Review: [email protected] (PS4)

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Title: [email protected]
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.1 GB)
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Stormcloud Games
Developer: Stormcloud Games
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €14.99 (EU), £TBD (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
[email protected] is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
You begin a [email protected] adventure with your bare fists and an unlit torch assigned to one of the four directional buttons. Finding a flame in order to better fend off the many enemies lurking in the unknown dungeon ahead is a wise move. It doesn’t stay lit for long and while you can clobber a beast with the smouldering end, a flame helps vanquish them quicker. In the case of the undead, fire is the only way to permanently rid the world of their rotting corpses.

You will encounter an assortment of enemies, most are easy to defeat without too much trouble. It’s the annoying little spiders, rats, and some kind of centipede that irritate me, not because of their strength but because they cling onto me and are nigh on impossible to spot. A simple jump shakes them free but until you notice them, they happily chomp away at your health.

You can block attacks and even throw your shield at an enemy. It is a powerful attack but leaves you open for several seconds while it spins back to you like a boomerang. It’s easy to confuse an enemy by sliding between their legs or jumping over them. This is great for a few devastating attacks and it looks quite cool too.

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Much to the upset of the imaginary local library, there are books strewn about the levels. It must have been a forgetful soul with a penchant for weaponry, the crafting of said items to be exact. With these books and a handful of plain old ASCII letters that you also find, you can make some lethal weapons with the right combinations.

There are also enchanted ASCII letters to be found and these can be used to give your weapons an added power. It could be anything from electricity to poison and you can add as many as you wish to a weapon, as long as you can find the correct colored letters.

… it continually feels fun and new …
As you descend further into the dungeon, the enemies grow in number and you begin to see some of the trickier opponents. Some can be a real pain, like the nymph who steals your weapons and the gargoyle who flies around deflecting all of your projectiles. Learning their patterns and bringing the right weaponry to the fight makes things much easier.

Because your skills and inventory reset with each playthrough and the levels change each time, it continually feels fun and new. You are always on the hunt for those elusive letters and books. Exploring every inch of a level, stumbling upon a secret room, and unlocking skills are all very addictive.

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Each of the four character classes begins with a few skills and has different fighting styles. I like them all and still have not gravitated towards a favourite. The Amazonian woman is quick and deadly but doesn’t have the strength of the Warrior for example.

One thing that was not immediately clear was the ability to enchant a weapon with more than one power, and then switching the powers by pressing the same directional button until you select the required enchantment. It could have been mentioned in the introductory hints screens but I was too ill to notice.

[email protected] features an excellent level creation mode that allows you to save several maps and even publish one for the world to play. It took me a few minutes to master but I was soon making levels with ease. I highly suggest giving it a try if you like to flex your creative muscles.

… you may not see all the enemies or traps …
Visuals:
The game has a unique visual style that is both brilliant and annoying. Well, maybe not annoying but it can frustrate. The way the rooms cascade into view as you enter and the exciting combat looks great. However, there is no visual indicator of what your character is targeting and some of the room layouts can make it difficult to see everything, although that is probably by design.

Some may become annoyed by how close the camera is and while you can pan it a slight distance you cannot pull back. This means you may not see all the enemies or traps until they are too close to avoid. It pays to listen for the grunts and moans of your foes as you creep into the room, which brings me nicely to the sound design.

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Audio:
A slow explorative tune adds to the uncertainty of what lies ahead. This is broken up by a faster pace of heavy drums and stronger chords that builds the adrenaline levels as you face a group of enemies.

You will slowly learn the idling sounds of your opponents and generally ready your character before the onslaught. If not, then you will probably see the edge of the screen bleed in as you are about to die and hear the slow and struggling heartbeat of your weary character as they fight for life.

My one complaint comes from the clunky and erratic sounds you hear when using the level editor. It often cuts out and stutters as you create which is off-putting. Aside from that I like the sound design of the game.

… a reluctant guinea pig …
Online/Multiplayer:
My wife grabbed a second controller and joined me for some co-op fun. You share the screen and cannot stray too far from each other so communication is paramount when navigating the levels. You do not share the things you pick up but can drop items, food, and even weapons for the other player to grab.

Because each game session mixes things up we had no idea what each potion color did. Your character can drink them and take a risk or throw them at an enemy. With no enemies left in the level my wife used my character as a reluctant guinea pig and threw them my way. I got my payback when she mistimed a jump and her character plummeted to its death.

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If a character dies in combat they can be revived from where they fell. My wife’s character was lost in the abyss so the lifeless corpse appeared at the level start. You can backtrack and revive them or go for the next level if it’s within reach. Bringing them back from the clutches of death is not without a cost and you give them half your health in return.

Playing in this co-op mode was very enjoyable and surprisingly without any issues. We never lost our characters or confused them with the other, which was surprising considering how similar they look.

… insanely addictive and often funny …
Conclusion:
[email protected] is a great game. I have become obsessed with destroying every breakable object I see so I can build my experience enough to unlock another skill, only to find a weapon or enchanted door that needs a different thing I have yet to attain. And so I venture deeper into the rabbit hole.

Finding loads of ASCII and potions, upgrading an awesome weapon with several enchantments and becoming a deadly unstoppable killing machine, only to accidentally fall off a ledge and die can only be described as an EPIC FAIL. I will not admit the amount of times I have done this but for some reason it spurs me on even more.

This is an enjoyable solo game that will entertain for a very long time but the most fun is with the co-op mode. It becomes insanely addictive and often funny as mistakes are made or potions thrown. Plus being able to revive each other extends the chances of making it deeper into the dungeon.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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