06th Mar2019

‘Gigantic Army’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Gigantic-Army-art

A game that reveres the titles it takes gameplay cues from but due to several conflicting design choices as well as a control scheme that lacks response, never feels satisfying to play.

It was only a few years ago that a friend introduced me to Cybernator on the SNES, although I have payed mech games over the years, I struggled to remember one quite like Cybernator with it’s chunky combat and a real sense of weight to your mech. This is the game that Gigantic Army looks like the most if you were to look at screen shots of each game, unfortunately the similarity ends there.

The introduction of the game is given through scrolling text a la Albert Pyun’s 1989 classic Cyborg, then there is a brief POV sequence which looks straight out of a PC game running on Windows 95 (good). This set up the tone of the game for me and I was prepared for some full-on 16bit retro action, however within minutes the cracks began to show. The best way I can describe my problems with the game would be to explain how they don’t integrate with each other.

At the start of Gigantic Army you choose a standard weapon and special attack which cannot be altered throughout your entire run, this gave me the sense that the game was going for a sort of 2D full-on simulation whereby progress would be slow and take tactical work, (‘you are dropped off behind enemy lines and have no back-up’ type of thing) something I had no problem with at all, this approach was compounded in my mind by the start of the first level which shows the HP, boost and shield bars, there’s a button which holds up a metal shield in front of your mech to block incoming fire, until it breaks. Then I moved my mech which was slow and unwieldy with an oddly finicky aiming system, all of which pointed to a more slow-paced, thought out experience, good. It was only when I picked up on the heavy re-spawn rate of enemies and an unforgiving timer that it dawned on me that the game appears to see itself as a brisk action-shooter.

Gigantic-Army-screen

Progress was tough, enemies are constant (though not as constant as Second Samurai on the Mega Drive) and continually re-spawn just off-screen meaning you have to always be alert; turning around, shielding yourself and either leaping over fire or aiming towards enemies on different platforms which is more difficult than it should be due to the cumbersome control scheme. There are boxes that contain extra HP and shield boosts but they both run down so quickly (especially during boss fights) that you just feel overwhelmed by strange design choices as well as enemy forces. I found it was best to just power through, boosting over and avoiding enemies, just pegging it to the bosses as fast as possible, I mean, if enemies constantly re-spawn and don’t drop any helpful items…why fight them at all? Upon reaching the bosses, the controls are again the most awkward part, shooting at specific weak spots is a challenge and your mech isn’t fun to move around, avoiding enemy fire. Combine this with the fact that there is nothing really to unlock, a timer which means you can’t dally (not that you’d want to) and the sparseness of upgrades and it all turns to tedium and irritation all too quickly.

Reading his back, I feel like I’m beating on Gigantic Army a bit and I really don’t want to come across like that. The visuals are solid and the tone of the game and sound effects are fine but it’s the design choices that remove the enjoyment. Bosses are well-designed and suitably screen-filling but if the control scheme had some more time spent on it, this would be a very different review. Currently, though? This is a tough one to recommend, even to the mech-heads out there. Although it’s still better than Heavy Nova.

Gigantic Army is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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