Sin & Punishment: Star Successor: review

Review

Originally posted at: http://www.criticalgamer.co.uk/2010/08/25/sin-punishment-star-successor-review/

At one point in Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, your buddy is suspended over a rising pit of lava by a reptilian guinea pig. In another level, you travel the desert to fight a sand-lion and a sand-bird that morph together into a sand-lion-bird. You’ll even journey through someone’s dreams of ancient Japan and eventually make a trek into space because, honestly, that’s really the only place left to go.

Treasure’s latest is nuts, and if not for the fact that they’ve been making psychotic shooter games for nearly two decades, this would almost seem like a last hurrah for the company. After all, they’ve been making incredibly niche games for longer than any studio should logically get away with.

Sin & Punishment drips with creativity – so much so, you rarely know how you’ll be playing it from one moment to the next. At the core is a 3D rail-shooter a la Panzer Dragoon or Rez, but that doesn’t stop the game from turning into a bullet-hell shooter or a side-scrolling beat ‘em up at random moments. And in true Treasure style, the game is bursting at the seams with boss fights – creative encounters that make up for ample checkpoints with concentrated bursts of incredible challenge.

There’s so much packed in that it almost collapses under its own weight. The rail-shooting sections alone are so good that the constant divergences can get kind of annoying. If you’ve ever played the Gears of War games, they suffer from a similar design. Just like those games, all-too-often it’s the weird vehicle section or punishing boss fight that stops you in your tracks, and not the core gameplay.

At the same time this also means the game is a lot longer than most shoot ‘em up style games. On the normal difficulty it can take around six hours, and even if you breeze through it there’s solid leaderboard support and a harder difficulty level. It’s the kind of game designed to be played over and over for high scores. After you complete levels, you can play them individually for practice and for attempts to top the leaderboard.

Like the best Wii games, it’s hard to imagine playing this one with anything but the Wii remote and nunchuk combo. The feeling of simultaneously dancing around bullets and quickly snapping your aim around the screen is liberating. Sure, you could play with a standard controller, but you wouldn’t want to.

Unlike the best Wii games, the two-player mode is a bit lacking. The second player is little more than an extra reticle that can shoot independentally of the first player. It’s almost as superficial as the two-player mode in Super Mario Galaxy, which was intended for younger siblings or inexperienced players.

What it lacks in multiplayer options it makes up with lots of playstyle customization. As mentioned, the game supports standard controllers like the Gamecube and Classic pads, and if you insist on using them there’s options for customizing layout and sensitivity. Additionally, each of the two characters handle differently. Isa, the boy, uses shots that require more accuracy, complemented by a large bomb attack. Meanwhile, Kachi, the girl/strange monster, or demon, or something (it’s not really clear) has a lock-on ability and Panzer Dragoon-style lasers.

The point is, if you’re into these kinds of arcade-style shoot ‘em ups, Sin & Punishment is surprisingly robust compared to most of its contemporaries, including many of Treasure’s own games.

In terms of presentation, Sin & Punishment is a bit lacking. While the game is sharply rendered with lots of enemies, the color palette is a bit too washed out. Treasure has gone for this style before, with Ikaruga, but the black/white mechanic of that game allowed them to use it to better effect. Here it just makes the world feel unnecessarily bland, especially in context to the absurd situations you get into.

The story is even worse. It’s old hat for Treasure at this point, as they’ve never been much for telling good stories, or even ones that make a lick of sense. But it’s just kind of annoying – everything you need to know happens within the context of the action, and it’d be better if they just tossed the storyline altogether. The cutscenes are minimal, but they just feel like a waste when the best part is the absurdity of the moment-to-moment set-pieces.

What makes this game memorable isn’t the words coming out of the characters mouths. What makes it memorable is the interactive ride it takes you on. The game is at its best when you’re bouncing between fighting hand-to-hand, riding a hover-bike, and playing soccer with incoming missiles one after the other.

Sin & Punishment has some issues, but honestly if you’re in for a Treasure game you probably know this by now. Flaws and all, it still stands as an excellent example of the rail-shooter genre, and that’s saying a lot. There aren’t a ton of these things, and if you happen to have fond memories of Panzer Dragoon or Rez, Treasure’s latest is sure to give you some warm, fuzzy nostalgia.

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