By Jacob Grindstaff / September 7th, 2020
|Release Date||January 7th, 2020|
|Genre||Retro, Arcade Shooter|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux|
Welcome to Many Faces, a classic style retro arcade shooter by Wanzungdev and EastAsiaSoft. As always, I’ll answer this question at the end of the review: Is this game fun?
Downloading and installing the game on Switch took no time at all, which is a plus. Upon booting up the game, you get your standard options – New Game, Tutorial, Options, and credits. The “New Game” button is blocked out until you complete the tutorial. The options menu is sparse, but for a console game it at least has the ability to turn down music and sound. A aim marker option is also in the options, which isn’t enabled by default.
Aesthetically, the art style isn’t pleasing to look at for long periods of time. It still works with what the game wants to be, a classic arcade shooter. Thankfully, you won’t have to look at it too much because the game is short.
The music is grating. It’s loud, obnoxious, and constantly loops over and over again. There’s no variety excluding for when you face bosses, which all have the same static music loop.
Starting up the game, the tutorial is very standard and gets a thumbs up from me. It teaches you the mechanics of the game without being too invasive. After the tutorial, you can start up a new game on three difficulty modes; Easy, Normal, Hard.
Getting to the actual gameplay, you can move, aim/shoot, dodge-roll to avoid bullets and enemies, read hat tooltips, and jump. Here are the controls:
- Move – Left Joystick
- Jump – B
- Shoot – ZR
- Dodgeroll – ZL
- Aim – Right Joystick
- Read Hat Description – X
After completing a majority of the tutorial, the game then throws in a new mechanic – hats. These hats do special things for your character like enhance your gun, health, or overall utility. Hats spawn at the end of every stage in a chest, excluding boss chests which drop health upgrades. These hats can be dropped at any point during your dodge-roll mechanic; this is important for the review later. One of the first hats I got gave me the ability to trap enemies in bubbles…but the gun no longer did any damage after that. This leads up to my biggest complaint – why pick up the hats in the first place?
The hats, which are supposed to be upgrades, were oftentimes detrimental during my playthrough and weren’t used half the time due to the time I spent dodging boss bullets or random exploding enemies. Picture this: you go through this game, picking up hats at the end of every level via a nice, sparkly chest; this is required to continue, but you can drop the hat by dodgerolling. Let’s say the hat in question gives you the ability to shoot arrows for double damage – you’d think this would be super good! But the problem is, these arrows shoot at about half the speed of your regular bullets, so the damage output is the same. Not only this, a majority of the enemy design in this game is “we fly around a lot, so have fun hitting us.” Many Faces fails to deliver in good powerup variety.
Dodging bullets also drops the hat, which sucks because it feels like I’m being punished by the game for not taking damage. By the time you’re avoiding bullets there’s a strong chance more bullets will be coming at you so you can’t pick up the hat. Why not have a button to switch hats? Choosing between two hats at the end of the stage is tedious because the hat tool tips overlap, making it hard to read. Nine times out of ten, I would drop my hat just to read the other hat tooltip, and before I could swap to the other hat I would get pushed into the next stage.
Variety-wise, Many Faces doesn’t feel too lackluster. There’s a good bit of difference in each one, so none of them felt copy-pasted. Hazard-wise, there are spikes, beams, and falling platforms – every platform can be jumped or dropped through. Enemy variety is solid and has enough types of blocky creatures to keep you on your toes. The only really disappointing mark against it is that there are only seven bosses, so you have a high chance of going through ones you’ve faced before in the next run.
Each run consists of 17 stages with bosses at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 17. In the 50+ randomized stages it claims to offer, I experienced the same stages through multiple playthroughs quite frequently. On stage 17, you always face the Many Faces king to escape the UFO.
A issue I ran across quite frequently was when enemies would move through platforms and just sit in the platform, allowing me to not hit them. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t happen so often, and lengthen stage runs by nearly double. Sometimes, when enemies would drop hearts they were so far out of reach that I couldn’t pick them up. A simple fix to this would be to just drop or move the hearts to the nearest ground floor, allowing players to pick them up.
Beyond all this, the gameplay loop doesn’t feel good enough to do multiple runs. I finished a run on Easy and Normal to see the differences – usually that included more enemies per stage, which I prefer over just increasing health and damage. Damage against the player stays the same at all difficulty levels. Bosses get new tricks and attacks as you increase difficulty, which is refreshing to see in a age where increased difficulty just means “more HP”. The game itself is not that difficult either, it just throws more frustrating items at you and has you deal with them. I wasn’t having a great experience and was mainly frustrated with how the game tarnishes its own mechanics, rather than enhancing them. Every run takes about 25-50 minutes per.
Answering the question from the beginning of the review, this game had me frustrated rather than cheerful, even for only $4.99. It feels like a boring slog through multiple levels doing the same thing over and over again, which is a shame because there’s a lot of untapped potential here! If Many Faces didn’t punish you for using powerups, I think this would be a great easy title to run through a few times when you’re bored.
Game was provided by publisher.
Arcade ShooterEastAsiaSoftGame ReviewMany Facesoprainfallrogue-likeSwitch