Dead Space: Ignition
Here's a new formula: Ditch most of what I just said and replace it with a disappointing story, lazy art, and incessant hacking mini-games. Welcome to Dead Space: Ignition.
Through the eyes of engineer Franco and his companion Sarah, you'll see just how the Sprawl, a massive space station, came to be infested with Necromorphs. The story, while poorly delivered, is official Dead Space canon and sets the stage for Dead Space 2. As such, fanatics of the franchise may find a scrap of entertainment here. The rest of us? Not so much.
The story is told through two-dimensional, comic style scenes. While I can appreciate the proper use of this unique medium (think inFamous), the artists took the concept of graphical simplicity much too far. The characters' faces appear to be melting and their bodies are constantly shape-shifting like some terrifying amoeba-human hybrid. The animations are equally poor. For example, to make Sarah "walk," they simply took a drawing of her and made the entire thing bounce up and down. Maybe the developers were going for a unique style. Maybe the budget didn't allow time for proper animations. Whatever the case, it comes off as uninspired and lazy.
The voice acting is not just decent - it's essential. The art style constantly disfigures some characters so strongly that you must rely on sound just to identify who is who. Also, while the voice acting is great at times, the actors failed to alter their voices for different situations. If the characters sound bored and inattentive during a frantic battle, where's the incentive for the player to feel any differently?
The gameplay revolves around the completion of three distinct hacking games. The simplest, a tower defense game, has the player filling the non-traditional role of attacker. You have default battle units, a saboteur that turns enemy towers against each other, a stealth entity that can bypass some towers, and a few other tricks. The big issue is that there is no cap on how many units you have, nor is there a recharge timer for your more powerful units. I won every level simply by spamming attackers until they crushed the defenses.
Another game involves rotating mirrors to guide colored lasers into their color-matched destinations. As you progress, a special node unlocks that allows you to redirect the laser in two directions rather than one. Later levels require that you explode obstacles and overlap different colored beams to make a third color which then needs to be redirected. If that sounds very convoluted, that's because it is. It was by far the most complex (and thus, difficult) of the games.
The last hacking game is akin to a top-down, 2D version of Mario Kart. The point is to race against virtual, anti-hacking entities. If they beat you to the end, the system locks you out permanently and you must restart. While racing, you can drop miniature walls to block pursuers or cube-shaped items that reverse your enemies' movement controls. The levels become progressively more difficult, eventually incorporating moving barriers, lockout walls that destroy you if they contact your vehicle, and a few other nasty hazards. This is great in concept, but the lack of a checkpoint or lives system makes the already long levels unbearably tedious at times.
It's imperative to point out that you can get this game for free simply be pre-ordering Dead Space 2. Otherwise, it'll cost you five dollars on the PlayStation Network. Ignition only takes an hour to complete, so the former option is definitely the way to go. Some replay value can be derived from the game's multi-path story, online leaderboards, and multiplayer, but only the most hardcore of Dead Space fans will spend more than a few hours with Ignition.
While I appreciate what Dead Space: Ignition tries to represent (a substantial pre-order bonus), this title just doesn't cut it. The art is horrific and the hacking games, which each have their own distressing flaws, get repetitive quickly. If you're not a hardcore Dead Space fiction fan, there's really no reason to check this one out. Still, there are worse ways to spend an hour. Roseanne is still aired, right?