What if Alice in Wonderland met Running Man and, in a moment of bewilderment, they designed a video game? Interesting question, isn’t it? The Crackpet Show, from the Polish developers of Vixa Games, tries to answer this question by offering us the sensations of a bloodthirsty 2D shooter, based on reality TV, but with animals that we will kindly qualify as strange. Given the density of competition in the world of 2D shooters with rogue lite mechanics, The Crackpet Show will have to flex its muscles to find a place for itself. Is that the case ? Answer at the end of the test… or on the side of the screen if you look closely…
Running Alice Man
The world as we know it has come to an end and humanity has been replaced by mutated species of fauna that still surround us today. These have built a new civilization and what had to happen happened: reality TV appeared with its share of brainless. With the aim of improving audiences, gutting and survival obviously made their appearance and this is how The Crackpet Show was born, a show in which we will have to cross the levels one by one until the final episode.
We immediately think of Running Man, but we can also mention Smash TV as it seems an obvious source of inspiration. A TV set, hordes of enemies attacking us and furious spectators. A beautiful atmosphere to blast off to a happy heart and leave rivulets of blood in our path. Note also that the spectators can also be among the victims, which is the least of things.
Once our character has been chosen between, for example, a hallucinated rabbit or a psychopathic shark, we can decide which will be our starting class among four available. Each will have a primary weapon as well as a secondary item. Thus the healer will certainly, basic, less damage but he will be able to heal himself while the engineer will be able to have the turrets. Once this choice has been made, we will have the possibility of choosing a random improvement such as piercing bullets or a skin with thorns, to finally go to the field.
When originality does not take
Once the hostilities have started, we immediately realize the big differences between this Crackpet Show and its competitors: the aim. No Twin Stick Shooter here. Our basic aim is only lateral and it is only in the presence of enemies that an auto lock is put in place. The disaster then begins. We are forced to move constantly to avoid projectiles and our enemies do the same. The auto lock quickly becomes epileptic and we are quite incapable of knowing which monster we are aiming for, it is extremely frustrating.
But that’s not the only gameplay issue we’re going to have to deal with. Each press of the A button triggers a shot from us, very good, but it also stops our character. It is impossible to shoot while moving forward. But without being faced with a Bullet Hell, the projectiles that attack us can quickly be numerous and it is impossible for us to shoot while avoiding them and spamming the fire button to have a semblance of movement. Again, the general impression is really unpleasant compared to the fluidity of an Enter the Gungeon or an It Came from Space and Eat Our Brains, to name a few.
The only solution to move forward is then to use the dodge key, also subject to a cooldown and which tends to allow us to dodge a shot to better send us into the next one. Frustration is important. To solve this problem, we have the possibility of looting new weapons and new powers during our wanderings. The rogue lite side is then fully expressed, thus adding a random side… even more frustrating then.
To erase this fault, we can unlock bonuses thanks to sponsors that we pay with currency acquired by completing the levels. We can also upgrade the level of weapons that we’ll maybe-eventually-on-never know how to recover during our journey. We quickly have the impression that to get out of this TV set, our talents alone will not be enough and that we will necessarily have to go through a little farming.
When the fun comes to save it all… or almost
But let’s not be so negative because a feature adds a good dose of fun to what would otherwise only be an average shooter: we can indeed enjoy this experience for up to four players. Small additions then appear and the feeling is quite different. We still regret the core gameplay, but now we can resurrect our fallen allies or compete for an upgrade via a QTE-style mini game.
The route we take is also up for debate and only after a vote can we move forward, no more player one omnipotence and long live democracy. These little additions are nice and bring their share of entertainment and discussions between two tables. Likewise, the start of the game requires a little thought to balance our team and their talents, before finally dropping everything and choosing as we see fit.
From a graphical point of view, the result on the screen is clean. It’s a shame that the various protagonists in this story seem trowel-animated. It seems voluntary but in play, the result is still disappointing compared to what the competition offers. The most annoying, however, are the loading times between two tables. These are rather long considering how little there is to display on the screen and the small size of the maps we are browsing.
Still in regret, we suffered several framerate jumps, especially during the boss phases, when the number of shots on the screen is quite large. The soundtrack is quite simplistic, but it can be heard during the game phases. The handling, apart from the strange choice of gameplay, responds perfectly to our requests, it is however regrettable that no possibility of customization is available.
- The fan system is interesting
- The content in terms of weapons, objects and levels is substantial
- The French translation allows us to appreciate the black humor of the title
- The graphics are colorful and well crossed out
- The soundtrack can be heard in-game
- The game is clearly made to be played with several people
- Multiplayer additions bring some variety outside of combat
- The auto-lock is a disaster compared to a Twin Stick system
- The inability to shoot while moving is very disabling for a shooter
- The attempt/upgrade loop is ruined by the randomness of the loot
- The animations are rather sketchy
- The competition hurts a lot
Price / content ratio