This review for Yars' Revenge is going to be a little shorter than usual. This is because I didn't get to see very much of this game. Have I been shirking my duties? Hardly. However, it's hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a game that is this tough to actually play.
I'll back up a bit and start from the beginning. Yars' Revenge is a reboot/re-imagination of an Atari 2600 game of the same name. In that game, one plays as a small insect (the titular "Yar") fighting against an enemy known as the "Qotile," which is also protected by a large energy shield. The rules appear simple enough, even to the uninitiated: Avoid the Qotile's attacks, destroy the shielding and the Qotile within, and repeat until all lives are lost. In actuality, it's a game sporting a surprising amount of depth.
At first, the original Yars' Revenge appears to be a standard "shoot the ship's core" scenario, but testing the rules shows that the best way to play it (as well as the only way to beat levels) is by forgoing the player's built-in gun, ramming the actual player character against the enemy and its shielding, allowing for easier destruction of said shielding, and the arming of the "Zorlon Cannon" required to destroy the Qotile. From there, it's all about improving high scores through speedier actions, making it a surprisingly satisfying and addicting game.
This new Yars' Revenge has little to do with any of those gameplay concepts. It is, instead, an on-rails shooting game. It's a very pretty on-rails shooter as well, one which reimagines the game universe with vibrant color, psychedelic art direction and futuristic architecture. The soundtrack is now pulsing techno, and the Yar you control has also been suitably reimagined as a humanoid female in insectoid power armor. After having been brainwashed by the Qotile, she comes to her senses and once again aims to take them down.
Thus the stage is set, and so far, we have the makings of a decent and very respectable — if not completely stand-out — on-rails shooting game. There's nothing wrong with this at all, unless ... well, here's where we get to the game's biggest and completely destructive problem:
The controls cause physical pain.
I cannot put it any more nicely than that. I honestly tried. The control scheme thoroughly baffled me — that is, until I realized just what was off-putting about them. The game calls for the player to independently control his character and crosshairs via twin thumbsticks. This isn't the first time such a scheme has appeared — Sin & Punishment: Star Successor uses close to the same scheme if you're using the Classic or GameCube controllers. However, the best way to play that game is with the Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo, where you're allowed to actually point where you wish to shoot, while moving the player character with just one analog stick.
More than half of all rail shooters in existence allow the player and crosshairs to be bound together for movement, or provide some sort of solution where the player has to only keep track of one thing at a time while he concentrates on blasting baddies. Yars' Revenge supplies no such option, and is not on the Wii; therefore, anyone who isn't accustomed to the single style of control mechanics that this offers is simply out of luck. Prepare to move your character one way, trying to maneuver past bullets, only to realize you're firing in completely the wrong direction! As you try to compensate by moving your crosshairs to fire at targets, you realize you're getting hit ... and so the dance repeats ad infinitum.
At best, one feels restrained by constantly having to babysit the character while trying to precisely shoot enemies; at worst, Yars' Revenge is an excellent exercise in rendering oneself cross-eyed, to the point where its depth (which comes from power-ups, lock-on projectiles, chargeable shots and a nice combo-kill system) are all but forgotten in the name the eyestrain inherent from simply trying to get a handle on your character. While the presented control scheme does admittedly allow for a high degree of fine control, it should have presented as an "advanced" option rather than mandatory because of its highly disorienting nature. Even better: Why not allow the player to switch between both play styles on the fly?
Holding back choices from the player does nothing but destroy a game's accessibility, and this is a token case. In the end, what we have with Yars' Revenge is a game with a genuinely novel and interesting aesthetic, but the lack of control concessions makes it something that's not worth picking up — that is, without trying the demo and making sure they're absolutely comfortable with how the game controls. Odds are that they won't be.
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