Last month i did a trailer reaction/review for the Adult Swim game Rise and Shine. Well, since then i got a press copy and put a review up. “But William”, i hear you say, “A new review didn’t go up on your site.” Well observed my imaginary, super invested reader. My Rise and Shine Review didn’t get published here. Instead it went up at a new site: IndieGamerTeam.Com! This is where most of my reviews will be going for the foreseeable future. Not all of them, the site is very much aimed at Indie titles, so if i ever get off my ass and finish Final Fantasy 15 (i haven’t been able to play since about the week it came out…fuck my life), i’d post a review for that here. But for right now, You should all go read my Rise and Shine Review (i am pretty damn proud of that one), then you should follow us at IndieGamerTeam, because it wont just be me doing the reviews. We’ve got a few people who want to bring you enjoyable and insightful reviews. We’re like, a squad or league or…some other kind of grouping of professionals who work towards a common goal. There really should be more words for that… Or if that’s not your thing, you can also follow us on twitter @IndieGamerTeam. And if that’s not your thing…then…why….why are you still reading this. Go home, do something productive with your life. Play some games or something.
By William Shelton
Release Date: December 1, 2016
Obtained By: Gift from Indie Gamer Chick (she wanted me too suffer with her)
Dispersio is kind of like BDSM gone wrong: it’s demanding nature and punishing difficulty should get me all excited, but poor level design and some truly stupid decisions had me calling out “red” way too often. It took me 93 minuets to beat the game’s first level. Part of that was because of the Dispersio’s intended challenge and retro sensibilities. Part of it was novice level design that added unneeded frustration. And part of it was the fact that there is no in-game way to check the controls, forcing new players to quit out to the main menu to learn how to play and then forcing them to redo the opening level. Dispersio isn’t good, but it is an interesting kind of bad. Much like Volchaos I did find myself oddly compelled by the game, but the pay off to frustration ratio simply isn’t worth the effort most of the time.
The games story is that at some point in the future the Earth blows up, leaving behind only a few themed asteroids that hold treasures from the old earth. Why these asteroids also give the player character level-specific powers is never brought up. Frankly, once you get past the tutorial level (the one that took me over an hour to beat) the story isn’t ever brought up again. At least not in what I could be bothered to play through. It’s hard to have a real opinion about that fact though. On one hand I do really like post-earth/post-human sci-fi and would like to get some more of it. On the other hand, the story clearly wasn’t going to do much with the set-up, and from what we got it’s clear that any addition probably wouldn’t have been that great to begin with. While it was nice of the developer to quit while they were ahead, that doesn’t make up for a dull and uninteresting story.
But, I’ve always said that a bad story doesn’t necessarily make a bad game. Gameplay is king after all. So long as that’s good the game can still be worth your time. Unfortunately, Dispersio drops the ball here too. The game aspires to be a difficult retro-style platformer, which is normally right up my alley. I do get a certain, almost sexual, satisfaction from taming and mastering bratty…..I think I got off topic. I like a challenge, is what I’m saying. There’s just something magical about overcoming insurmountable odds. And to the games credit, at its best Dispersio comes close to giving me that fix. In the three levels I played to completion, the game only reached its best once. One room, just one single screen in three levels, did the game ever live up to its full potential.
Dispersio single biggest issue is the level design. While the game usually does do a good job communicating where the player needs to go and what needs to be avoided, the levels often make most of the challenge stem from compensating for the odd lay outs. Platforms are usually placed in such a way that jumping from one to another often ends with the character colliding with a third platform. Typically, this will send the character into another danger, killing them instantly and forcing them back to the last check point. So not only do you have to find the exact pixel to leap from so other platforms don’t interfere with your jumps, you then have to deal with the timing of gunshots or enemy patters in order not to make contact with them upon landing. That wouldn’t be so bad if the game played a bit faster, but the character moves at a more leisurely and plotting pace. It’s almost like Mario being placed in Super Meat Boy.
Not helping matters is the fact that the game only saves upon completing a level. And I don’t just mean saves game progress, I mean it doesn’t save anything until you beat the tutorial. If you reconfigure the controls and the game crashes on you, you have to reconfigure them again upon restarting the game. And would you like to know how I found that out? The dev told Cathy and me over Twitter because we were complaining that the game wasn’t saving. That’s right folks! Important information about the game is not told to you in the game. Lack of information is another real issue Dispersio has.
Like I said earlier, there’s no in-game way to check the controls. I had to quit out a few times to learn how to actually play the fucking thing, and had to start from the beginning again. The checkpoints don’t stand out enough upon first glance and can easily be missed. So if you go in trying to play it safe you can end up playing long sections repeatedly before the game forces you to hit one to teach you what they are.
Checkpoint placement is also frustrating. The dev clearly knows that adding checkpoints after a hard section is good to do, but they tend to be in the same screen as the challenge you just beat. So you regularly have to go through a part of the previous screen to get back to the area were you died. I know that doesn’t sound too bad, but in practice it felt like needless busywork between deaths. And other times they’re so close together it’s like the dev is overcompensating for that fact. In one of the easiest rooms of the game there are four check points. Two at the top and two at the bottom, one set literally being on the same platform.
I used the phrase “novice level design” in my opening, and I really do think that’s the best way to sum up Dispersio. Hell, the game is the only thing on the developer’s Steam page, so I’m pretty sure this is his first game. It is painfully subpar, but it shows that the developer has some creative energy. That energy needs to be refined and worked on, but it’s there. I’m sure as shit not going to give the game any points for that, It looks like crap, sounds even worse and plays like ass and proves once again that “user reviews” are completely useless with its “positive” sitting on Steam. Dispersio is a total failure, but it is an interesting one. It’s Tommy Wiseau in indie game form.
I haven’t been posting as much as i would have liked too this week as i’ve been busy helping some friends with a massive undertaking: #IndieXmas. Just like we did back in Halloween we’ve been giving away tons of free indie games asking only that people give their honest opinions about them over social media. We’ve also been streaming a ton of games and interviews with developers over the last week. Today was even meant to be the last day but we’ve got so many codes left that the ringleader of this insanity, IndieGamerChick, will probably be giving out codes until the 31st! so if you want to git in on this go follow her on twitter @IndieGamerChick (which you should be doing already, she’s amazing). You should also follow my bud Nelson from the video @WritNelson as he’s been doing a bulk of the streams and interviews. And you can also follow me on twitter @LudophileWill. If you haven’t already, come join in the fun!
My good friend and Mentor Indie Gamer Chick is doing her annual Halloween Party. If you’re not already following her on WordPress or Twitter, go fix that now. Also, she’s asked me to stream the game Claire at 6 oclock PST. I’ve never heard of the game before, but it looks a lot like Lone Survior, which i liked a lot. If you’d like to come and hang out and watch me play some spooky games, feel free to follow do so at my twitch channel. And if you like this, feel free to tell me and i may try make this a more common part of my site.
Catherine Vice of Indie Gamer Chick terns 27 today and you should all go wish her a happy birthday. For the last five years she has been writing some of the best indie game related content and she’s super cool as well. As she’s a much better writer than i am with a much bigger following i’m sure this is going to be superfluous but i’m going to say it anyways: If you’re not following her, go do that. You wont regret it.
And to honor her Birthday wish, you should also go and support the Epilepsy Foundation. Finding a cure of Epilepsy is one of the things Catherine is super passionate about and you can help by donating HERE or by following the organization @EpilepsyFdn on twitter.
With that said, Happy Birthday Indie Gamer Chick, may the year be good to you, and here’s to another five of great content.