Concursion Review

Indie developer Puuba Games may have created a title worlds apart from any other with its latest PC release, Concursion. Five worlds apart to be exact, as this “multigenre” game does its best to keep players on their toes with five different heroes who will do their best to, well, to do what? That’s right… save the princess, of course.

So the storyline is one we’ve seen more times than there are Madden releases, but the point of Concursion isn’t an engaging plot that will keep you guessing about what’s next, but the intertwining forms of gameplay that propels your curiosity to the game’s finale. That is, if the art style and clunky controls don’t chase you off first. More on that later, though.

In Concursion, players will take control of a hero who assumes multiple identities in order to track down and save a princess from the lizard king, Biganbad. The different heroes include a boy with a horned helmet in a Mario-esque world; a masked ninja in a world in the same vein as Ninja Gaiden; a space pilot in a Defender-like universe; a hero in a Pac-Man setting; and finally, a rocket-pack hero whose only form of travel is performed in midair. These are all extremely familiar game styles to most people, but the magic of this title comes from the combination of these worlds; not the standalone titles they represent.

Waka Waka Waka!

For example, during one of the game’s levels, a space rift will float in the air and lead to one of Concursion’s gem collectibles. In order to obtain the gem, the horned boy must do a dash jump into the rift, which turns him into the ninja. For this brief period of time, the boy will seamlessly transform into the ninja and be granted the ninja’s abilities. Namely, the midair jump which will give him enough height to grab the crystal. It’s problem solving like this that will have players wanting to conquer puzzle after puzzle, as it is both very engaging and equally as rewarding. This is nice as it will give the most avid gamers a title that will feel unlike anything they’ve played before, even though, at its core, the gameplay mechanics are created using familiar concepts.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few aspects Concursion does well. As you can tell from the screenshots, this title isn’t the prettiest out there. Not even close as a matter of fact. The animation is akin to a flash game from the early 2000’s and the colors don’t help to create a specific feel for the environment. It was at least a change from the pixelated pieces we see from many indie developers, but it wasn’t a successful change. From beginning to end, the visuals leave a bad taste in players’ mouths and have them begging for characters and levels with more personality; something the game’s dialogue does manage to achieve with its use of playful banter and tongue-in-cheek humor.

While Concursion does borrow elements from many well-known titles, it does innocently poke fun at some of video games’ most recognizable franchises. One boss fight has the player battling a team of warriors consisting of a black mage, a white mage and a warrior. The three fight on a turn-based system while the hero is free to walk up and damage them whenever he’s able to. This seems to be a smart jab at the impracticality of waiting one’s turn to attack an enemy, a trait the beloved Final Fantasy series has become well known for. These little quirks keep the game laid back and fun; a nice way to take attention away from Concursion’s lacklustre art direction.

This has to be my favorite fight in the game.

Another plus for the game is the soundtrack. It might not be the biggest accomplishment, but it manages to add to the already-fun feel of the dialogue while setting a distinct tone for each hero and the world they inhabit. One level might use a piano and high-pitched instruments to create a whimsical feel, but when the hero transforms the same tune might be played with a guitar and drums to convey a sense of urgency. It’s a unique choice and lends itself well to the constant genre switching the game is built around.

However, although the change from each hero is a fluid process, the controls for each genre are anything but. It seems that the visuals aren’t the only aspect of the game that is taken directly from the long-forgotten flash games of old. The way the game controls also leaves much to be desired as running, jumping, flying and more all feel just a little too sensitive. This presents an unnecessary challenge that many will write off as a programming problem rather than one of true difficulty. A small issue, but one that becomes more and more frustrating as the game progresses. The ability to use a third party controller is a nice option for those of us more used to console gaming (that’s me!), and requires no set up on the part of the player.

As per gaming tradition, spikes kill the hero in one hit!

As a whole, this game does a great job of combining genres and their different methods of play, which appears to be the main goal of this title. It’s a great accomplishment and will hopefully inspire more developers to try their hand at something similar. But the problem doesn’t come from the seemingly difficult task of uniting multiple games into one, but rather the small details that create Concursion. The bland story (with a somewhat interesting conclusion), the spotty controls and the uninspired art take too much away from the overall experience. There’s a decent amount of content to obtain, an online mode that will have gamers racing for the best stage times and a fairly long story, but few people will want to invest that much time into a title that could have been so much better with a few minor improvements.

It’s a charming title that leaves me wanting more from Puuba Games; if only they had put more time into the aspects of Concursion that desperately needed improvement. I found myself intrigued with the gameplay enough to venture forward but bothered with the art style and controls to the point where I constantly questioned why.

This space/time bending title gets a six out of ten and leaves me hopeful for the future of multigenre games.

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