I will always give a game a fair chance, regardless of it’s genre or my initial feelings on it’s style. I generally get an immediate sense as to whether I’m going to want to play through a title about 10 minutes into the game; either I’m instantly hooked, which usually bodes really well for the title as a whole, or I let out a loud sigh and know I’ve got a bit of work ahead of me. I will happily put my hands up and say I’ve been proven wrong and pleasantly surprised many times in the past and that not playing enough of any game is a bit like judging a book by its cover. Sadly, I’m not sure this was the case with Violet Cycle.
The basic premise of the game is great; you play a character called Unit 3 and are tasked with getting to the reactor core at the top of a multi-level ship which has been infested by a being called The Entropy. You have to hop from level to level removing traces of the infection and beating the bad guys as you go. As par for the course, you pick up fragments of story from terminals along your way and basically piece things together from there.
Violet Cycle also has some roguelike elements in the items that you pick up, the enemies that you face and the way the levels are built. I always love that a game can change on each run and this is a genuine plus for me. All good so far? Sadly, in my opinion, this is about where the good stops.
I’ll give points for the graphical choices that have been made here. There’s a real late 80s arcade feel to Violet Cycle which I find rather appealing. They’ve taken an isometric, blocky style and used loads of neon so you get a very classic view of what I think people thought the future would look like back then.
Everything in the game is rather understated and I don’t by any means think this is a bad thing. The issue is that it’s all well and good looking nice (though even this is subjective), but few of the other elements worked for me. This is kind of a case of make the game work before thinking about what it looks like, not the other way round.
Nothing about this game felt comfortable. It’s fine to make a game difficult, and as part of the roguelike genre Violet Cycle certainly is, but you should never feel physically awkward playing it. Keyboard controls are pretty much a no go; yes, I know you can change them but honestly, how often do you muck about with the settings? The ones in place here are by no mean fluid or intuative. Keyboard and mouse controls are something that I think any PC gamer worth their salt should be used to by now. Here you’re using WASD and JIKL for you movements and actions and your movements are not WASD. This doesn’t feel right.
Back when I started gaming, all of the controls were bunched up on the keyboard, and I can tell you from experience that they stopped doing that for a reason; this is not the retro feel you want your game to have. Pad controls are supported, but don’t feel a massive amount better, when they decide they want to work at all. I was using a brand new game pad and it was a case of the game reading what I was doing when it felt like it. Games have to feel fluid or frustration sets in really quickly and it’s really off putting.
Understanding the commands and performing them aren’t always the same thing.
Violet Cycle is definitely a challenging game, but it’s hard for the wrong reasons. The levels don’t seem to be particularly difficult to navigate and your foes aren’t impregnable. The problem is it’s really easy to lose track of what you’re doing on account of the dire controls. Sometimes it feels like a fight just getting your character to do what you want it to.
With this in mind you’re bound to get killed by even the weakest of enemies. You’re concentrating on pushing the right buttons and not enough on the game. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t intentional but it’s making something that is probably designed to have a difficulty curve, unnaturally difficult which spoils the experience.
I’d love to say I got a huge way into the game and be able to tell you all about the experiences I had, but to be brutally honest, I got a few floors in and gave up. It took me several runs to get even this far. I’m a fair gamer and I like to hope I’m a fair reviewer but I genuinely didn’t want to go any further. I absolutely love the roguelike genre and I love everything that comes with it. I’m used to getting killed over and over and starting from scratch but I always want that one more try. I didn’t feel that with this title and it’s a genuine shame.
What I will say is that my painfully short time with the game (in comparison to other titles I’ve reviewed and spent literally hours with) is down to personal dislike. To be completely honest, I’d suggest giving Violet Cycle a bit of your own time; you might end up sliding into the comments to tell me what I’ve written here is total nonsense. I don’t want to put anyone off completely. As I always say, this was my experience and you may have an entirely different one.
If you don’t mind persevering and you’re willing to go through the pain of learning the controls and actually forcing yourself to get good, then you might want to give Violet Cycle a try. There are actually elements of a really good game in there and a lot of effort has clearly been made in its making. If you want a good roguelike, though, there’s a massive list of other games that I’d be pushing your way before this one.
One for the patient
Sound and graphics - 7/10
Control and Feel - 3/10
Story - 4/10
Challenge - 6/10
There are bits to love about Violet Cycle but for me there are too many easily rectifyable factors making this game more frustrating than fun. If you have the patience to get good this might be one for you. If not, you may want to look elsewhere.