- Street Date:
- January 16th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- February 10th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- EnjoyUp Games
- Enjoy Games
- ESRB Rating:
- T (Teen)
Wii U version reviewed. 'UnEpic' is also available on the PC.
The gaming landscape was once filled with beloved platformers and classic role-playing titles. While would-be million seller games rarely embrace those legacies, the indie scene is an ever-growing proving ground for both throwbacks and experimental titles. Enter 'UnEpic' on the Wii U. With 'UnEpic,' an indie Spanish developer and EnjoyUp Games seeks to channel those days of yore with a mix of hardcore NES-style platforming and role playing elements while refining them with more up to date features, and an unexpected protagonist. Now it's time to see how this promising mix bears out.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
It's fair to say that I spent a large part of my pre-teen years actively involved in one role playing tabletop game or another. Weekends were consumed rolling dice, exploring dungeons, and fighting countless beasts; all in the name of high adventure; whether it was the latest 'AD&D', 'Call of Cthulu', or 'Gamma World', my imagination has never been more active. I often look back on those experiences, nearly 30 years in the past, and fondly reflect at how enjoyable they were. Although I may have replaced dice and hand-drawn dungeon maps with a console controller and 55" HDTV, those memories of my youth may never be replicated. 'UnEpic' for the Wii U makes an attempt to alter that notion.
The premise of 'UnEpic' is simple enough, and oddly reflects my childhood fantasy: while enjoying a game of 'Advanced Dungeons & Dragons', the main playable character – Daniel – is swept away to a fantasy world similarly rendered to the game he was just playing. Like Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', Daniel must quickly adapt to his dark and foreboding surroundings, the inhabitants within, and the journey he is to undertake if he has any hope of making it back to his world . . . back to his time. But where Twain's protagonist may have been out of his element, Daniel has never felt more at home.
'UnEpic' is a 2D, side scrolling, Metroidvania-style dungeon crawl with a passing resemblance to some of the earlier Castlevania titles. The unexplored corridors appear to go on forever, and you're never certain as to where they will lead. Trying to navigate through the labyrinth-like structure often has you guessing which path to take, consequently causing you to repeat sections of the dungeon you've already explored. There are numerous side-quests that keep you busy throughout the game, most of which involve fetch missions. Thankfully, 'UnEpic' does a nice job of keeping track of each quest, what remains to be gathered, and how close you are to completing it.
There is an entire room dedicated to pathway gates that accommodate for a quick- travel system. The trick, however, is locating the corresponding gates throughout the dungeon in order to make them accessible later in the game. Finding them can be difficult but, ultimately, is part of the challenge of 'UnEpic'. Along your way you encounter a variety of dungeon dwellers – snakes, bats, spiders – as well as some of the more fearsome, two-legged variety. Each new section of the dungeon is guarded by impressively large and diverse boss monsters that, when defeated, will drop the key necessary to unlock yet another area of the castle. The formula is somewhat repetitive, yet oddly addictive.
Like any dungeon crawl, where there are unexplored rooms and corridors, there is loot to be pilfered; and there is no shortage of loot in 'UnEpic'. Whether gold coins and rough-cut diamonds, weapons and armor, potions and scrolls, adding to your stash is almost as common as fighting the next goblin or venomous snake. Keeping track of all that loot and making it useful could have been an exercise in frustration; however, 'UnEpic' for the Wii U utilizes the gamepad in a most effective manner. Much like playing 'UnEpic' on the PC, you are able to assign a number of hot keys to the gamepad. Using the left or right bumpers, in conjunction with one of the face buttons, you can assign 12 items however you see fit. Add to this an additional 18 hot keys that use the gamepad's touch-screen functionality, and you are able to quickly equip your character with a variety of useful tools to help you along your way.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
There isn't much to get excited about regarding the visuals of 'UnEpic'. The 8-bit presentation does an adequate job of making full use of your television. Large areas of the game are displayed and lit up as your character progresses and lights the obligatory torches along his way. However, the game attempts to show you as much of the dungeon on-screen as possible and, as a result, the individual characters and monsters become incredibly small - even on some of the larger televisions available. Still, it was always a treat to encounter the bigger bosses of 'UnEpic'. Although not terribly creative with their design, their size was always affective in making you feel insignificant, knocking your bravery down a peg or two after some of the more mundane creatures that you battle leading up to these encounters.
Although 'UnEpic' accommodates for off TV play on the Wii U gamepad, this eliminates the option to use the touch screen hot keys, forcing you to navigate the game's menu system. While not terribly difficult to manage, the action in the game does not pause while in the menus, and dangerous situations become even more deadly as you frantically search for that scroll or healing potion. The better way to play 'UnEpic' is on the TV.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Similar to the video quality, 'UnEpic' doesn't go out of its way to impress with the audio. Having said that, I would find it unusual for an older style game like 'UnEpic' to take full advantage of a surround system. It would be an odd blending of old and new gameplay styles and would feel both out of place and unnecessary.
What I did enjoy was the writing and subsequent voice acting of the main protagonist, Daniel. The game's website describes Daniel as 'a normal guy from recent times: a great videogame player, big sci-fi movie fan, novice player of role playing games, pot-head and overall, horny due to a mysterious lack of success with girls.' Daniel's conversations with the creatures and spirits of 'UnEpic' are consistently spot-on with his personality and provide some great, laugh-out-loud moments. He is a smart-ass through-and-through, and has found a way to take this experience in stride while having a leg-up on survival due to his deep familiarity with sci-fi and fantasy pop culture.
'UnEpic's' single player experience is sure to keep you occupied for hours on end. Getting lost (literally and figuratively) in the dungeon exploration is part of the appeal, but when nearing one of the games' three endings it is unlikely that you will feel the need to start the adventure back up immediately.
As of the writing of this review, the multiplayer component of 'UnEpic' remains available only for the PC version of the game, and is still in beta. The research I did on this mode has revealed it to be more of an online co-op component than your typical PvP experience. Unfortunately, even the most casual of Wii U gamers understand that Nintendo's online offerings remain scattered at best and it's uncertain whether 'UnEpic' for the Wii U will ever be updated to include this feature. However, being a fan of co-op games I could see myself jumping right back into 'UnEpic' with a friend at my side, to share in both the adventure and the laughs.
'UnEpic' for the Wii U is a nice distraction, a change of pace between AAA titles. It is a reminder that videogames do not necessarily require huge budgets or cross-continent teams to be both successful and fun to play. Although the game doesn't introduce anything new in terms of game mechanics, it represents a new option for owners of the Wii U who may be struggling to find a reason to turn their consoles on. The utilitarian use of the gamepad elevates 'UnEpic' as a better than average port from the PC and serves as a proper item management tool. It's hard to argue against the $9.99 asking price based on the amount of time you can spend with 'UnEpic', just don't expect the experience to be overly memorable.
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