Mechs are quite the thing right now, what with everyone talking about Hawken and Mechwarrior Online and Gare Sapphire Mechs. Oh, you spotted that deliberate mistake? Good job, very alert of you. Well, if nobody is talking a great deal about Gare, perhaps that’s their loss and perhaps not. That’s why I’m reviewing it, I suppose, so people can decide if they want to talk about it or not.
So welcome to the planet Vitris-47, where an oppressive regime controls everything and war is always present. You are part of the resistance, you’ve somehow managed to get your mits on an advanced mech and you’re going to use it to take the fight to the bad guys, the Idalin Empire. Who I believe make medicine for ADHD as a sideline. Handy, as you’ll need some to pay attention to the utterly bog-standard sci-fi backstory.
The story of the liberation of the planet is played out as you stomp through the levels, shooting apart the enemy and collecting cash for upgrades. Between missions, you can spend cash on a variety of bodies, legs and guns for your mech. If you collect enough stars in a level, you unlock a special ability, such as extra resistance to collisions or a free-floating gun for your hovering sidekick. Which is a living crystal entity called a Tikky. Of course.
Gare was originally a free browser game, a neat little WSAD-controlled point and click shooter. It’s now available as a full desktop version, a step the Brazilian developers have taken in order to… what? Cash in, I guess. I seem to recall playing the browser version once, and I don’t think there’s a vast difference in the two. But I could be wrong.
It’s a pleasant enough shooter that vaguely recalls ancient games like Blood Money or Gauntlet in some ways. A top down shooter in which you navigate a maze, shooting everything in your path, with collectable upgrades or cash for said upgrades. You can play it your way to an extent, as a slow and heavy mech or a fast and scouty one, by using different chassis. The guns come in a close-up spray-and-pay version or a long range sniper gun, with an intermediate version between them. But they don’t really feel very different.
Nothing does, in fact. The enemies do have different powers and guns, even appearances, but they’re small and monochrome and all sort of look the same. Your mech is so much more powerful than they are that even on higher levels, there’s only a limited sense of challenge. Just pound away at them and they eventually explode. The levels have a smidge of gameplay difference, sort of, in that sometimes you’re patrolling, sometimes you’re liberating colleagues, sometimes you’re trying to kill a boss. But it all comes across as the same – trudge round a level killing everything, ticking objective boxes. Even the star collection thing isn’t a challenge – three stars on every level, and they aren’t really hidden, you just need a bit of patient grind to find them.
The sound is good – twinkly hypno piano beats with digital-sounding blasts and explosions. The graphic style draws so heavily on Tron that words like ‘borrowed’ or ‘influenced’, as deployed by the developer, feel a little underpowered. Try ‘nicked from’, that’s about the level. But it does look good, at least.
Overall, it’s strangely relaxing to play. Almost muted, I’d say, I didn’t find much excitement in it. I could see the appeal if this was a free browser game, certainly, but it’s not. It wants to bill you $9.95 for the pleasure. That’s not a lot, true. You won’t get a lot for it, though, just an uncomplicated if good-looking game that will keep you entertained for an hour or two at best.
Should you talk about this? I’d vote no, not really. There’s plenty of other games out there for a similar cost that you’ll get a lot more out of. Or find an abandonware copy of the original Gauntlet. ‘Elf needs food badly’ is a classic. This is a pale imitation.