"Project Black Sun" is an action platformer with a large map. This map is separated into several rooms, each of which scrolls in 4 directions. The player explores the map, kills or evades enemies, collects upgrades, and needs to win fierce boss battles in order to obtain keys, which open up new areas of the map.
This game could have been enjoyable if it just offered a difficulty setting. As it is, the game is just a very frustrating experience for most players. The problem is not so much that the game is hard - hard games can be very rewarding for those players that pull through -, it's that the game offers absolutely no backup option for players that don't have years of Nintendo training, and is plainly unfair in many respects. The game just seems hell-bent on making your task as difficult as possible, by any means available:
- You start out with just two lives, and barely enough ammunition to survive the first two rooms.
- You can save ammunition by attacking monsters in melee, but doing so requires precise timing, since there is a delay between the player's pressing the button and the character's actually trying to hit something.
- You cannot shoot while jumping. Often you have a clear line of sight on the enemy, but can't shoot it because the game insists that you must stand on the ground if you want to attack.
- You cannot move while reloading your weapon. You cannot cancel reloading your weapon. If you start reloading your weapon and an enemy appears, you can just watch helplessly while your character gets attacked.
- Several jump sequences require very accurate timing. However, the game overlays your feet with dust graphics just after you've landed, obfuscating exactly the area that you need to watch very closely to time the next jump.
- There are several secret passages in the game. These are not indicated by anything. So the game wants you to run against every single wall on the map because it _could_ be fake.
- The game only saves progress in a few specific rooms - and at least one of those rooms is placed in a way that it even _negates_ all of the progress that you've made. There is a place where you fall down to the very first room of the game, and the game then takes this game as your new "base location", which means that you must replay through all rooms you've battled through already if you want to get back to the place you've fallen down from.
- Even if you cope with all that - which I did -, then, right when you think you're finally getting the hang of things, you are faced with ridiculously difficult boss battles.
I tried to like this game, but apparently it just doesn't want me to. After several hours of playing, and discovering all upgrades and secrets available to me, I am now facing two boss battles which I cannot win no matter what I do. I have given up now.
Another problem with the game is that it doesn't give you any good incentives for pulling through. There is no story, no narrative, that would make the player feel attached to the character and pull through. The story that is there is just a simple backdrop that explains why the character ended up in a system of caves. There is no actual narrative and no personality to any character. The game is just excruciatingly hard for the sake of being excruciatingly hard. Wanting to provide players with a challenge is one thing - but constantly kicking all other customers in the teeth is just a glaring design flaw.
The game uses retro graphics, but they are drawn nicely. With smooth animations and scrolling, the graphics don't feel as dated as the term "retro" might imply.
Unfortunately, the game does not scale well on my 1920x1200 display. There is a fullscreen mode, but it just uses about 2/3 of the screen area, with black bars around the image in every direction.
The game's soundtrack is beautiful, professional game music. The sound effects are of varying quality, but get the job done. There is no voice acting.
The game must be controlled with either the keyboard or a gamepad. Mouse support does not exist, not even in the menus. The keyboard controls can be customized.
Alt-tabbing out of the game does not stop the music, which is inconvenient when you need to concentrate.
EASE OF USE:
The game is easy to install, and the controls are easy to learn. Learning how not to die may take a while.
There is no manual, but none is needed to understand the game. The controls are obvious, and further information can be found in the readme file.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
As said above, the game is - unfortunately - just too hard to be enjoyable, unless you're really good and well-trained in this type of games, which most players probably aren't.
In its current state, the game is not enjoyable enough to give it more than two stars. An option to set the difficulty would be worth at least one more star. Unfortunately the game doesn't seem to be in active development any more.
Review Date: 2012/Oct/01
Program version: 1.0.2
Progress: 8 hours, probably about 20% of the game (estimated)