Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review: How to Survive (PC)

How to Survive is an almost quirky mixtures of horrible thing/zombie titles you might already be familiar with. There are elements of Dead Rising, Dead Island, and the Hunter: Reckoning games; along with hints of isometric post-apocalyptic role-playing and possibly Monkey Island.

It's almost something I'd recommend to see what a small studio can do, especially if you're looking to pick-up games on the cheap -- $15 seems just about right -- but for me it whiffs on capitalizing on it's biggest asset: Kovac.

Like the player(s), Kovac has been stranded on a small collection of islands infested with zombies and other nightmares, like ostriches, and has used his time to cobble together various defenses and weapons. Somewhere in there, he also had time to pen some amusing booklets on "How to Survive" and scatter them across the islands.

In the booklets, Kovac imparts his wisdom and begins to form himself as a complete character. More specifically, the only character that I cared about. The smattering of survivors found across the islands could be sign posts for all that they bring to the game, which is probably why Kovac stands out as much as he does. It's disappointing then that when he finally appears in his Dead Space-esque armour he's as one-dimensional as the other characters. As a result, I didn't care about what happened to him or where the story took the character(s).

Woulda, shoulda, coulda, and I'm not game designer, but if more of the game hung on Kovac and what he was doing I think the game could have been more interesting.

How to Survive does not make great strides for the action/RPG genre but the game does competently execute on weapon and item crafting, character upgrades, and some interesting options that somehow feel organic to the overall gameplay. Lighting a fire then using a flaming stick to set zombies and bushes on fire while warding off creatures that only emerge at night, feels just about right.

The co-op mode is a highlight. There's a little more fighting over resources to create new and more powerful weapons and equipment or make healing items, but that vague feeling of a twin-stick shooter (there's a little more finesse involved) and taking 20 or 30 minutes to troop through an area is a good way to get a quick gaming fix.

It's also worth noting that co-op mode is actually cooperative because friendly fire cannot be disabled.

How to Survive's story can be played quickly, so the two-player co-op and the Challenges are a buyer's best option to extend the play time. That's the only way the average player will be able to explore all the seemingly inconsequential upgrade options and power-ups and not feel bored.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Graphics are nice; lighting effects
- Kovac adds some much needed character to the game
- Lots of different weapon, item, and upgrade options
- Co-op should be the main mode, even if finding a buddy isn't easy
 - Challenges offers a good drop-in game

The Bad:
- Why isn't there more Kovac?
- Creativity with the weapons isn't encouraged
- Awful music

Score: 7.0 / 10