deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
[personal profile] deborah
I realize I am actually sick of talking about terrible people and how they treat people badly. So I'm going to talk about something positive: This is my review of Revolution 60, the game created by Giant Spacekat. Disclaimer: I'm a book reviewer, not a game reviewer. I'm not going to review this in a critical, professional way, but only my very personal reaction.

As you know, Bob, I have pain and dexterity problems in my hands, severely limiting what I can do on a touchscreen. I'm not dexterous, I'm not fast, and I have to be enjoying myself a lot to spend spoons on a game. These days most of my gaming is shared with my housemates, where they drive the controller but we make decisions together. Many of the games I install on my iPhone get rapidly deleted for this reason, and even the ones that I do play I specifically don't play in timed modes, or modes that require dexterity.

So I was a little bit nervous about Revolution 60. I knew there was a combat system, which was necessarily going to push my limits. I picked up the game anyway, on the recommendation of a coworker. (This was when the game first launched, long before the Internet blew up at Brianna Wu.)

The game mechanic has what I break down into four components.
  • Moving around in the game world, where honestly the player doesn't have many choices. There are a few side paths you can take, but for all practical purposes it's a pretty constrained game.
  • Story choices. These are multiple-choice options, which are also fairly constrained, though in their subtlety they can have significant difference in your outcome. You can also pick different combat perks as you gain experience.
  • Combat, which is time-sensitive, one-on-one grid-based combat as you advance the story.
  • Skills and combat special moves, which are time sensitive ways of interacting with a touchscreen in order to represent special attacks, computer skills, undoing locks, climbing up walls, etc.

Dexterity and speed required: Story decision points and world movement were no problem. I could do those at my own pace, which sometimes meant one movement, followed by more movement several minutes later. Both story decision points and movement are simple taps, which could be done with a stylus, and didn't require any more fine motor control than any other mobile use. The combat system required a little more fine motor control than that and was definitely time-sensitive, but on the whole moved slowly enough that I could handle it. For the most part the combat system was more about making good choices then the touchscreen equivalent of keysmashing. The game does allow pausing during combat, so when I needed to take a break, I did. On Girlfriend Mode (the hardest mode, because FTW), the combat system does push my limits, but not disastrously so -- and there are three levels of difficulty, so I can always take it down a notch. The special moves, on the other hand, did cause real problems for me. All of them are time sensitive, and several of them required more dexterity then I realistically have a lot of the time. On the other hand, the game is pretty forgiving of the skill-based specials, giving multiple attempts to retry them, and the combat-based specials can be avoided.

Art: Animation wise, the art is pretty damn good for an iOS game. I was frustrated that all of the characters were wasp-waisted with bubble-butts, and some of them (though not the protagonist) wear ludicrous outfits. (Geisha catgirl killer bots? Really? Must we?) Eventually I figured out that I could aim the camera a little bit higher so I wasn't staring at the protagonist's ass for the entire game, which definitely improved my enjoyment.

Gameplay: Very fun on first playthrough, amusing on second, probably couldn't stand up to a third. There's a nice balance of movement, cut scene, and combat, though I would have preferred more game choice, and more obvious results from those choices. What keeps it from being a game that allows much replay, from my POV, is that the slow pace (lots of non-zippy walking down space station corridors) is not well complimented by the fact what game choices there are mostly don't change much until the endgame. So for a lot of the game you're moving pretty slowly through the same scenes you've already encountered before, without much difference.

Tl;dr: I absolutely recommend it. Sure, I'm biased by it being the first game I've ever installed on my phone that had a combat system I could handle with my hands (aside from pure turn-based combat such as Civilization Revolution). But that's no accident. Brianna Wu said in an interview:

“We got our game testers back, and the list was 90% men…. Meaning it was only men who were going to be giving their opinion on the game and shaping the changes we would make to the game,” Wu says via phone. “I said, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ If you look at the market, it is a fact that half of all players out there are women.”


These games stand out in part because their main characters stray from convention, but so do their game play mechanics. Wu notes that testing “Revolution 60” with a diverse crop of potential players — men, women, serious gamers and even those who rarely played games — altered the design philosophy for the young developers (Spacekat team members are all in their early- to mid-30s).

“It shifted the type of game we’re making — radically shifted,” Wu says of “Revolution 60,” which cost close to half a million dollars to develop. “I remember one play-test where this guy comes in and he’s ‘bam-bam-bam-bam-bam.’ He was moving as fast as he could on the iPad. It was like, ‘Attack!’

“Women,” on the other hand, Wu says, “generally liked something that was a little more methodical, that was more rhythm-based, that rewarded pattern recognition. We split the difference between those two. That’s just an example of women having a different kind of awareness — that women needed to be represented in game-testing.”

Gender essentialism aside, certainly I enjoyed it; even when my hands worked I disliked button-smashing combat.

And the snarky team interaction with the character-driven plot choices, all added to my happiness with R60.
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