They’ve offered up the soundtrack for free, gave us an interview for free (we take nothing for granted) and now Exit Strategy Studios has released the free prototype for their 3D action platformer Pirates of New Horizons. Available now for all to try, and judge if the project is worthwhile to devote the resources to completing a full version.
I spent a solid hour playing through from start to finish and wanted to share some thoughts. As the prototype is by definition an unfinished product, it would be unfair to say I’m reviewing it–so we’ll just call this a deeper than usual impressions piece. Although honestly prototype doesn’t really fit this offering’s bill, as it evokes the word alpha in a lot of ways. Extended demo would be a better description of what we’re getting into.
This version of the game, in my humble opinion, seems quite far along in many ways. It offers an opportunity to play through the first 15% of what could be the final product: a 5-8 hour downloadable title somewhere in the range of $10-$20 that could appear on both PC and consoles. Now, let’s get into the meat.
Immediately after a great intro that really shows the values–or lack thereof–of our female space pirate hero, the action hits square in the face. Now the sole owner of an amazing airship I found myself in control of Annha, besieged by enemy vessels and boarded by baddies. I slashed up the boat-wreckers and used my ship’s cannons to take care of the surrounding ships, all the while destroying anything crate or barrel I came across to increase what I called my “plunder total.”
Shortly after, I landed near an island that ends up being the central hub to the rest of the game. What’s both cool and slightly disappointing (in a good way) about the island is that it has all seven area portals set up and available to open. The only problem being that the levels behind them don’t exist yet. They end up being like easter eggs and they’re certainly teases that made me want more.
On top of that, any NPC you encounter here and apparently anywhere Annha will make an attempt to swipe a small amount of gold from them when engaged in conversation. If they’re a dick you take a little more. An excellent touch.
Vulcano Island National Park is the one full level you get to visit, it has tons of fighting, grappling hook action, puzzle solving and all sorts of other platformy goodness. No real boss fight though, which I thought to be a bit of a letdown, and I did experience some minor framerate issues during one of the battles. All in all, a level with plenty of depth to it.
A notable problem, and one prevalent in 3D platformers in general, is the camera control. As the player you have majority control of which way the camera is aiming, but there’s also an auto-correct function that occurs at extremely inopportune moments (trying to clear huge gaps, land in tight spots etc.) Without an option to turn the auto-adjust off, you’re at the mercy of when it’s determined you have bad visibility, whether you actually do or not. It’s definitely something I’d see addressed going forward. Another issue to mention, some of the NPC’s were gigantic compared to Annha as well and looked very wonky standing side-by-side with her.
Also, I’d hope that there’d be a few more collectibles other than just funds in a finished product. I’m not saying I’m full of suggestions, but Banjo-Kazooie and PSX Spyro spring to mind when playing this and they were chalk-full of different kinds of quest items and goodies to collect.
All nit-picking aside, the point of the prototype boils down to one question: Do I want more? and no matter how you slice it, the answer always comes up a resounding yes. I don’t necessarily believe what’s there in the prototype is anything I haven’t seen before in some fashion, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. The timing is especially good because lately, there hasn’t been many representatives in the 3D platform genre to speak of. For me, it’s just what the doctor ordered, the same way I felt about Amnesia being the first horror game I’d played in years.
Go play, then take the survey at the end and answer that same question for yourself: Do you want more?
The PC and Mac clients for the free Pirates of New Horizons prototype are available to download now via the mirror masters over at ModDB.
The game is designed for the Xbox 360 controller, so if you have one plus the corresponding USB plug the developer strongly suggests you play with the gamepad. However, I played the game with my keyboard and mouse and found it to be a completely workable situation once I set the mouse sensitivities to my liking (I recommend doing the same for whatever suits you best.)
Since they’re not mentioned in the prototype, I’ll list the PC controls for those going in without a gamepad:
- WASD/Mouse: Movement/Look
- Mouse 1: Slash
- Mouse 2: Use Key Item
- Space Bar: Jump
- Numbers: Hotkeys for Key Items
- E: Confirm
- Q: Block