Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
How to Make Neverdead Better

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 13 Mar 2012 16:00
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I already mentioned in the video that you can still fire your guns when your arms are torn off, but since they can't be aimed this is virtually worthless. Let's make one tiny simple change to that: guns in disembodied arms automatically aim for the nearest enemy. And bam, we have an instant remote turret system.

Additionally, instead of only being able to roll awkwardly around the uneven terrain when reduced to a head, how about letting us bounce up and down to a maximum height of six feet? This grants greater mobility and awareness of surroundings. Then, give us a sort of meteor strike power like what the Lost Souls in Doom have, and when you hit an enemy, you can bite down on their ear and steer them around for a bit like the Jockey from Left 4 Dead 2. You could try and steer them into the range of one of your arm turrets, all tactical, like. Then you just add some timer system to discourage going around headless permanently and suddenly combat isn't such a bloody arduous chore, is it?

However, there's only so much that can be done, so while we're on this subject:

3. Generally play down the combat.

Sometimes I worry that modern gaming is gradually shrinking the wide spectrum of gameplay mechanics into a single narrow red bar with "KILL" written on it sideways. Exploration, navigation, puzzles, platforming, all gradually shrinking away until only one thing remains, being taken by the hand from room to room, moving on only when nothing remains alive in each one. In mainstream games, anyway. Dull, samey cleanup sequences over and over again, connected by corridors and cutscenes if you're lucky.

Neverdead features as a mechanic the ability to rip off your own head and throw it into unreachable areas, regenerating the entire body from the head when it finds enough room. The game dallies only slightly with it in between all the combat, but this seems like core mechanic material to me, and a unique one at that. One that seems far better suited to a more sort of platforming / exploration kind of set up like Metroid Prime (another game in which you spend a lot of time rolling about in a considerably smaller form). You could have puzzles about tearing your head off and throwing it into a room in such a way that your old body weighs down a switch to keep a door open. You could even remove combat entirely in favor of enemy evasion. There can be few more effective ways to escape monsters than throwing your head over the nearest wall.

There would need to be better controls for aiming where your head goes, of course. Actually, thinking about it, the whole concept works a hell of a lot better as a 2D platformer. That way you wouldn't even need to auto-aim the disembodied arm turrets, they just shoot everything to the left or to the right. But I suppose 2D platformers aren't exactly showing off the technology, are they. You're not allowed to have mainstream games these days that look like they belong in the 16 bit era. Unless you're Nintendo.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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