This game may be around four years old now but its recent addition to the PSP side of the PSN Store has given us the opportunity to cast a critical eye over it. The premise is an interesting one: You play as a rogue warrior robot called A.D.A.M. who has taken it upon himself to wage a one-android war on lots of other humanoid robots. Along the way you gather upgrades which can be attached to each of your four limbs and your head.
The unfortunate stumbling block with Rengoku is that the vaguely interesting prospect of bolting weapons to your limbs and beating up robots has been completely hamstrung by one of the worst control methods in recent memory and crushingly disappointing level design. The ham-fisted pseudo-spiritualism of the narrative is uncomfortable and confusing and the upgrade system is clunky and irritating.
That upgrade system, which promised so much, is limited and poorly implemented. When you grow tired of your awful starting selection of weapons (a one-shot pistol and a claw) you will grind for hours before finally defeating a boss and moving on. Stumble fortuitously on a new upgrade and you will momentarily fill with hope that something is about to change for the better, only to find that you have to make your way to the nearest terminal to fit it. It adds needless minutes trudging through the same grimy brown areas and only serves to increase your frustration with the game as a whole.
The basic pattern of the game goes like this: enter a dirty brown room, lock on to the nearest generically-modelled enemy robot with a trigger button and use the D-Pad to double-tap your way around him circle-strafing whilst you tap your weapon buttons and hope for the best. When that enemy dies (and the standard enemies are incredibly easy to kill) then repeat until the room is empty. There will probably be no more than two or three enemies at a time.
The awkward controls are most noticeable in directional movement. The character can be positioned using either the D-Pad or the analogue nub. The analogue method gives the least clunky movement as you negotiate the limited, identical rooms and corridors but it doesn’t lend itself to the quick double-tap needed to evade enemy fire so when you meet your first level boss and the difficulty spikes like a seismometer being kicked down a spiral staircase you will be forced to return to the jerky movement afforded by the D-Pad. The digital input method allows directional turning or forward and backwards motion but don’t expect to be able to turn as you walk, for that you’ll have to switch back to the analogue nub.
The level design will not win any awards either. Every area is as brown as the last and each uninspired corridor leads, inevitably to another, usually square room with one or two enemies in it. The only thing less appealing than the design choices made in the environments are the identikit enemy character design. Actually, I’m being generous by implying there is a whole kit to build enemies out of. It seems like there is no more than five or six different options and they’re all brown and roughly the same shape.
Rengoku: The Power of Purgatory is a dreadful game which takes an already only vaguely interesting idea and attacks it with everything in its arsenal to make it into one of the worst game-play experiences available. The fact that there is a sequel out there somewhere fills me with dread.
- The concept is a sound one.
- My copy was free and I can now warn everyone who might have paid for it.
- Terribly clunky control mechanism.
- Almost identical level design and colour choices.
- Shockingly bad pseudo-spiritualism.
- Upgrade system is irritating.
- Difficulty spikes that require endless grinding to level up.
It is almost embarrassing to play a game with such a lack of polish and refinement. The cringeworthy spiritualistic aspects in the narrative are an egregious assault on our intelligence and the design is second to all. This product is an abomination and if you have any faint urges to pay money for it then please fight them with all your worth. In fact, a game where a man fights against the inexplicable urge to play a dreadful game would probably be a more entertaining prospect. Avoid at all costs.
Note: Screenshots sourced via Google Images.