The Soul-Crushing Emptiness of VOID
I once heard Unity described as "a very great tool [for building video games], that is very easily abused." I can't think of a game that better epitomizes that sentiment than Void.
Yikes. Hmm, I could probably stop the review right here and just let that stand, but I suppose I should probably go into some more depth and talk about just why this game so colossally disappointed me. Regular readers of our little blog will have detected an excess amount of snark coming off that sentence and may have a sense of impending dread. I rarely bust out the poison pen, but Void just left me in a foul, foul, mood.
So the premise is simple enough: you are adrift in space. You have a limited supply of oxygen, and a limited supply of fuel. By using small spurts of fuel, you must gather more oxygen, more fuel, and...well, I don't really know, but presumably there's a win state? I never found it.
Right off the bat, the game gives you a teensy little narrated intro from a female character who mentions some nonsense about jumping off into a new system to start a better life, but the heavy masculine sounds of your character's breathing suggest that you are not this person. Other than that, you are given no direction or objective, other than not dying.
Now, let me be perfectly clear: I AM OK WITH ALL OF THAT.
If you've followed my reviews for any period of time, you will know that I am a fan of experimentation, minimalism, and will happily reward people who put their passion into trying new things. None of that is on display here.
For starters, the shapes and geometry that you bounce around is utterly meaningless. It has no texture, no definition, no purpose. It is there for you to collide with, and leap off of. That is all. The music is mediocre at best, a collection of electronic tones without emotion that does nothing to enhance the potentially tense atmosphere of being alone in the middle of nowhere. But where this game utterly, completely falls flat on its face is in the gameplay. Dear GOD the gameplay.
I can accept the basic premise of playing with physics in Unity to achieve the effect of weightlessness. I can accept that your little fuel bursts will, theoretically, act in a frictionless manner and propel you in a straight line when you point and click. What I cannot accept is:
1) your character's inability to grope hand over hand in any way once they have reached a firm point.
2) your character's inability to even push off of a firm point WITHOUT using fuel
3) even a slight piece of geometry completely ruining any kind of straight shot you might have had
and, most glaringly,
4) no quick restart function, or indeed any kind of keyboard commands at all to free you from this hellhole outside of force-quitting the program. I am dead. Fucking. Serious.
If you run out of fuel, but have plenty of oxygen left, and misjudge a jump? You are forced to sit around and wait for your choking, gasping death. Over. And. Over.
Oh and you WILL die. Lots. Because if these factors weren't enough to completely break the gameplay, the hit detection on the inexplicable blobs of oxygen and fuel is ABYSMAL. Take a look at this shot:
Now it's possible that I somehow, in the 10 second intro, missed a salient plot point that your character is a quadriplegic, but failing that, I should literally be able to reach out with one hand and just GRAB THIS DAMN THING. I mean...really? Really. You have to be so on top of these damn things to pick them up you might as well get common-law papers drawn up and adopt a little corgi named Ein (I know I'm losing the thread of this, but I needed to find something to be happy about and Corgis amirite?).
So you might be wondering why I even shelled out the $5 for this heaping pile of purple Unity gak in the first place. It's because I grew up on classic, hard Sci-fi, especially the stories that really captured the helplessness and despair of being adrift in space. I still love Asimov's Marooned off Vesta and Bradbury's Kaleidoscope. There was just something so haunting and eerie about them (even if Vesta has a happy ending that lead to Anniversary), the crushing inevitability of it all, the awesome might of space and the sheer vastness of it. And when I saw a video game promising that same experience, I got really excited.
Then I played Void.
Well, I certainly felt something akin to despair. So...truth in advertising?