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, there were no players to be found in the online multiplayer lobby.
The real motivation for advancing in the game's narrative and levels is an upgrade system for the main character's "steambuggy," in which its armor, ramming-grill, weapons, and secondary attack can be interchanged with more powerful parts. After each race, the player is returned to a staging area in which new parts can be bought and then installed in the buggy. Previously-purchased parts were able to be sold for a percentage of their original price, which was especially helpful when saving up for more expensive parts ranging from deadlier machine guns and rocket launchers to bulkier body armor and ramming-grills. The varied and wide range of parts available for purchase proved to be to quite an addictive element of the gameplay resulting in repeated experimentation.
Every element of Pressure was polished which created for a game that was easy to pick up and play. However, none of those elements ever went beyond being truly compelling or original. It's unfortunate that a game with such an interesting steampunk-inspired world and addictive and entertaining gameplay was continually overshadowed by uninspired game design. With repetitive level design and narrative length only lasting around two to three hours, Pressure is difficult to recommend at its full retail price.
Pressure is available now for Windows PC.
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