Archives by Day

June 2024

Soda Crisis

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: bilibili
Developer: Team Soda
Release Date: May 24, 2022


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Soda Crisis'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 17, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Soda Crisis is a fast-paced, side-scrolling shooter game where you play a mysterious character of unknown origin, equipped with advanced high-tech gears and fierce combating skills -- definitely the chosen one for this rescue mission!

Super Metroid had a memorable start for its protagonist Samus Aran. When you first assume control of her, she has her full arsenal and blasts through tunnels with ease. When she meets the big boss, she is stripped of her powers, so you're forced to earn everything back. That's been a template that's worked fine for the Metroidvania subset of adventure games, but it hasn't been applied to any other genre — until Soda Crisis.

The action game from Team Soda starts off in a very similar fashion. As an experimental soldier, you begin with your full arsenal and a bevy of moves. It respects classic shooter design by giving you unlimited bullets with no reload necessary. You can shoot in eight directions (four cardinal, four ordinal), and while there is an option to use free aiming to get a full 360 degrees of shooting, it feels awkward enough that you'll likely stick with the classic method. You have a dodge move, and doing it perfectly against enemy fire affords you the opportunity to pull off counters with deadly accuracy and strength. You can slide up and down walls, run across some walls, and you even have a grappling hook to latch on to walls and poles. Finish the opening level, and you'll discover it was all a training simulation. You must go through a tutorial to return to that starting state, but the strong shooting mechanics remain even in this basic state.

The introductory method that works so well in Metroidvania titles doesn't work so well here. Part of that comes from the fact that you're essentially running through a tutorial again after having been taught some of these moves while fully powered up. Even then, you aren't retaught everything, so it falls on you to rediscover some of the moves. It's a messy method that doesn't land positively when playing.

Stick with it through this misstep, and you'll find that Soda Crisis messes around with shooting game conventions in some interesting ways. It doesn't take long before you get your first gun, but the title also loves to shower you with various upgrades after only a few stages. You reach the first boss early on, but you'll have enough upgrades and mods to turn those lowly pistols into hard-hitting machine guns. Since the pace doesn't slow down from that point onward, you'll be brimming with options from loot chests in the wild and items purchased at the shop.

Speaking of bosses, they'll take a while to take down, but they aren't typical bullet sponges. Each bullet does significant damage, and it isn't until you get to the final moments of the game when you'll feel like it takes forever to take down someone. It feels refreshing compared to some other action games, where it takes ungodly amounts of bullets to finally fell someone.

The level designs are straightforward but still provide you with multiple angles to approach enemies from, even if the angles barely hold any secrets to make them worth exploring. Most of the levels boil down to you killing everything to unlock the exit, but a few have you outrunning laser traps or doing more platforming and wall running/jumping. Some even have you take a break from the shooting for some vehicle movement, like operating a forklift or using a sphere to run over enemies. The real revelation comes when you learn how short every level is. It barely takes five minutes to finish a stage, and the lack of load screens means you'll go through everything rather quickly. You aren't worried too much about surviving, since death means going back to the beginning of the stage. There's no loss in collected cash, and completing every stage means starting a new one with full health and the option to buy new equipment or change your current loadout.

Those last bits make Soda Crisis perfect for quick play sessions, since you only need a few minutes to feel like you're making progress. It also means that the game is much more forgiving than most shooters when it comes to ensuring that you'll reach the end. The bosses may be big roadblocks, but it only takes a few sessions to figure out their patterns and take them down. The short length of each level gives you enough of a dopamine hit because the action never feels like it slows down before you reach the end. It also means that you can easily finish the game in an afternoon or two.

While the game does plenty of things right, it also does some annoying things. Considering the plethora of moves you can perform, there's no glossary to remind you how to perform any of them. You can make it through the game by just shooting and dodging, but if you haven't played in a while, you may not remember how to enter a special state by executing a perfect dodge. There's also no way to replay the tutorials stages to reacquaint yourself with those moves, and there's no way to erase your save file; it's all forward progression, whether you like it or not.

Perhaps the most baffling issue is the size of the text. From the main menus and options menus to the character dialogue, all of the text is barely legible from most distances due to the size, kerning, and font. Some of the letters look like blobs, and the only way to make it legible is to play on a big screen and get up close to read the text. You'd have to play with your face almost up against the monitor. An option to increase the font size would've gone a long way toward alleviating an issue that was presumably solved more than a decade ago.

Aside from the tiny text, Soda Crisis is quite impressive. The sound is filled with hard-rocking beats fit for an action game, and they never really let up; they only quiet down when you're on the verge of getting a new item before kicking up the volume again. The effects provide the right amount of kick; it's necessary because the game lacks voices to fill the soundscape. Graphically, the game is quite impressive since it goes beyond what you'd expect for a simple side-scrolling shooter. Everything is rendered like it was for a 3D game, and while some of the character designs are an acquired taste, the animations are very smooth. There's liberal use of particle effects to make the screen more vibrant, and loads of depth-of-field tricks make things look even prettier when zooming in on loot chests and weapons. Add in some very pretty backdrops in outdoor areas, and Soda Crisis is quite a showcase title for the developer.

If you're playing the game on the Steam Deck, know that the reduction in resolution does nothing to diminish the game's gorgeous appearance. It even manages to run at a full 60fps with the highest settings possible. That said, you will want to turn down things in the name of battery life, as running at the default settings drains the battery from a full charge in about two hours, and the system fan kicked in more often than expected. You'll loathe the small text even more as you need to squint up close to the screen to make out most of the text.

Soda Crisis succeeds in providing action in small doses. Even if you forget half of the possible moves, you have more than enough to become a formidable action hero who's capable of taking down everyone in a torrent of bullets. The brevity of each stage makes it perfect for bite-sized gaming sessions, and the presentation keeps the high-octane action vibe going. It's a fine outing if you love run-and-gun platformers, but make sure to bring a good pair of glasses or sit very close to the screen if you want to read any text in the game.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about Soda Crisis
blog comments powered by Disqus