Јust prior to the release of excellent Dead Space for consoles in 2008, EA put out a series of animated shorts on the Internet which provided a bit of gory backstory to the main game. Now with Dead Space Ignition they’re hoping to build on this idea, fusing animation with gameplay elements to offer a certain level of interaction to their next story filler.
Acting as a prequel to the forthcoming Dead Space 2, Ignition is set aboard the interstellar colony called The Sprawl. Following engineer Franco DeLille and security officer Sarah Anderson, this comic / game hybrid details their attempts to survive as the Necromorphs are once again unleashed and all hell breaks loose. The gameplay element comes from a series of mini-games, three different types which essentially rip-off other titles you might have played.
Trace Route, is reminiscent of Dotstream or Light Trax on the GBA and WiiWare . For those unfamiliar with the concept, the player is required to race their light beam against the other beams that belong to the systems countermeasures, hitting the arrows to speed up and avoiding the patterned grids which slow you down. Blatant rip off it may be, but it’s certainly the most appealing of the three, mainly because it copies the format so well that it manages to be interesting by proxy.
Similar to 8-bit title Deflecktor, Hardware Crack sees you placing mirrors and components on a circuit board to guide different coloured laser beams to their respective nodes. Meanwhile Overide feels more like a loose stab at a Tower Defence title, with the player required to get their virus program from one side of the screen to the other, past the system’s anti-virus defences. Ultimately this one ends up the worst of the bunch, suffering from a very poor tutorial and being utterly confusing since a process of trial and error does little to shed any light on things.
While the minigames are well presented, it’s odd that they actually end up damaging the story experience rather than enhancing it. In the context of the action they really don’t seem to work – every time the characters in the story have to get through a door to avoid being slaughtered by Necromorphs, up pops the inevitable minigame. It breaks any sense of immersion because any urgency is removed from the actual action; with a generous timer to the games, failing is just a simple restart. It would actually have worked more if they’d just left it as a motion comic without having you bumbling around in-between.
Things aren’t helped by the art style for Ignition which feels bland and even downright ugly on times. While the one for the original Dead Space motion comic might have been an acquired taste and had its animations kept to a minimum, here it doesn’t have the same style, simply feeling featureless. Now the bare bones movement does little to even help compensate for the distinct lack of charm.
It’s commendable that the developers have attempted to throw in a `choose your own adventure` style approach, with the player being able to work towards one of a series of different endings by selecting which path the story takes at key points, however this does nothing to stop it feeling pedestrian throughout and offering little to hold your attention. Even the levelling up element from completing levels, allowing you to upgrade your rig by adding extra time or objects to mini-games, does little to enhance the overall experience.
Instead of rivalling something like Capcom’s Dead Rising Case Zero, Dead Space Ignition feels like the very definition of a half realised idea; one which undoubtedly sounded better in the design docs than it ended up in practice. It will offer little appeal to Dead Space fans other than an unlockable costume for the main game – if they can be bothered to complete it. For those who really enjoyed the original animated series there may be some enjoyment to be gained from this, but ultimately they will find that the mini games just get in the way of what they were actually interested in.