KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child Review
developer: Third Law Interactive
PII-266, 64MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Jul 09, 00 (released)
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Regardless of TLI's intentions, there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of gameplay balance in respect to the game's difficulty. By using the term difficulty, I'm not implying to normal or nightmare level selection; sure it's harder to play on the most difficult level. Rather, I'm referring to the strength of the weapons, the number of power ups, and the overall firepower of the enemies. Instead of balancing the difficulty so that players gradually come to the point where their skills have a significant influence, and the weapons as well as the power-ups become more scarce, you're just smacked around like a ping-pong ball --- extra hard at start, easy in the middle, and then real tough at the end. Come Act 2, repeat... and so on... Just about when you come to the point of being lulled by the lack of tough challenges, you're faced with a sudden lack of power-ups (health items mainly, the rest I never got to use in the game - you simply don't need it) and a total explosion of small enemies followed by mini-bosses. And then you're screwed. Instead of gradually building up to the point where we'll be able to strut our skills, the game delivers different levels of difficulty in quantum leaps. I'm not bullshiting you people; It's quite noticeable! And it does it in a crude manner by increasing the numbers rather than the AI of the circus freaks. (I'll come to that later.)
The weapons balance needs some work too. It's not as unbalanced as the overall flow, but it's still strange enough to annoy during firefights. The primary weapon is definitely too powerful. Not to say that it's not ideal for chopping down thousands of bugs, but it's strange finding myself in need of the primary weapon on some of the final levels... The shotgun is just appalling. Why did they put it in the game in the first place? It has a slower rate of fire than the Quake 2 Railgun, but it causes far less damage. It's just useless when you have thousand of spiders, and other, small to medium critters coming at you. Some of the supposedly nastiest weapons fire at even slower rates. Again, they don't pack a powerful enough punch to justify such sluggishness; hence, they become useless in battle...
An ideal KISS weapon would have to be the Quake 2 chaingun. Why? What do you do when you have literally dozens, and dozens of beasts coming at you? You pray to God you don't run out of ammo, and look for the nearest chaingun. KISS baddies are stricken of any, even slightly complex AI routines. The game's clever way of defeating the player comes down to drowning the poor bastard in a pool of weird creatures that come rushing from dark corners. In all fairness, there are some mini-bosses that attack from a distance, but their movement is highly predictable. Sometimes they don't even feel like moving, despite the fact that I'm frying their ass with the electric rocket launcher. Oh well, it's better to burn out, than to fade away...
The appearance of the various creatures goes nicely with the KISS world though. The developers followed that "It" circus theme. The creatures are in no way scary, they're amusing and colorful, and they definitely look like something coming out of a comic book. Good thing LithTech 1.5 is as smooth as a baby's butt... I haven't come across a lot of bugs, although I've heard cries of discontent from many gamers. A Lith 3D boasts some nice 3D effects, creating a visual impression that at a number of instances, even surpasses the UT engine (subjective opinion, folks). Models could do with a bit more polys. On the other hand, I've been playing the game in 32-bit color, and I had a rock-solid FPS throughout, so I'd say they're just fine for the role.
Sometimes even the brainless chopping, and gallons of spraying blood that are KISS: Psycho Circus can be fun, and enjoyable. Overall, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Right about as I was kick-starting Act 2, I got tired of the whole thing, and continued on, only to fulfill my sworn duty as a game reviewer. Now, if I was to part with my money in order to play KISS... Nah, I don't think so...
LithTech 1.5 has come a long way, baby! Blood spraying all around can be fun sometimes.
Stop throwing those bugs at me! Unbalanced is the word.
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