Obey Me wants to be a top-down Devil May Cry so hard that it’s a little bit awkward. The combo-laden fisticuffs, the armies of demons to duff up, the leather clad, wise-cracking protagonist; the evidence of Devil May Cry emulation is plentiful, but can this budget priced brawler come close to emulating one of Capcom’s finest?
Just as with the gameplay, the story is a perfect clone of something to be found in DMC, mainly because it’s almost incomprehensible. It’s pure nonsense, from the corporate ladder climbing devils to the end of days and far too many pustulating giant blobs of gloop. There’s a war going on between Heaven and Hell, and soul hunter Vanessa Held and her canine companion Monty are trapped in the middle, and blah, blah, blah. Let me tell you, chances are you’ll be skipping through the cutscenes.
A big reason for this is that the two leads are utterly unlikeable. Vanessa, in a fumbled attempt at being effortlessly cool, goes so sarcastic that she end up being an ultra whiney brat. She moans and complains about everything. Monty, a demon doggy, is far more bearable in comparison, and his compulsion to eat the remains of every deceased monster is a highlight of an otherwise dreary script. It’s the interplay between the two characters that causes the most ear pain, however. Rather than being playful banter it ends up feeling like catty complaining.
The need for a compelling story and nuanced characters can often be put to one side if there’s awesome combat and fun gameplay. In this regard, Obey Me often delivers. There’s a wealth of combo options available, Vanessa ends up with several weapons – the puss covered snot hammer is clearly the best – and can switch between them mid-combo. There’s some really impressive and lengthy combo strings here and the satisfaction of wiping out a particularly tough foe in a never ending flurry of attacks is palpable. Controls are easy to grasp and generous in their attack windows, making this is an accessible game that will make even a beginner look like a badass.
There’s also some tactical elements to the brawling, thanks to Monty’s involvement. Accompanying Vanessa wherever she goes, Monty will quite happily get stuck in fighting the demons on his own accord. He’s genuinely helpful in a scrap and can often prove vital in overcoming a particularly challenging boss. Monty’s assistance primarily comes in the form of shooting fire balls that Vanessa can then smack back into an unwitting enemy’s face, and he will then help release little blue orbs from foes.
Yes, just like DMC, Obey Me is obsessed with different coloured orbs. Red ones for health, white to level up, and blue for a special Fusion Mode. It’s the blue ones that offer the most fun. As you bludgeon a baddie, a little blue meter will build up beneath them signifying the blue orbs waiting to be released. With a tap of a button, Monty then unleashes a targeted attack that sets the orbs free for collection. Gather enough and Vanessa and Monty will merge (sounds creepy but it’s not actually that icky) and go full Super-Saiyan. The gathering of blue orbs provides a nice rhythm and flow to the combat, and it’ll also mean you’ll get a better grade at the end of each battle. Again, just like DMC, Obey Me is obsessed with judging you and telling you that you’re pants – at least, that’s what it told me most of the time.
In part, this was probably down to me being a bit rubbish, but the lack of visual and audio cues is certainly an issue. From the top-down perspective, it is difficult to know when an enemy is about to launch an attack and there’s not enough cues for the player to react and respond to. As a result, combat frequently descends into a never-ending assault against an enemy in the desperate attempt to bring them down before they hit you with an attack you can’t see coming. This issue is further exacerbated by a lacking sense of contact, it’s often not clear if you have hit the enemy or if they have hit you, other than depleting health bars. It makes success in the combat often come down to dumb luck, rather than intentional skill.
In addition to the combat, you’ll have to navigate through some trap covered locations. Frankly this quickly becomes overbearing and repetitive. The need to dodge spikes, flames and mines is an overused mechanic that really starts to drag from the mid-point of the game. They become particularly irritating when they turn up in combat, as enemies are unaffected by many of the traps, so they can’t be used tactically. It’s an issue “comically” referenced in the dialogue, but that doesn’t make fighting in an arena bedazzled with shiny spike traps any less of a slog.
Despite these issues, I found myself enjoying my time with Obey Me. There’s an earnestness to the game that is appealing and the combat, despite its issues, often proved surprisingly moreish. It’s a shame then, that as I progressed through the game, the already slightly questionable frame rate became worse and worse on my PlayStation 4.
There were far too many moments where the visuals lurched like a marionette controlled by a sozzled puppeteer. My PS4 was gurning under the pressure, which felt ridiculous, as there’s no way you could describe Obey Me as a looker. The choppiness made timing combos and dodging traps impossible, certain section proving a desperate rush to the finish line just to get through it. Without a patch to remedy these issues, it’s impossible to recommend Obey Me; too much of the game was rendered effectively unplayable.