January 23, 2017
Forget being a hero, Nefarious lets you have fun as the villain!
The best part of a platform game, or any video game for that matter, are the Boss levels. But what if you get to be the Boss? This is the premise of Nefarious, a 2D platform game available on Steam where you play as the villainous Crow with the aim to kidnap princesses from different lands to power your weapon for world domination.
As a concept this game is awesome. Each princess you kidnap (and subsequently carry for the rest of that level) grants special abilities. For example, Princess Apoidea from the insect kingdom Insektia grants additional height with jumps and Princess Ariella of Dwarf Country provides flying axes as well as a hilarious unexpected “skill”.
Crow is the super-villain of the game you control who possesses a robotic arm that delivers a punch and unlimited grenades (with a timer to replenish), and you can collect coins to upgrade your armour and weaponry.
All the levels and characters are homages/parodies of famous video games, in particular Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man and Super Mario, with an RPG turn-based battle thrown in for good measure.
But more so than a video game parody, this game examines gender roles in video games. The princesses are fully capable of rescuing themselves if they wanted to, bringing forth a refreshing change to the old and tired ‘damsel in distress’ theme. Crow, however, may need rescuing from a few of the princesses.
The first princess you encounter, Princess Mayapple, is quite promptly dumped by her hero boyfriend, Mack, and with a constantly brightly bright outlook starts becomes independent, even showing her bisexual side throughout the game dialogue.
In fact all the character interactions (including the minions) are entertaining.
My favourite “introduction” had to be Princess Ariella for the completely unexpected outcome, and Princess Tephra with her effeminate brother Prince Malachite have one of the funniest moments of the whole game.
Again, on the subject of representation, you may at first jump to conclusions to Malachite’s sexuality, but rather than reinforcing negative stereotypes, Malachite’s personality is reminiscent of the French ‘Dandy’ (for all you history buffs) to reverse ‘expected’ gender roles.
Crow: “You know, I know a guy. Great discounts on giant spike orbs of death.”
Prince Malachite: “Oh yeah, because we’re running short on those.”
As you can tell, I am a big fan of the storyline. As a person who loves his puns, I was regularly laughing aloud during play, and there is also a game show interlude “Would you date a Supervillain?” that is worth seeing and the developers hint at multiple endings for those who persevere with Nefarious.
Yes, I said persevere.
I really wanted to give this game all praise and focus this review on how the two-person creative team StarBlade magically transformed familiar character types into a clever plot that is very much needed today with regards to female representation and inclusion of LGBTIQ themes.
But you need to be able to play the game to see any of this.
The controls were simply awful. I regularly switched from laughing to shouting at this game, with the biggest problems being jumping and collision detection; pretty much the two main actions of a platform game. These aspects alone made some levels incredibly challenging., but not the kind of difficulty that experience can overcome. No, certain sections of the game are quite unpredictable and you will soon lose count of how many times you die.
Another bugbear were the “rapid” levels where no skill or even actions are required to complete them. For one Sonic-inspired section, I literally put my controller down and watched the show. The game really needed to be longer for these to be considered a relief to the fast action.
Visually, Nefarious was amazing, the music catchy and supported the storyline. Each level had a unique theme with a familiar (but not too familiar) layout. The Boss level scenes were of course the most fun to watch as well as play.
The developers have hinted online that they are considering porting this Steam title to a console such as Nintendo Switch (unfortunately they were planning on developing for the now defunct Wii U).
I hope this additional development work helps to tweak the control issues and add a few more levels for good measure.
- Hilarious storyline
- Not afraid to reverse gender stereotypes
- Boss battles are what this game is all about
- "I pressed jump!"
- "I was nowhere near that fencing insect!"
- "Oh it's over already?"
Nefarious is worth checking out, although take a very deep breath first. Let’s hope future updates/expansions fix the gameplay issues and turn this clever little game into something worth treasuring.