Review: Death by Gameshow
When I first saw Death by Gameshow, I assumed it would be another platformer, like most indies are. I turned on my 360 controller and…nothing happened. It turns out that, while it is a sidescroller, Death by Gameshow is actually a sort of strategy game. I would have to move left and right, and spawn units to take down my enemy. In waves, they would attack, and I would play the helpless tubby dude running around with no powers. Instead, I would have to summon different types of robots to do the fighting.
Now, I understand that the game has a lot to explain to you, but they still don’t do the best job of explaining it. They kind of throw you in the first few levels and then put all these little instructions on signs. This problem is compounded by the fact that not all of the signs have actual, useful information on them. See, the premise of the game is that you’re a human in a dystopian future where robots have taken over and they’re hunting down any smart people (basically it’s Idiocracy) in sadistic gameshows. The game tries its hardest to be goofy and funny, but it just comes off as irritating. It’s littered with one-liners and there are some dated references (in 2016, they’re doing ‘Get to the Choppa!’ references), and as a result, some of the signs will have actual game tips and others will have random gags. Aside from that, every time you lose you’ll hear a little soundbite (like the aforementioned Arnold bit). The game is really chaotic, so after losing because of a kamikaze bot, it would be pure insult to injury. I ended up muting the voiceover.
The game does have a very nicely designed aesthetic, and it sports hand-drawn graphics that look like something out of a Sunday newspaper cartoon strip. There’s a lot of color and detail, and I found it to be one of the better titles I’ve played recently in terms of visuals. The soundtrack is pretty basic, and it’s comprised of one or two tracks with a high tempo that lend themselves to the pace of the game.
When it comes to the main attraction, however, the game itself is really solid. After playing through, I worked out the core mechanics without too much trouble. There are 9 different types of robot, each with their own pros and cons. Some are minion types that just wear down enemy defenses, and others are tank types and suicide bomber types. Since you’re essentially defenseless, it’s important to keep your defenses up using robots or one of the 9 types of building you can also create. Your objectives vary between survival and destruction, and you get different units/buildings each level. In terms of variety, it’s mainly down to the various types of enemy, but I found that even when the changes were slight, the level’s dynamic changed and the challenge shifted. The game has around 50 levels (and a level maker), so it’s not hurting for content. And if you can make it through all of them in one sitting, you have the patience of a Zen Buddhist.
The game tries its hardest to be goofy and funny, but it just comes off as irritating
As someone who enjoys challenging games, I can tell you that Death by Gameshow is a pretty hard title. Your unit types are limited and you can only spawn a limited number of them at a time. The deck is usually stacked against you, so you have to figure out what units to send in and what objectives to hit in each level, so you end up having to make decisions on the fly pretty often. The game gives you a pause button that lets you strategize (nitpicky criticism: they made it the tab key instead of the space bar, which seemed more intuitive to me), but even with that button you’ll have trouble.
As a whole, the game isn’t unfair to you, but there are moments where it just gets ridiculous. One particular gripe of mine is that you can’t jump, but it’s possible for you to get thrown behind the enemy wave you’re fending off or for enemy units to get tossed behind you, and so you can end up sandwiched between enemies by accident. However, the game does let you adjust difficulty based on how big a reward you want in that level, which is a smart idea. In general, the game is all about risk vs. reward. As enemies kick the bucket, they drop coins of varying value, and you can venture out and collect the extra cash, but you expose yourself to the onslaught of enemies you’re facing (and you can’t jump as a little bonus).
‘Death by Gameshow’ is definitely an intriguing title, and it conjures up images of crazy Japanese game shows where personal well-being is not as important as victory. And really, that mentality does dominate Death by Gameshow. It’s all about putting yourself in harm’s way get bigger rewards, and it pushes you to get greedier and greedier to try and win, like the hapless contestant. You’ll get stressed out, and grit your teeth, but you have to push yourself to keep going if you want to win big.
Death by Game Show was reviewed using an PC downloadable copy of the game provided by Oointah Games. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Unique take on strategy and tower-defense mechanics
• Variety in units and buildings
• Colorful and well-crafted illustration
• Challenging gameplay that forces players to think
• Humor feels forced
• Difficulty can become frustrating at times
• Unremarkable soundtrack