Yesterday we published a possibly slightly too long video of my first impressions of Red Dwarf XI: The Game, and came out of the experience feeling quite positive and about the thing in general, with a few reservations mixed in. Since then I’ve played through the whole of the Twentica content on an actual phone and not a mouse controlled emulator. If you haven’t already we’d love it if you take a look at our First Impressions video below and continue on for my full thoughts on the game as it currently stands. Spoilers for the whole game obviously follow.
The game is structured in a linear story fashion, roughly following the timeline of the episode in question. This allows for it to touch on unseen moments from the episode’s timeline and flesh out the action, which in this case is an opportunity well taken. The first, and probably my favourite, of the mini-games gives you control of Starbug as you’re destroying incoming asteroids and scanning the Expanoid ship, set weeks before the episode itself begins. The 3D engine and the art style do a fantastic job of rendering beautiful scenes on mobile, and in my experience using an emulator on a mid-range PC and playing the game properly on a LG Nexus 5X, on a technical level the game ran smoothly and flawlessly, while remaining nice to look at throughout. Just full screen my video at the full 1080p60 and you’ll see what I mean.
When it comes to the gameplay overall, GameDigits have managed to, in theory at least, solve the age old of problem of just how do you make a Red Dwarf game? The answer, apparently, is to make loads of them. The mini-game structure is clearly the best way to go, here, especially as a first foray into the undoubtedly difficult task of doing the show justice. The variety offered by these games can be stifled by certain difficulty curves, however, and frustration does creep in often, but on balance the range of ideas and effort into crafting this first portion of the game is clear to see.
On the subject of those difficulty spikes, the missions ‘Find Einstein’ and ‘Twentica Escape’ have been proving particularly difficult for many people, and not in a greatly fun way. The limits of how the camera and movement needs to work here means that the high speed car sequences and stealth sections can be maddening, as there is very little room for course correction. I started off enjoying Kryten’s stealth mission, but if you try to hide behind behind some barrels and even *slightly* overshoot your positioning, then you either have to book it or hope you don’t get seen by the patrolling Expanoids. I think the issue in these sections is a clash between the developers wanting to give the player as much free movement as possible but the natural constraints of mobile controls bashing up against that. There are ways to solve this with on-rails movement (as seen in the ‘Scanning’ mission) but that would’ve ended up being far less interesting when the intention is clearly to give as much variety in gameplay as possible. Other times, the length of missions feel artificially lengthened, such ‘Kryten Recharge’ in which you have to quickly follow instructions to expose his nipples, attach the jump leads, charge, and shock. This is good fun, but it is repeated three times with no variation, and the quiz in ‘Speakeasy Entrance’ suffers from similar repetition and artificially extended length.
Having played through the whole of the Twentica mission I do find myself coming away satisfied, however. My gut instinct is to recommend that anyone reading this drop the requisite $£1.99 and be safe in the knowledge that there are still five sixths of the game still yet to come in free updates. Of course, this basically means you’re pre-ordering most of the game without really knowing what you’re going to end up getting, but I find myself being very optimistic about the game’s future simply because even in these early days, with balance changes and patches still to come, I had huge fun with the game.
A big part of that optimism has come from the level of post-release support shown by GameDigits. If you haven’t already, head over to our Let’s Talk About thread in the forum where the MD of the company has posted some very interesting explanations of why some parts of the game are like they are, and outlining their commitment to iterative improvements both through patches and through the future episode content. It’s this attitude that gives me no hesitation in recommending you buy this game, simply because if you’re reading this then you are certainly someone who is passionate about Red Dwarf and at least have a passing interest in games. The more people who get the game, feed back to GameDigits either through our thread, on Twitter or by contacting their support channels, the more progress they will be able to make in realising their obvious desire to make this game as good as it possibly can be. It’s a rare opportunity to have your thoughts and constructive criticism go to good use, and I’d encourage everyone to take it.
In the meantime, we’re very grateful to learn that new episode content will not be releasing weekly, which gives everyone a bit of breathing space over the coming weeks. As such, we plan to make videos like the one at the top of this review a regular thing after each new episode is released and cover any patches that may have been released since our last video, so any feedback on how you found the format and some things you might like to see in the future would be greatly appreciated.