|March 15, 2014
David is a unique title. It’s a Christian art game. Now, I know I’ve lost some of you already, but that fact makes it unique among Christian software. In the past, “Bible” games have been trying to appeal to a certain spending demographic, using Christian themes as marketing (there was even at least one “Bible” game that was just a reskin of an adult game). This is quite different from that. The creator credits indie creators like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish as inspirations, which means that this guy is deeply familiar with game culture, and is trying to give back to it. Does it work? Well…
Okay, you play as David. You are told there is Evil (appropriately called Sin), and you are sent out to vanquish it . Simple, yes, but the minimalist story fits with the minimalistic art style. I like the art style. It’s simple, but appealing. If Thomas Was Alone proved anything, it was that you can tell a compelling story with shapes. It’s after this where the game starts breaking down for me.
The campaign is just a succession of boss battles. Now, that’s not necessarily a problem, but it does make the game awfully short. There are two difficulty modes: Okay and Very. The difference between them is that Okay gives you six points of health, while Very only gives you one. Now, in the tutorial, the game suggests that you’ll be able to increase your health with golden blocks. Not once in the main game do these golden blocks appear. They only appear in a challenge room called the Arena, which challenges you to destroy as many enemies as possible. Plus, to face the final boss, you’ll need to complete all levels on Very. Very feels really cheap sometimes, since you can’t make any mistakes, nor can you survive if the game backs you into a corner. Still, even with my challenges, I only spent two or three hours on the game. Again, that’s not necessarily a problem (Portal anyone?), but the game feels really dull for a few reasons.
You attack by holding your mouse over David to charge your shot, then move the mouse over whatever you want to aim at. It’s new, to be sure, but it just doesn’t feel right. Not only does it take time to charge up a shot, your shots have to come back to you, and settle back down before you can shoot them again. I’d have rather seen a more immediate point and shoot system. You move with the WASD keys. Moving works OK, except for one quirk: you can jump in mid-air as many times as you want. The problem is, if you hold up, you don’t keep going up, and, if you press up a bunch of times, you won’t get anywhere. So, if you want to keep moving up, you’ll need to hold up for about a second, and then press it again. In the heat of battle, it gets pretty hard to remember that.
Also, you can’t see the whole screen at once. This is really frustrating since you can’t actually see the attacks that are getting thrown at you. It’s part of the reason that Very difficulty feels cheap; something will come up at high speed that you have very little to time to prepare for. Also, in the example above, when the camera zooms in, you can’t see what that thing under the water is doing. Since you can’t shoot underwater, it becomes a tedious waiting game. When you can’t even see where the boss is, or where they are going to jump out, it makes the situation even more frustrating. The frustrating this is, I know the game is capable of showing the whole screen at once, so the zoomed in view makes very little sense.
The music is also problematic. Not the music itself – I actually really like the music. But, when you click on David to charge, time slows down (to give you time to dodge incoming fire). The music also slows, so what was intended to be an upbeat theme slows to unbearable droning.
For a new developer, David is a noble first attempt. And, unlike some other art games, it actually is a game. Unfortunately, it runs into some problems, so I really can’t recommend it unless you are looking for something interesting and a little different. For $2, though, those of you looking for something interesting and don’t mind dealing with some gameplay issues should check it out. It’s definitely something we haven’t seen before; it’s just not terribly compelling. I hope this isn’t the last we hear from this developer, though. He has an interesting style and bold aspirations. Maybe he can bring a new voice to the indie scene.
Review copy provided by the publisher