22nd Mar2019

Digital Shorts: ‘Apocryph’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Apocryph, and old-school FPS now available on the Nintendo Switch.

apocryph-screen

A retro-styled FPS with its feet firmly in the mid-90’s gameplay-wise, Apocryph feels too generic and one-dimensional to be a recommended title.

The story of Apocryph is a hard one to tell as it doesn’t really exist, this isn’t surprising due to the games that it clearly takes its cues from such as Quake where story was a mere bagatelle to the developers. Gameplay, speed and fun took the reins. Oh, and pickups…lots of pickups.

The player character is a black knight completely ensconced in demonic armour and whilst his head is shown on the bottom of the HUD as in DOOM (he reminded me of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone) in-game (as per the brief cut-scenes) it is covered in a helm. The overall feel in terms of enemies, weapons and setting is that of Heretic and Hexen with a strong medieval theme throughout.

The main push of the gameplay is collecting the correct items to progress. Levels feel very square and the visuals have that oddly shiny thing going on that makes it looks like everything is either highly reflective or covered in Vaseline, including the enemies. Speaking of the enemies, whilst they match their surroundings (skeletons, minotaurs, ogres, beasts etc.) the AI seems pretty rough. As was the case ‘back in the day’ with these FPS titles, quite often you’ll pull a switch and some nasties will be released and head towards you en masse, usually from behind (when this happens in the game, the music ramps up which is a nice touch).

However, after this, I’d often enter the room and see one or two standing around in the corner doing nothing, un-activated. This also happened with a boss fight, I approached some stone statues of towering ogres who came to life and then just stood there until I attacked them. This sense of looseness runs through other aspects of the game design. I adjusted the controls as the turning was too sluggish but this then made aiming twitchy and I was never able to find a comfortable medium as both the Y and X axis are tied to the same meter in the options screen.

The weapons in the game are quite cool and satisfying to use with a staff acting as a shotgun-type weapon and dual gauntlets for more rapid-fire scenarios as well as others that can be picked up along the way, this aspect of the game is well-handled but the poor AI, large, sprawling, boxy levels and oddly mismatched music don’t ever gel into anything that really sucks you in.

If you are a big fan of 90’s FPS titles, there’ll be something here for you with its simplistic gameplay and strict adherence to the stylings of old. For the rest of us, Apocryph is hard to recommend.

Apocryph is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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