Review: Project Root
Project Root pretends to be something it’s not really capable of living up to. Its flashy, impressive look is enough to draw you in but when you notice that the developers have made no attempts to make the game last longer than one playthrough, and that overall gameplay barely passes “hold two buttons and strafe around a bit”, it just becomes the most average, barely enjoyable waste of time that I’ve played in a while.
It’s one of the most basic concepts in video games imaginable – one stick moves, one stick turns. Ground weapon for ground enemies on the left shoulder, air weapon for flying enemies on the right shoulder. Hit the square button for a big superweapon that barely adds to the excitement, as most of the superweapons are press button to kill everything on screen, or something that you sweep back and forward to kill everything on screen. And that’s basically it. Your normal weapons have no recharge time or charge shot available so there’s zero penalty to just holding down the two fire buttons constantly. Since the enemy AI is dumb enough to basically strafe and not shoot where you’re going to be, you’re fine strafing in either horizontal direction and just pointing at stuff until it dies. Repeat process ad nauseum until the level ends.
Well that’s not entirely true. Every level has a series of objectives, both main and sub, that you have to and can optionally do. Almost every one of these results in “do something you would do ordinarily, a la blow up everything you see, just get a special prompt once you’ve done it.” Most of the time you’re directed there by a green arrow on your HUD, but when you’re not directed there you’ll often spend over ten minutes just looking around for the tiny thing you need to go and blow up or defend and it just makes me want to throw my Vita across the room. There’s no “big map” either, just a tiny minimap, so you might end up going around in circles for five minutes without even noticing. Sub objectives you simply have to stumble upon and you’ll be given the option to do them.
The biggest problem this game has though has got to come from the perspective. The game is set in a bird’s-eye perspective, with the player ship down the bottom in the middle, and the camera rotates with your ship. On the PlayStation Vita version at least, the rotation of the camera is rather stuttery due to what appears to be sub-30fps performance, which is enough to make me personally feel sick after a really long level. On top of this, with only half of the area around your ship visible, you can’t see enemies that are behind you firing shots at you. This means that half the damage you’ll take will be from shots you can’t see coming, and it will drive you insane.
The game does have an upgrade system but it’s relatively inconsistent. You earn points in game and once you finish a mission you earn basically ten times the points, making it so that the best way to grind XP is to run the easiest mission you can over and over. You level up your attributes inbetween levels. However, there are two big problems – the upgrades are inconsistent, often jumping between two different types of upgrades at random for some upgrade categories, and you can’t carry over your gained levels between difficulties.
Project Root also has a notable lack of longevity. The only replayability comes from playing the campaign over again on a higher difficulty, which simply increases the damage you take, lowers the damage the enemies take, and adds a few more ships here and there. The biggest issue is that you can’t carry over earned level-ups from the other difficulties, so you end up getting slaughtered and trying over and over again, hoping you don’t get hit in the back by an enemy cluster attack and get enough points to increase your energy to help you survive for thirty more seconds. Also notable is a complete lack of alternate modes, like a score attack, survival, or time attack. Why these are missing is anyone’s guess, as their inclusion really could have given the game a bit more play time.
The rest of the game is about as average as the gameplay, too, outside of the fairly nice graphics (which are marred by the jittery camera movement). The sound design is a bore at best, and the soundtrack could easily be placed over any sci-fi movie action scene and it would make about as much difference as dropping a bucket of water in the Pacific. The story is told through some relatively poorly written dialogue between two characters about a rebel group fighting back against a megacorporation and yaaaaawn. Some of the dialogue has notable grammatical errors, along with the trophy list having what is arguably one of the worst spellt variation of the word “minute” I have ever seen. Most of this story text is displayed in a tiny window in the bottom right corner while the game is still running, so it’s possible to completely miss it anyway because you’re too busy trying not to get your back shot at from someone you can’t even see. It’s not like it matters anyway – there’s no rhyme or reason to where you’re going or what you’re shooting except what feels like they’ve made it up on the spot, so there’s really no point in paying attention to the story at all.
That’s Project Root in a nutshell, really. The entire game feels like nobody even tried in the process of making it. The gameplay is dull and repetitive, the story is worthless, the sound design is so generic it could work anywhere, and there’s next to no replayability. Plenty of problems that should have shown up months ago in the game’s development cycle seem to have no fix. The only thing it has going for it is the somewhat decent graphical presentation, and even that is brought down by jittery camera movement that’s hard to look at. If you want a 2D shooter on Vita, look up Sine Mora – it looks great AND it doesn’t suck at pretty much everything else!
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Looks kind of nice at least
What I Dislike:
- Gameplay devolves to “hold two buttons” 90% of the time
- Several silly design decisions bring the game down
- Generic sound design at best
- No longevity or replayability outside of the campaign
- Boring pointless poorly written story