The Weaponographist may look simple, but its design provides a fast-paced stream of non-stop action, where you’ll have to change your approach depending on what weapon you pick up. While it shares some similarities to Binding of Isaac, this game sets itself apart with its emphasis on constant assaults and ever-changing strategy, but also fails to match BoI’s level of polish and exploration. The game begs for some kind of narrative structure, character customization and a more complex stage design.
WHAT WE LIKED
º Constantly having to change tactics makes for a fun experience.
º The weird assortment of characters provides some humor.
º Combo system creates tension and a need to be on the offense.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The absence of any story outside of the opening cutscene.
º Arenas are boring, and lack any environmental challenge.
º Some of the game’s weapons are toxic to the action.
The Weaponographist is a game that does what its awkwardly pronounced name suggests it does; provides you with an arsenal of weapons with different fighting styles, and tons of enemies to use them on. I don’t think the game tries to be more than that, so I figured I would lay that out right from the get go. I don’t want to waste too much time explaining things outside of what’s actually important; the gameplay. However, since the developer did take some time to set things up, I figure I can too.
Your tale begins travelling through a dark forest, where you play Doug McGrave, an arrogant and selfish adventurer. Your reputation precedes you when you’re asked to help a poor village, but are cursed by one of its citizens when you refuse help due to their shortage of funds. Stripped of your power, you’re told that in order to gain all your strength and weaponry back, you must help the people by freeing their demon-infested village; Hellside.
Coming into this game, you shouldn’t expect more than a solitary screen that makes up this whole town. This game treats everything outside of combat as a glorified menu, with characters who are only there to upgrade your skills, weapon abilities, magic strength and chests you can unlock that’ll randomly appear on the battle field. There’s really no need to invest time in the characters or the town, because the developer didn’t either. I won’t get to bashing this too much, but this game would’ve been all the more richer with some quick cutscenes, a few narrative twists; something to help build my desire to save the town and its inhabitants.
So, let’s not focus on what the game isn’t, and focus on what is it; a Smash TV inspired action game that’s fun to hop into and play. The game challenges you by throwing a multitude of weapons at you, and forces you to change your strategy when the weapon you’re using breaks after only some slight use. Jumping from a Bow and Arrow to a Whip forces you to change from ranged attacks to up close and personal. This design encourages you to get comfortable with each weapon, otherwise you’ll end up dead pretty quickly. Being the core idea of the game, it does achieve this challenge pretty well, each weapon having particular pros and cons.
Attacking is similar to The Binding of Isaac, with your character being able to attack in each direction. As you take out your enemies, you also collect Demon Goop to upgrade your weaponry and magic when you die and return to town. Not only do you have your main weapon, but you also have a superpowered magical attack you can hold on to; its powers ranging from a protective ring of fire, a supersonic tuba and a screaming ghost head.
The other challenge is that you have to constantly be attacking the enemy; as you battle, you continue racking up a combo meter at the bottom right of the screen. After killing an enemy, it adds a little to it, but then starts slowly draining away until you take out another creature. Building the combo isn’t hard, where most will get it well above 100 without even noticing, however the challenge lies in keeping it going. Why is that important? Because of the curse; if you’re not killing monsters, you’ll get weaker. One moment of retrieving a much needed heart, or rushing to get that weapon you’d prefer and you’re suddenly on your heels about to lose all that extra power and experience you’ve built up for the upcoming boss fight. Needless to say, this keeps you on your toes, constantly running headlong into a wild assortment of enemies with an ever changing strategy of attack.
One thing you may notice is how insane the enemy selection is. Having this weird assortment of weapon choices require a even more bizarre group of out of place characters, but I think that adds to the enjoyment a little. Seeing a hockey-masked psychopath with a chainsaw in a game about a knight trying to remove a curse will bring a few chuckles. I wanted to keep pushing on, just to see what out of place character would show up next.
Despite the concept working well, the game does have it fair share of missed opportunities. The game could’ve been cranked up a few more notches in terms of overall speed. In the earlier stages especially, it’ll sometimes feel like you’re running through molasses instead of sprinting around to slay your enemies. Leveling up only seems to affect the character’s attack power, and there’s only one upgrade to your character’s movement in town. It would’ve been nice to adjust some of my character’s stats, so I didn’t feel like I was stuck with a slow lumbering character.
I also had a few weapons in the game that I felt brought down the experience for me completely. Normally I wouldn’t gripe about something so seemingly small, but in a game based around the idea- I feel I’m okay in pointing out that some of the weapons are not user friendly. One in particular is the flail, which is unbelievably awful. Unlike the whip or razor yo-yo, you don’t control it; it endlessly spins over your head, turning it essentially into a orb that rotates around you. You have to time your movements so the orb hits your enemy after it takes two seconds to spin back around. When you’re surrounded, and you’ve got bullets flying at you from every direction, you will curse this design over the lack of any control you have over it. One boss battle in particular forces you to use this weapon, as the enemies pile on top of you- making the already difficult boss encounter even harder.
And that leads me to my biggest problem with the game- its arena. Even though you’re adventuring into this dungeon, with an ever changing ‘path’, the rooms are always the same. Sure, there may occasionally be a statue placed in the corner of it, but with one hit it’s gone. It’s a poor attempt to add variety to the game’s boring stages. Where are the pitfalls, or electrified whatsits; where’s my environmental challenges? Then, at the end of each stage, one door opens, leading you to a similarly looking room to rinse and repeat. If you’re not even going to offer me a choice, why even have me move into another room if there’s nothing different between the two? This is the biggest opportunity wasted in my opinion, and I’m surprised at the absence of enthusiasm given when the developer just randomly plops a broken table in the middle of a room and calls it a day.
Despite these flaws, this is can be a very addictive game. Hopping in and going a quick round makes the game very accessible to the casual gamer who’s looking for some retro arcade gameplay. Those who are seeking a little more substance may want to look elsewhere however, because outside of the Hardcore Mode, there’s very little to keep you coming back for more. The game is available April 29th for $10 on Steam.
Genre: Action, Indie, RPG
Release Date: April 29th, 2015
Version Reviewed: Mac