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April 2021

Redneck Ed: Astro Monster Show

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: 101XP
Developer: Rustic Fantastic
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2020


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PC Review - 'Redneck Ed: Astro Monster Show'

by Cody Medellin on March 22, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Redneck Ed: Astro Monster Show is a satirical genre mash-up, an arcade-style beat 'em up set in a crazy, hand-drawn world, where you play through an offbeat story with multiple endings.

The most important factor to a game's success is fun. The story can be terrible, but sometimes narratives aren't too important to the overall experience. The validity of some design decisions can be argued endlessly. A game's presentation can even regress to the days of large, flickering sprites and sharp tones that pass for sound effects. None of this matters if the actual gameplay experience brings joy to the one holding a controller or keyboard and mouse. Redneck Ed: Astro Monsters Show seems to forget this, despite some effort to make everything else work.

The premise behind the game is odd enough, but it works well. You play the role of Ed, a regular guy who runs a garage. While he's fixing up a car, a spaceship crashes into his residence and place of business. To make matters worse, a strange little girl comes over and rips off his face. Ed gives chase, hoping to teach the girl a lesson, when he is abducted by another alien ship and forced to star in a game show where he has to keep fighting and winning if he is to get his face back and return to Earth.

The core gameplay loop is simple. The ship that is now your home contains six floors, with the top floor housing the final boss. You work your way up from the first floor, but since each floor is locked away by stars, you need to participate in and win fights on each floor to gain enough stars to reach the next floor and repeat the process. Most of the fights are either one-on-one bouts against strong foes or arena-based fights against a small army of lesser enemies. Some break away from the formula by having rooms where you're running away from machines or trying to find an enemy in a maze. Each encounter also has three difficulty levels and a few challenges, such as achieving certain combo thresholds before winning or avoiding certain traps during a skirmish.

Completing the fights and challenges gives you stars and Likes, which can be spent on upgrading yourself with things like more health. The Likes can also be spent on consumables, such as a timer that freezes the action for five seconds or a burger that replenishes health during a fight. Some of the consumables can also unlock secrets on a floor. One of the more important things you can spend the Likes on are cards that either permanently upgrade you with new fighting moves or only take effect when equipped, such as creating more Likes whenever you hit enemies. Almost all of the cards can be upgraded if you're willing to spend the Likes on them.

The gameplay loop can work out well, but a myriad of things do their best to drag down the experience. The first thing is how the game's combat system is heavily balanced against you. Some of the bosses can deliver attacks that can kill you in as little as two hits, while the minor enemies can knock you out in fewer than 10, and some of the traps can be fatal enough to kill in one blow. By contrast, your basic attacks are weak, and even your special moves seem like a scratch to many enemies. Your moves can't interrupt combos, but the enemies can stop your attacks, while the lack of a brief invincibility window can be a pain in some boss fights. All of your attacks have a lot of animation frames that make them look pretty but add to the time before attacks can be delivered, making you vulnerable for quite a stretch of time.

The lengthy and near-ineffective attacks play into the second major complaint, which deals with your companion, Snot. There are a few battles where you need Snot to accompany you, and these are probably the toughest ones in the game, since they take on the properties of escort missions in other genres. Snot refuses to fight and walks into danger without trying to protect himself. Due to your low damage output, emerging from a fight with Snot barely clinging to life is a miracle, and Snot's death means that you automatically die, no matter how high your health level is. The game's infinite lives system means that retrying the fight is quick, but these skirmishes hardly feel worth it.

Finally, Redneck Ed leans too far into grinding before you feel like you've made progress. Most of the cards, consumables and upgrades are priced rather high, and the payouts for winning fights isn't that profitable, so you'll need to keep replaying them to get the necessary Likes for a small upgrade. That measly payout also applies to the stars for completing fights, which means that you'll be forced to replay missions to get anywhere. This happens very early on in the first floor, so it only sets up the player for a tedious time if they want to see the game to its conclusion.

Try as it might, the presentation doesn't work. On the sound front, the music is fine, and it is surprising that most of the songs have lyrics. However, either the volume for the music is way too loud or the game lacks sound effects during fights, contributing heavily to the idea that your moves lack substance. It also doesn't help that there are no voices in the game, which makes some of the jokes fall even flatter. Once you ignore the impact that the extended animations have on the skirmishes, you'll find them to be expressive. Combined with the bright colors and character designs, the game does a good job of looking like an animated online series. However, the game suffers from massive blurring in motion that isn't mitigated with a high refresh monitor, so running from one place to another results in a smeared mess on-screen.

The concept behind Redneck Ed: Astro Monsters Show is fine. Going through battle after battle in a galactic game show is a workable premise, and it's only been done a few times before. However, from the dated references and the half-baked presentation to the cheap deaths and lackluster combat, it is difficult to stick with the game after a few levels, since it game does its best to drain any semblance of fun from the experience. Unless you have the patience and willingness to deal with the lack of polish, pass on this one.

Score: 4.5/10

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