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A Fading Melody (Xbox Indie)

#1 Survivor Charlie   Paragon of Virtue CAGiversary!   859 Posts   Joined 17.1 Years Ago  

Survivor Charlie

Posted 11 September 2010 - 10:07 PM

The Way Too Indie Review of A Fading Melody
by Charlie Reneke

A Fading Melody
240 Microsoft Points ($3)
3/20/2009 by Anchorcast

A Fading Melody is one of those high-concept but low-tech platformers that seem to crop up from time to time on various flash-based gaming websites. The idea here is that you play as the title girl Melody, a young woman who is currently in a coma that was possibly induced by her shady, alcoholic husband. Trapped in a dream-like state, you have to platform your way across levels, hopping and bopping the various enemies to keep her memory from fading away. The storyline and the gameplay could not be any more disconnected, as the tortured soul metaphor lends itself better to something like a point-and-click adventure and not a generic platformer.

Before I start to trash the busted gameplay, and believe me, after a couple hours of this shit I've been dying to do it, I'll get the positive comments out of the way first. Whoever the dude is behind this game did well on creating a unique atmosphere. Fading Melody's minimalist approach to graphics, sound, and music works. The juxtaposition between the increasingly dark storyline that is told in brief snippets of text between levels and the bright silhouette characters accompanied by beautiful piano music creates a strange sense of numbing bliss that I would have enjoyed a lot more if the game itself wasn't terrible.

Having said all that, A Fading Melody is one of the worst platformers on the Indie marketplace. Every control mechanic is busted to some degree. The movement feels slippery and unrefined, and at times a little glitchy. Most of the enemies are disposed of by jumping on their head or rolling into them, but collision detection is off and it seemed like even if an enemy was moving away from me, the act of simply jumping was enough to register me bumping in to it, causing me to die. The button mapping is a pain in the ass as well. The dash button is assigned to the X button but so is the ability to roll. Thus you must get a running start before you roll into enemies to kill them, and often they are placed on a platform so small that a successful attack is impossible.

The jumping physics are equally broken. Everything feels too loose and floaty, and sticking a landing on a narrow platform is next to impossible. A double jump is added later which only cocks up everything worse. Using it works in the sense that you momentarily launch up slightly higher, but it comes with the added bonus that once you start to fall it feels like sandbags have been tied to your feet. Once you have the double jump, you can also use it without jumping first. If you walk off a ledge, you can knock yourself slightly back upwards, but this feature is rarely useful. In fact, once it was added I started to Fuck up a lot more because instead of registering my leaps from narrow ledges as a jump, it registered them as a fall.

And then there's the level designs. The people at Anchorcast games seem like the type of people that fell in love with those Super Mario Bros. ROM hacks that create next to impossible jumping scenarios, because Fading Melody is basically nothing but a series of those. Some of these jumps would be tricky in a game that had polished, accurate, responsive play control. Here, with the fractured, floaty, fucked up physics and the occasional landing glitch that causes your character to skate off a moving platform and to their doom, it makes me think there's a strong possibility that Anchorcast practices sadomasochism. This isn't a game that playfully kicks your ass like PLATFORMANCE Castle Pain or Limbo. This is a game so devoid of creativity in terms of play mechanics or level design that the only solution the designers could come up with was to add a series of impossible jumps that seem to repeat over and over again. Only instead of just making the jump, you might have to make the jump next to a creature and half the time it will register as you dying even if you don't touch the damn thing. You actually can't ignore the baddies for too long because the longer you go between killing them, the darker the screen gets. Every time you kill one the screen gets brighter, then begins to fade out again. This really adds nothing to the value of the game because if the screen goes all dark you simply die and revert back to the last checkpoint you hit. You have unlimited lives and that feature is the only thing that kept me playing to the end to see how the storyline of Melody played out, which was actually somewhat satisfying, but not at all worth the effort getting there.

Rating: DUD. It's really a shame that the guy(s?) behind A Fading Melody got the atmosphere so right and then totally phoned in the gameplay. It's unfinished, unpolished, and not ready for the marketplace. At $3 it feels overpriced next to games that actually feel like some effort was made after the ground work was laid, even if they're not as high in concept. It's one of those games that looked good in the screen shots but felt like the programmers didn't have the patience to fine tune it before dumping its undeveloped embryo onto the market. A Fading Melody is a complete failure as a video game in every possible mechanical way, and any hopes of the team behind it building a career out of it should easily be rendered a fading memory.

Thanks to Chris for Editing.