Review by Deacon Swain

"Either frustrating, or enjoyable."

Wow. Just wow. I came into this game thinking it would be what Castlevania was, just with an upped level of gore and a tremendous emphasis on action. Wow, I am disappointed. Let me get onto the review before I start off on an uncontrolled rant.

Graphics: 6/10
Pros
- Your blade has a cool effect.
- High detail models, great cutscenes.
- The blood looks good, and damn, there is alot of it.
- You can have alot of enemies on screen without much lag...
- Most bosses look awesome.
Cons
- ...Until you kill something.
- Framerate drops to horrid levels in larger rooms.
- There's almost too much blood.
- Some of the blade's transforms look pretty dumb.
- Palette swapped enemies in the third stage? Come on!
- Some of the bosses look terrifying, but are quite... well, pathetic.

Those sum it up. The game looks great in stills, and in lighter combat... but after the first couple sections, when the enemies start coming in larger groups, combat becomes more and more difficult because the game can't handle thousands of gallons of blood being sprayed from three or four decapitated foes. This would hardly be a problem if the game didn't throw so many foes at you at a time. The appearance of your enemies is also rather monotone... a couple levels in, you'll start seeing the same enemies in different shades, and half the enemies are startlingly similar to the enemies you meet in the first stage.

The bosses are particularily impressive. Aside from the one most frustrating encounter, almost all of them are large, powerful, and quite frankly damn cool. However, I really wish half of them were as dangerous / challenging as they appeared. The fact they spray massive amounts of blood, and tend to create massive framerate problems, makes the fights harder then they have to. I dare to say this game would be a breeze if it weren't for the fact everything dropped to two frames per second in the middle of each fight.

The 'blood', or 'liquid fluid' as the game calls it, is impressive, to say the least. I've never seen so much blood on the screen at once, and I didn't even think it was possible for a 'human' body to hold 1500 gallons of blood. However, some enemies spew way too much blood to be cool, or neat. In fact, when you start killing mites that spew more blood then your more humanoid forms, the blood tends to lose its luster. The ability to change blood's color is nice, though on the Mixed settings I can see why there is an epileptic warning on the manual and in the intro video.

The videos in the game are well done. In fact, I'd say they are amazing. The only real problem is that they are too short, and there's not enough (20 videos, 5 of which are in the intro). The only thing I disliked was the main video... we don't need to see humans get killed in so many different ways, and having a little kid morph into a monster and rip his savior apart is just a tad bit unnecassary, if anything. Thankfully, that's the only major blood loss in the videos, and the only part that actually got my stomach turning.

Sound / Audio: 3/10
Pros
- Uhm. Good voice acting.
- Sounds are cool...
Cons
- ...until you've heard them 50 times over.
- The music is mind numbing, and lacks variety.
- The creatures sound like Chipmunks.

The voice acting in this game is top notch. It isn't terribly cheesy, like most other games, but on the other hand, it isn't perfect either. The voices match the characters at least, and the lip synching job is better then most games.

The sounds in the game are cool. The blood spraying, the sword swinging, all sounds very cool and adds to the style of the game... until you realize that the sword sounds the exact same regardless of the move executed, the monsters all make the same noises, and every new monster you meet, regardless of how huge or intimidating it is, sounds like a damn Chipmunk that's been trapped watching the Exorcist for five years.

The music, is by far, the worst part. I turned it off right around the Sewers, I could NOT stand it. Each area, once you're past the 'introduction stages', has the same music for every room. And these areas are quite large, so this gets very annoying very fast. Even in one listen, the music puts me off completely. If anything, it contradicts the mood and theme the rest of the game tries so hard to build.

Difficulty: 2/10
Pros
- Hack'n'slash types will have a riot.
- Combo system is original.
- Boss fights are challenging, but not impossible.
Cons
- Hack'n'slash types will lose their patience with the jumping sections.
- Not enough Combos to be built, makes it into a memory game.
- Most boss fights rely on finding one combo, and repeating it over and over.

The game is either ludicrously difficult, or really easy. It depends on what kind of player you are... Vets of Castlevania will have a blast, newbies will begin to lose hair after prolonged playing.

I am a Hacker, I love fighting. I loved the fighting in this game up until the 'third' boss fight, where you have to protect someone from respawning enemies for some period of time... However, the AI in this game is screwed. Immensely. Not the enemy AI, it works quite well, but your character and your companion's AI. You have an abililty called Capture, where you throw your sword like a whip and reel an enemy in. Pressing a button at the right time delivers an instant kill to the reeling enemy... The Capture, unless you hold down the button, seems to have a mind of its own, and it ALWAYS picks the wrong target. I didn't really notice it until this fight.

The enemies continually hound your ally. You need to use the Capture to pull them away, but if you take too long holding down the button so you can pick your target, she will die. This is where the problem comes... she runs INTO the enemies. If you do not target them (there's a three-second delay until the crosshair appears) the Capture will often pull her in, and you rarely see the target until you've pressed that insta-kill button... and even if you miss the insta-kill, it only takes two or three accidental swings to put her down totally by accident. This problem is not confined to this fight, often I would use Capture to grab a healthy and highly dangerous foe, only to end up pulling a decapitated (Yes, enemies can function without heads), armless and legless torso that ends up wasting my time as the dangerous foe gives me a new butt hole. This happened all too often in the later stages.

The later stages are frustrating as well. The game gives you no clues as to defeating newer enemies, and at one point, it tells you to kill some of these enemies... hell, they don't even give the enemies unique names, they are all referred to as 'Orgamechs'. In my first playthrough, I thought half of the enemies were invincible until I realized I had to memorize a certain combo that would crack their defences. One particular stage is incredibly frustrating because it has you fight multitudes upon multitudes of tiny enemies that like to latch onto you and blow up... and you have to kill them all while running around humanoid Orgamechs and laser firing flowers, AND a gigantic crane that moves as fast as you do, and can kill you in one hit. Sounds fun? That's the third stage buddy.

The later stages also introduce jumping puzzles. YAY! Some of you say. NAY! I say. Castlevania had fun jumping puzzles... these are NOT fun puzzles. In the third stage, you are given a single health pick up after the previously mentioned fight-that-was-almost-impossible. With this one health pick up (giving you roughly a quarter of a bar if you fare as well as I do), you must jump over a lava pit, hoping blocks fall in the right places, duel powerful Orgamechs on a conveyor built with a giant crusher at one end, then power up four reactors which are all composed of jumping puzzles populated with hazardous lightning bolts that can kill you in a second. This, I can assure, was not fun. It would help if you could control your character's jumps, but once they are air borne, they are out of your control. This made the lava puzzle especially frustrating... The hero tends to jump over blocks regardless of how much pressure you put on the control stick. It is even worse when the frame rate problem rears its ugly head in the reactors.

The camera is even worse. Most game cameras have fast moving cameras, if you want to fix the camera in those, it normally only takes a second or two... Not in Nanobreaker. In this, it takes a good ten seconds, ten seconds you can NOT spare, considering you are almost constantly under attack. Half the time I fought blind, using the handy radar as my eyes.

The fighting, once you get past the neat Combo building, is boring. For the first four levels, I used two techniques: Square, Triangle, Square, and Circle, Triangle. One move to kill everyone in a circle, another to kill all the long distance foes. Efficent... but boring. It doesn't help that all the high level combos and transformations require long button sequences that tend to knock away most enemies, thus nullifying the point of swing a giant scythe around you, or lunging towards an enemy with a spear, even though the last hit knocked it fifty feet away. The combos only really come into play in boss battles, and boss battles become, more or less, guess-and-check games.

Story: 3/10
Pros
- It ain't totally cliche.
- It has a neat premise.
- It works.
Cons
- You have no idea what the hell is going on.
- It takes too long for the most basic things to be explained.
- Leaves gaping holes even in the first couple levels.

Don't worry... this contains no spoilers, unless you aren't going to bother playing the first two levels. In which case, you probably shouldn't be reading this review.

The story is all explained in the first five minutes of the intro videos... An island made by the US Government in 2001 (WTF?) built to research nanomachines, has experienced a computer malfunction. The nanomachines revolt, turning their hosts into Orgamechs, steel-and-flesh beasts that are somehow totally invulnerable to ballistic weapons, and reproduce using iron found in just about everything. Which brings up the most interesting point... At the start of the game, you are dropped off on a steel bridge. A suspension bridge. Which is absolutely gigantic. Sweet mother of god, these Orgamechs must be IDIOTS to not realize they were sitting on a holy grail of iron that would pretty much allow them to kill the hero in the first five seconds of the game. Of course, that wouldn't be very fun, would it? It would help if the cities looked appropriately metal-deprived, but they aren't... in fact, it looks like the Orgamechs trashed everything that wasn't made of metal. You pass by ruined cars, ruined military vehicles, a capsized boat, gigantic skyscrapers, a nuclear power plant... Wow, they really are dumb.

The other glaring weakness in the story... you dive in, without a single idea what the hell is with all the characters. One character, I assume, is a 'cyborg militant' that went berserk, killing 'tens of thousands of woman and children indiscriminately' seven years ago. Somehow, this did not get him executed and he's back to... get this, save the day. Yes, you are a psychopath that murdered thousands and is suddenly expected to save billions. Right. And when you arrive, the second boss you fight is none other then... your second-in-command! Wow, you must've been REALLY nice, though according to the manual he was willingly your second-in-command was the most powerful of all the 'cyborg militants'. Maybe these massive holes are resolved somewhere... I don't know, because I quit playing after the reactor jumping puzzle.

Overall: 4/10
Pros
- The combat, when lag free, is fun.
- The story will give you something to think about for weeks on end.
Cons
- The combat becomes repetitive and laggy.
- The jumping puzzles are Satan's own creation.
- The story is not philosophical or deep, its just damn confusing.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 06/30/05


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