DSiWare | Goodbye Galaxy Games / CIRCLE Entertainment | 1 Player | Out Now | $1.99 / £1.79
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16th May 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Now, you may view it as a symbol of your early growth and attachment to artistic principles, but expecting faces to light up as you show anyone outside your family would be giving your younger self too much credit. What's more, to then try and make sense of the composition would only make you look worse. "Notice how the wide swirls are an accurate representation of turbulence, while the thickness and layering of the colour applications work in tandem to illustrate...." Yeah... no.
As sensible as this sounds to want to share early childhood projects with others, it's less excusable for similar ideas of a meaningless exchange to be exemplified in a game where the major goal behind its design is to engage and even educate. This is especially true when the design already doesn't leave much to the imagination. Misguidedly following the same course of rationalizing its ho-hum composition, Color Commando offers to players what it believes to be hints of creativity and experimentation without actively protesting that such concepts exist. In truth, the game's design is neither amusing, nor well-maintained, and as an investment primarily catered for younger players, it ends up being too scruffy to be worth gazing at.
Using the D-Pad to control your character's movements, the central mechanic here is that of collecting small dabs of colour and using stylus taps to apply contained paint explosions over similarly-coloured enemies. This way, you can essentially plaster them into the background, canceling the effect they'd normally have on you so as to freely arrive at your destination. Most stages have an order that must be followed, and this is usually apparent by the positioning of the enemies in relation to the paint spheres. At most, the platforming involves scaling ladders and making short-distance descents, keeping the comprehension level at a relative minimum so those younger in years can grasp the game's ideas with ease. Ensuring this, is a stage progression that introduces every step -- from walking to climbing to bypassing enemies -- at a pace that's natural to move with but at the same time doesn't extend longer than it needs to.
Unfortunately, the game's elements don't mesh together well, and from the very start Color Commando's problems set a negative precedent for the rest of the excursion. The design itself, while simplistic, is still very linear, with each level housed inside this small and limiting space, making layouts feel squished -- likely done to make its prospects appear more manageable. Multiple pathways are present, with bonus coins in most levels identifying opportunities to deviate from the main route and time your jumps and movements differently. But again, because the design is the way it is, it doesn't change the linearity of the proceedings.
I thought in the initial stages that the pacing and basic design would be good for kids to get acquainted with, but the simple fact is, Color Commando doesn't handle its ideas reliably, with its performance often being sloppy and not the slightest bit forward-moving. I mean, on the odd time, you may detect a decoy trying to give this idea that Color Commando has an openness to it, but that's just not the case, and its methods of trying to persuade the player otherwise are not effective. Really, the way everything surfaces is awfully regimented and saps away any kind of freedom. That's one thing on its own, but to then try and give life to its form, as though it were something bigger than it actually is, demonstrates these very elements are trying to escape from the inhibiting mold the game has decidedly conformed to.
The actual execution of applying paint blots is very dicey, requiring that players make "just so" taps, for fear that a sliver of the enemy's body will penetrate the shield and still harm your character when he crosses its path. Flying enemies are especially irksome, but really in all cases, you're constantly having to be wary about awkward overlaps or having your immunity abruptly disappear. And from a technical standpoint, Color Commando doesn't allay these worries -- it only feeds them. Multiple issues arise over the course of the game, some being directly related to the very topic just discussed and some being more to do with the system at work.
The audio design is far from impressive, also. While the main theme does have some oomph to it, the stage themes fade into the background and don't carry much presence at all. In addition, there are glitches to be noted in this area, with the Pause Menu theme seeping into levels upon your return, and that sort of thing. Visually, the game tries to be charming, but it's more a see-through charm than anything; its animations are more jittery than smooth, and the environments (with one exception) don't have much detailing and are simply functional at best.
Color Commando sees Goodbye Galaxy Games once again trying to pass off a crumb-sized offering as a full experience. Thinking its ideas are disguised as something clever, the game is just as transparent as Ace Mathician but without a firm mechanic by which the game could be driven. And truth be told, I'm not having any of it. Like the game that came before it, it's a super brief, 30-minute romp that feels a lot shorter than the time it takes to complete it. And stemming from this, the hold the game tries to have on you is too flabby to motivate the majority to seek out every last collectible. You don't need to get through three-quarters of the experience to see that Color Commando is a vacuous platformer, and as such, there's no need to feel guilty about bypassing it altogether.
15/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Transparent ideas and mechanics, natural pacing, linear design holds it back, borderline primitive, elements don't come together well
Presentation 6/10 - More awkward than charming, technical execution needs work, gameplay and audio glitches, most environments are just functional
Enjoyment 2/5 - Not as much experimentation and creativity as the game suggests, younger players will find it easy to grasp, lacking in engagement
Extra Content 2/5 - Super short and can be completed in roughly 30 minutes, bonus levels present but there's not much motivation to unlock these
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System