There’s a moment in everyone’s life where you wish you could go back to a more simple time. For most that time was when we were children and the world wasn’t so much of a scary place but a place full of wonder, intrigue and hope. I want you to pay attention to the last word because this review revolves all around that; hope. Not too long ago I did a Monday newz article and one topic was on this game of I, hope.
The game caught my eye because it deals with the very serious subject matter of Cancer, not only that but of childhood cancer more specifically. When I was talking about how everyone wants to go back to a more simple time like childhood, there are children out there who are facing more life threatening scenarios than most of us would see in our own lifetime. This game sets to bring out the fighter in these children who play, so they can build the courage to face this disease head on.
The Story Line
Let’s start where just about most reviews start, with the story line. The story involves a little girl by the name of Hope. Hope’s home has been invaded by an evil monster that goes by the name of Cancer. Cancer cells have possessed the animals of the different islands that revolve around her home, these Cancer tentacles even take possession of the islands themselves. With guidance from Hope’s grandfather, Hope set’s off on an adventure to save the islands and her home from the terror that is Cancer.
The story alone hits you right in the feels because it is so on the nose of what it sets out to do; putting a child in the fighting spirit to duke it out with Cancer head on. Children shouldn’t have to be faced with their own mortality before even living their life, the way this game gives them “Hope” is amazing. They can fight cancer in real life by going through their treatments and virtually by being a kid and fighting it in the video game world as well. With each different island comes a different puzzle and quest. By saving these islands from the Cancer cells and the Cancer tentacles, Hope is also collecting useful items that will aid her in the final fight against Cancer. The developer Kenny Roy put a lot of thought into how to cross the game world of a somewhat traditional action/adventure title and really make it more cathartic for the gamers it was geared towards.
By keeping in mind the game is geared towards children with a life threatening illness a lot of the game play mechanics can be forgiven. This game was not designed for me but I have to be as honest as possible because it is a review after all. The game play is about average here, nothing that hasn’t been seen before for the most part. There is a basic offensive attack with only four moves for swinging your staff at enemies. The animations are lacking in the area of swinging your weapon, whether you’re walking or running, the animation is still the same four cycled positions.
On the subject of swinging your weapon, the hits and damage you deal to enemies can be underwhelming as well. You cannot form any quick combos because the character goes through the same swinging loop. When you make contact with an enemy it’s as if you’re attacking a balloon animal. That sound alone can take you out of the atmosphere the game is trying to build up for you, hitting the cancer cells just doesn’t feel as satisfying as it should. The game tends to be pretty glitchy at some points of the game as well, some points while standing near an object Hope would start to go nuts. I wondered if I should call an exorcist at one point, then I realized I was playing a video game and I might not be taken seriously……oh well.
Sound effects from time to time are a small gripe but the camera is a pretty big gripe. The camera has a tendency of going from your best friend to your worst enemy pretty quickly. For those who are used to having complete control over the camera, have patience with this because you will have control only most of the time. This makes the game just a little bit harder unnecessarily. You won’t be able to see too much above you either if you need to inspect your surroundings because the camera stops at a certain degree. That may lead to frustration with a lot of people, myself included.
The main enemies are not the hardest to fight, the hits they deal out either hit you, or for some reason don’t make contact and completely pass by you. With this inconsistency, that makes these guys barely passable for entertainment value to go toe to toe with. Going up against these inhabitants of each world that are possessed by the cancer cells, all you need to do is hit twice, dodge roll and repeat. Done. The tentacle fights are the mini bosses of the game and do a pretty good job in up-ing the difficulty level, I wish the whole game could be like how these mini boss fights play. They remind me of Zelda titles where you journey to get a specific item and the way you beat the boss of the level is by using your newly acquired item against them. Very formulaic for the genre but it works well for this game and what it sets out to do.
Up until this point it seems I might be only bashing the game where it seems I hate it, that isn’t the case at all. There are some really good features at play here as well. One of which I am excited to talk about is the games music. One thing that can really make or break a game will be musical compositions in my opinion. If you have great game play but terrible music, you might just lose your audience completely. No one wants to be listening to the sound of plastic PlaySkool toys while you’re off on an adventure. The music and tempo need to change and go with the setting on each level. In some levels you will find that the musical score loops itself a bit too much at and it is painfully obvious when it does so. The orchestra behind you can be some of the most uplifting music in an independent game I have heard. Especially when you realize what the overall premise of the game is. Some levels the music can sound mechanical but that is done deliberately to match the level design itself and to help immerse the player more, which is detrimental in keeping the player glued to a game.
Although the game is pretty much linear and formulaic in regard to game play, it does bring a couple of interesting mechanics to the table. With sticking to the theme of building courage within the player there are four items that Hope must collect. A cymbal, a glove, the power of generating a wall and a pair of goggles. Each item aides Hope in her journey: the goggles helps Hope see the world around her in a different way to spot different passages to areas, the wall she can make consists of the “friends” she helped save so they help her up to higher places, the glove gives Hope strength to move heavier objects and the cymbals help Hope to put the fright on enemies so they are immobilized for a bit. Of course these mechanics are an allegory for the journey one takes with the fight against Cancer, the game is a lot more direct in showing that. An interesting mechanic to note is when you defeat the Cancer cells inhabiting others, you are able to absorb them into your staff and use that as a special shot against enemies. It is a more powerful attack and is your ranged weapon for the game. The last mechanic to talk about would be the collection of cards throughout the game. Just like a lot of games before it, there are cards to be collected that spell out HOPE. When you collect the cards you are rewarded with a bonus Song in the mystical cave that you can enter
on the main menu.
As I made it clear from the beginning of the review, this game is not made for me or anyone realistically over the age of 15. It is through and through geared towards younger children who are suffering through a terrible disease that need as much distraction as possible. This game does that very well, the cave I mentioned above is the most beautiful part of the whole game in my opinion. When you walk in you see a fountain and a cave wall with quotes that are written by what I can assume are the development team. One of the quotes for example is “Cancer might win a battle, but hope will win the war” – Alex. That shows how much of a passion project this game was.
All4Gamerz score: 7/10
It is not the best or worst game I have ever played but I highly recommend anyone with small children who game to pick this title up. Proceeds go to a company called Gamechanger.org, their mission according to their website “WE LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION TO EASE THE PAIN AND SUFFERING OF CHILDREN FACING LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESSES”. If that doesn’t get you in the heart strings I don’t know what will. The game is available to download on Xbox or PC. If you don’t have an Xbox and want one or want to find out more about consoles in general check out my other post on The Video Game Titans.
If you liked this article please feel free to leave a comment below, perhaps there are other charities out there who do similar work that you know of and I don’t. I’d love to hear about it.