Stick to the Shadows
The Cyberpunk aesthetic has been growing in popularity since 1982 with the genre defining release of Blade Runner. The word was coined by author Bruce Bethke in 1980 when he wrote a short story by the same name. In 1984, the term would gain greater use with William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer. Today the genre is positively booming across almost every medium. This, of course, includes the world of Other Cyberpunk Games.
Developed by Dreamplay Games Website, Undestroyed: Shadow ARPG is a title with deep roots in science fiction generally, and cyberpunk specifically. Directly evoking the spirits of Nintendo’s Metroid and Capcom’s Strider, it strives to emulate them both while adding a stylistic flair of its own.
Side-Scrolling Cyberpunk Action
From a gameplay perspective, Undestroyed is a near carbon copy of the Strider series, relying greatly on the use of speedy side-scrolling, button mashing, and upgrade choices. Thankfully the game includes a pause feature, something speed-centric games sometimes exclude to make things more “intense.” It also includes detailed and accurate Metroid style maps, which is very helpful when navigating the stages as they begin to increase in size and maze-like layout.
Weapons are mostly melee based, and range in their reach and attack power. Unfortunately, some weapons (like the wall-clipping long-spear) are objectively better than others, and since weapons are randomly assigned when you log in, it can arbitrarily make your gameplay experience change in difficulty.
Enemies are pretty flimsy, though they do deal relatively decent damage. Environmental hazards are much more dangerous and will do far more to wear down your health. This is also largely how the game creates its difficulty. No individual enemy is really a danger, but dozens of them over the course of connected stages and a non-regenerating health bar kills you by attrition a lot faster than you’d think. Bosses are visually interesting but rarely a challenge. Most of them have a very exploitable blind spot that will only take you a minute or two to find.
Style is Everything
Undestroyed is choked full of Cyberpunk imagery and themes but takes its own liberties by adding a neo-noir flare throughout. Punctuating the “Shadow” part of its name, Undestroyed makes a point of shrouding all the game’s sprites in near-total darkness. Most entities in the game are pitch black except for neon eyes, weapons, and other circuity apparatuses. While this is interesting at first, it does start to wear on you over time when you realize that what was initially an intriguing style-choice turns into a lack of things to see.
Fortunately, stages have a nice visual variety and level backgrounds are probably one of the nicest parts of the game. More than anything they remind one of Neo-Tokyo from the 1988 release of Akira. You’ll need the snazzy visuals too since this game’s artistic prowess is needlessly kneecapped by a lack of a soundtrack; something truly shameful when making flashy digital music loops is easier than ever.
With all that said, Undestroyed: Shadow ARPG is a great example of how a game can have good raw ingredients and never be more than the sum of its parts. Worse, while the game might be forgiven as a “noble failure” in replicating the splendor of its influences, it is lamentably plagued by a host of other problems.
For one thing, there is a supreme lack of explanation in Undestroyed. This regrettably includes the essentially nonexistent story. While the controls are simple enough to grasp, the panoply of currencies, base upgrades, and other in-game choices are left to pure guesswork.
In regard to upgrades, the use of ads here is particularly obnoxious. To get new abilities requires watching an advertisement around 1 minute in length. Watching ads is also built into the structure of the game since it’s part of respawning and gaining resources.
Lastly, the difficulty in Undestroyed is an absolute mess. Ranging from yawn-inducingly easy to challenges reminiscent of a quarter-guzzling arcade machine, it leaves you feeling either frustrated or unfulfilled. This is largely due to the strange, almost schizophrenic way the game introduces mechanics and then invalidates them. As an example, the home base or hub is enjoyably expansive and fun to run through. This fun is then rudely annulled by the inclusion of a teleport system to hop you from room to room. Why have a base level then? Make rooms selectable tabs in an interface or make it a fully functional hub level.
Undestroyed: Shadow ARPG is a mixed bag that will be better or worse depending on what you’re looking for. If you want a free and flashy button-masher to kill some time at the DMV or the airport, then this will certainly do the trick. You’ll like it even more if you’re a fan of robots and mid 2000s flash games. If on the other hand you were hoping for an experience deep enough to have experiential value then you’re better off playing the games Undestroyed is based on.
Is it Hardcore?
With the right mindset
Undestroyed: Shadow ARPG clothes itself in a robe of admittedly stylish though ultimately superficial elements that will leave casual players pleased and fans of the games it imitates unsatisfied.