July 18, 2018

Shadow Brain - Ranking

Story & World

Building a world from the limited perspective of a first-person dungeon crawler is a tall order to fill, so I'm always impressed whenever a developer can make it feel... well, not just like a dungeon crawler.  Each city is unique in look and theme, with lots of interesting little encounters.  My being under-leveled for most of the game is evidence of just how eager I was to explore the next area.  It's rare the game where I don't want to take a brief break and grind me out some additional exp/megacreds (although I would be forced to do a lot of grinding near the end).  While the plot of shy teenager turned psychopathic killer turned cybernetic psychopathic killer may be old as time itself, I found myself completely enthralled with Jun all chromed-up to the exclusion of all the other sub-plots.  I didn't even mention his digital girlfriend who helped from time to time or the cross-dressing dude who wanted to make it with Jun big time.  A cyberman has no such weaknesses of the flesh!  Indeed, that's the whole reason to cybs up in the first place (unlike a manchine, which is still very much ruled by his peener, albeit a digital one).  18/20

Character Development

What can be said other than... Best.  Character.  Development.  Ever.  Okay, so this category is more for statistical development rather than conceptual, but I'm still going to sneak an extra point in here (don't tell myself).  While the basic set of stats just increased statically, the range of equips was much more impressive.  Three different weapon types, a defensive shield, and plenty of consumables ensured plenty of choices in selecting Jun's arsenal (did I mention that at one point, Jun was tranqing peeps and then finishing them off with a freakin' chainsaw?... so badass).  There's even special programs that can steal an enemy's energy, seal their special attacks, or "control" them (I never actually got the control one to succeed).  15/20

Combat & Monsters

Once one knows what weapon is effective against any particular enemy, combat becomes the standard button smasher (and a lot of times even the default weapon is good enough).  No need to write anything down, as memorization will be automatic due to SB being positively filthy with encounters.  Enemies start spawning randomly around the city as soon as it is entered, so the more one explores, the bloodier one gets.  Spawning can happen right in front of Jun after defeating/fleeing an enemy, which can get kind of annoying when it's three or four times in a row.  Monsters themselves don't employ much in the way of tactics, only a few are able to sleep or poison Jun (and the poison is so weak it's hardly worth a mention).  9/20

Graphics & Sound

The graphics range from average to slightly above average, but at least there isn't too much repetition from city to city.  There is the occasional perspective problem on some NPCs where they look a lot taller than they should, often appearing too big for the room they're in.  Monster design is varied and crosses many genres; each new area was a joy to discover what denizens lurked within.

Music was acceptable in most areas, the only standout track being the minimalist tune in the final digital dungeon.  Sound effect were somewhat lacking, as I could have done with more robust pew-pew-pews and zibbity-zaps.  8/20

Gameplay

I found the pacing of Shadow Brain to be somewhat slow, but this may stick out because I had to do piles of grinding at the end instead of on each level.  Harnessing the power of my quad-core and utilizing cutting-edge algorithms, I've just now calculated that even if all the grinding was distributed evenly through all levels, there'd still be a lot of grinding, so I'm still right.  On the other hand, SB is very generous with distributing its megacreds, which balances both the high-priced tech and high death rate (half MC).  With my high number of deaths, I'm sure I ended up losing at least half my total take by the end.  The little diversions sprinkled throughout the game are well appreciated, except for paddle pole, which can eat all the bags of dicks.  10/20

Final Ranking:  60/100