Indie developer Matt Fielding has released a retro game with standard sci-fi storytelling presented with lovely 2D pixel art, old school Flashback or Out Of This World style platform gaming. Diverse locations, action, adventure, and puzzles are all promised in Japanese publisher Marvelous’ game Exiles End.
Exiles End begins on a spaceship, reminiscent of the USS Enterprise, where a team is being briefed on a rescue mission on a remote mining planet. Suddenly, an alarm sounds and escape pods are launched while the main ship is destroyed by a giant explosion. The pods head toward the planet where the main character, a man by the name of Jameson, wakes up in his crashed pod. Unsure if anyone else from the ship is alive, Jameson begins to explore the planet and thus Exiles End begins.
The game has a very slow start. For a while the player goes right, then goes down, then goes left without running into any obstacles or enemies and the only interesting animation amounts to the space suit turning red when landing after a fall. Eventually, Jameson finds a member of his team, Bennett, trapped in the wreckage of one of the escape pods at the bottom of a cliff. Instead of being able to jump directly down, Jameson can only make his way across the ravine and try to find a safer way down through various tunnels and caves.
Trying to get to Bennett leads the player to encounter their first enemy: slugs. Jumping on the slugs do not kill them, but causes the player’s health to decrease. If you do find a rock towards the beginning of the game you can throw it at one of the slugs to kill it. The aiming style falls inline with other retro gaming in that it's not a precision aim. In the end, I found it much easier to jump over the slugs instead.
Every once in awhile, the stalagmites in the various tunnels fall although jumping into them causes the health meter to deplete. After a series of repetitive tunnels and slug encounters, I found a health pack and rocks. The health pack was much needed; but, ultimately I was at a dead end and went back the way I came until I reached a lever which I threw the rock at to open a locked door. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common theme in Exiles End, where the player will go one way for awhile, only to have to go back and repeat a section of the map in reverse.
Along the way I found another crashed pod that I used to restore the shock absorption system in my suit which allowed me to fall without taking a hit to my health meter. Besides the slugs, one of the biggest enemies in the game seems to be gravity. When having to go down, there is very little ability to see where you should be landing and if you fall too hard you die. Before the suit upgrade, you have to guess and normally learn where to go or land by dying in some instances.
Soon enough, I stumbled along an empty crashed pod that had belonged to Henning . A cut scene revealed that Henning had been eaten by what can only be described as a giant slug dinosaur monster which tried to chase after me. I died twice trying to jump on him or throw my remaining rock to kill him. Running away worked and I carried on to the next part of the game.
One of the things I would have really liked to have seen more in Exiles End was health packs. While the game does provide checkpoints, if the player has difficulty with a certain section and the game checkpoints while the player is on low health, then the game become frustrating because one wrong move, until you find a health pack, and you are dead. This may be part of the game trying to be challenging with unforgiving health, but it garners annoyance instead of fun.
At this point it seemed that the game tried to increase the difficulty by having the slugs now crawl on the ceiling and fall every so often. Finally, I came across a mining facility which was a welcome change. This would have been a great opportunity to change the up the monster type; however, the slugs were still present although I did come across one new enemy….eventually.
Not to give too much away in the review, there are more monsters that show up in the game and do provide a decent challenge and a fair bit of action. There was also an upgrade from rocks to guns as well. Even still, the game could have been very solid and consistent, yet not repetitive; but, instead the gaps of actual play make the game seem as if it is unfinished. While it is straightforward, it's almost too straightforward for a game that promises puzzles and strategy. There can be a challenge or strategy if the player wants there to be, but most of the time it is easier to just jump over whatever appears on screen than take the time to try and fight. There is also no real bonus to fighting unless you are playing survival mode where the player gets points for getting rid of monsters.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.