Oointah’s Death by Game Show is a mixture of strategy and fast paced action, set in a future where robots rule and smart humans are made to compete in the eponymous Death by Game Show. Each player’s only hope of survival is to reach the end and be rehabilitated, but even if they lose die, the robot society benefits while the humans lose out. Oointah has stated the game’s humour is inspired by the work of Mike Judge, known for directing Idiocracy, Office Space, and Beavis & Butthead.
Surviving through to the end requires you to successfully advance through 50 challenges, each of which require different strategies to beat. The majority have the same basic rules; collect the required amount of money and escape within the time limit. However, while the game is easy to understand, the difficulty ramps up as soon as the tutorial is done and dusted. You really need to be paying attention all the time, because you can be overwhelmed by enemy droids in a matter of seconds.
In your fight for survival you are chained to a droid called G.I.M.P., which is used to spawn other droids for you. These droids vary from standard fodder that walk along and attack, to flying bombs, one hit killers, and blockers that can push back enemies. You’ll come to rely on each of these to try and destroy the opposition droids and buildings with the time limit, while trying to protect your own. G.I.M.P does have an energy limit though and making it work too much causes it to collapse, which in turn slows you down since you have to drag it behind you.
During each challenge you can switch to a strategy camera which pauses the action, allowing you to work out what droids to send out and which structures to target, without overcommitting. While it helps, there are times when it feels like no strategy is working, with most challenges taking multiple tries to complete. You can change the difficulty of each challenge, but the easier you make it the fewer rewards that you receive at the end.
Some of these rewards may be additional structures to build, but each of these is one time use. You might deploy a gun that can shoot droids out of the air, but if you fail you’ll have to do the challenge again without that equipment. To try and counter this you need to grind out early challenges to recover items, but this system just felt cumbersome and like padding to lengthen the game. During play a prize wheel will appear should you meet certain requirements, and a spin on that may get you more money or an item. Money seemed to solely used as a score and can’t be used to purchase structures or droids.
The problem with Death by Game Show is that its formula becomes repetitive very quickly, and the brutal difficulty of some challenges wears thin very quickly, making it hard to even be motivated to play the game. The game’s humour is also very hit and miss, and doesn’t really meet the expectations I had when told it was inspired by Mike Judge’s work. Oointah seemed to have taken lines from his work, tweaked them a little and just put them in the game. It never really made me laugh.
I do think that the game’s design is good though and the art style suits it well. As a first title for the studio, Death By Game Show isn’t a bad effort but the different parts don’t seem to mesh as well as they could. There’s just too much going on during the action to formulate a strategy, and when planning you can’t really put together a long term tactic. Favouring either fast paced action or strategy would probably have been a better approach.
Oointah have tried to make a game which does something a little different, but haven’t really brought all the factors together properly. Mixing a fast paced and strategy with brutal difficulty is a challenge in itself, and making that fun or appealing even more so. Death by Game Show loses that appeal quickly by following the same basic gameplay throughout while punishing the player for even the smallest of mistakes. If you like tough games then this is for you, but fans of strategy or tower defence have much better options available to them.