Nintendo Web Framework is one of the more under-utilized pieces of technology for would-be Wii U game designers to create their experiences. The service has been picking up steam lately after a slower start, with titles such as Elliot Quest and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars utilizing the tools to create great games. psyscrolr (yes, lower case P) is the latest game to utilize this technology, so how does it fare when compared to previous successful games?
psyscrolr is a clever play on words for what the game is about: a psychic 2D side scroller. You play as a young man who has abilities unlike any other human, and he is kicked out of the town he lives in and shunned for having these abilities. You fall through a door, and a mysterious voice guides you along your way while it makes you embrace your new found abilities.
The story is told with decent voice acting that adds to the mood of the game, and the graphics are very charming. There is a good bit of parallax scrolling in the backgrounds, and the character model is well animated. The art style in the game seems to be a big feature, and it has a classic look very reminiscent of early PC side-scrollers that is a real treat on the eyes if you like that sort of style, which I do. Enemies are a bit bland but that is nothing too detrimental. There is some slowdown at times, and it feels very random when it occurs, but for the most part, presentation and graphics are solid. Coupled with a good musical score while you explore your new world, and the game for the most part is a visually and ear pleasing experience.
The controls are where things start to get a bit rocky. You control your character by using the analog stick. You can use the “L” bumper to jump or use the “A” button, but the latter isn’t too smart because your attacks are done via the touch screen. You can touch an area to shoot a energy shot, or tap the character to use a strong melee attack for nearby enemies. You will have to find a comfortable position to hold the GamePad, because my left hand was killing me at some points. The gravity in some areas changes how jumps are handled, which is a nice variation, but sometimes it can be frustrating when returning to an area with normal gravity. It’s not a perfect control scheme, but it works.
What doesn’t work as well is bringing “Key Stones” to a designated area. In one part of the game, you have to bring a couple stones to a central area in the level. You cannot touch the walls or else you have to start back over. What should be simple due to the GamePad screen just doesn’t work as you’d think. You have to be very deliberate in guiding the character, because it is way too easy to bump into the walls. Insanely easy, to the point of frustration. Following that up is a segment where you control a make shift vehicle, and I never really understood how to control it. It would work sometimes, but sometimes I’d do the same thing to no result. Couple that with some technical issues, such as my character getting stuck and having to restart the level, and the frustrations start to stack up.
psyscrolr is an episodic game, and the first episode lasted me about 3 hours. For $3.99, the value wasn’t too bad, but some of that time was padded with the added frustration of the previously mentioned stuff. psyscrolr is a game that I feel has potential, but it’s not quite ready for the big time yet. The graphical style is great and the world the game takes place in is filled with mystery which I like, but the control issues are something that need to be addressed in the later chapters of the game. If you are a fan of retro-2D style games, pyscrolr might be worth giving a look at, but it’s hard to give it a full recommendation right now.