Fresh movie experience, stale gaming experience.
Pacific Rim is based on the hot new movie which is garnering praise from its showings in theaters all across North America. Some are calling the movie a fresh experience, as it’s not quite like anything to come out of American cinema before – at least, not since the closest thing in the climax of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie about two decades ago, and to be quite honest, the computer-generated graphics in that just haven’t held up nearly as well. Either way, the movie manages to be different, unique in its own way. The game, however? Not so much.
For starters, it’s yet another licensed tie-in game which borrows from the Infinity Blade concept. Infinity Blade feels like it’s becoming the Street Fighter II or Final Fight of iOS, wherein one game managed to pull off a fighting game concept in a way which appeals, and now every Tom, Dick, and Harry who makes mobile games is trying to capture a little bit of that bottled lightning, all the while doubling down through the use of current popular licenses.
Visually, the game is nice. The graphics aren’t so good that you feel like you’re playing the movie or anything, but they provide some nice imagery and backgrounds as you take control of giant Jaeger robots and slap the taste out of some giant Kaiju monster mouths. The backdrops aren’t especially varied, though. You pretty much have your choice between this big city, that big city, or fighting out in the ocean – with the big city behind you. So perhaps the monsters are attracted to the big lights in the movie, fair enough – that doesn’t really do any favors for the game, though. It just feels like the coastline is wall-to-wall skyscrapers.
The music is decent as well. That is, the tunes aren’t really memorable, but kind of feel like decent stock “big action movie of the summer” material that at least suits the mood, if nothing else. The sound effects work well enough, but there are no voices, in case that’s something you’re looking for – not even an “In a world…” voiceover to go with the music. Almost a pity, that.
Back to the gameplay, though, which is where the game starts to fall through. Had it held up its end, the other stuff would be more forgivable, but as noted, it’s pretty much “Infinity Blade, but with typicality.” There are different robots to control, different weapons to use and upgrade, and so forth, but at its core, it’s all about swiping the screen back and forth, up and down.
In fact, bringing it back to the fighting game comparison from before, it wasn’t long before we were really reminded of that. In Street Fighter and its ilk, there are at least two main extreme types of players. The first type are those who are hardcore, learning every move, the timing of those moves, the frames of animation needed to make the most of that timing, and so on – basically, the guys who can do stuff like this. On the other extreme, we have those dubbed as “button mashers,” and act more or less as described, pulling out victories against more skilled opponents by just mashing everything in front of them in the hope it all works out.
And strangely enough, that seemed to be the key to success in Pacific Rim. Trying to play the “right” way, parrying moves and counterattacking, seemed to lead nowhere. The enemies were even blocking without making any visible motions of blocking, and it all just felt like one big hot, semi-responsive mess.
Then we said “to heck with it” and basically just scribbled a lot on the screen with our finger. Parries happened more often, more damage was dealt, and while we took a licking, we still came out ahead. It was amazing… ly bad, really. Playing a game which works more on the principle of throwing crap against the wall and hoping something sticks tends to lose its luster a bit more quickly than one you can actually learn and improve your skill in, putting it to good use. There’s just more of a feeling of accomplishment there.
But hey, while we heard critics say that Pacific Rim the movie was fresh, they also admit that it wasn’t especially deep, either. Big robots beating the mess out of big monsters… if there isn’t much more to the movie than that, and you don’t mind much more to Pacific Rim the game, either, then this might be for you. But if you want something that you can put a little more of yourself into, then you might want to just keep on looking.