Before I begin, I really want to stress that I do not take pleasure in giving a bad review. The games I typically get were done by small teams that have a passion for games and just wanted to create something they would want to play. It really is not fun to walk past these labors of love and defecate all over them, but sometimes love can be…misguided. With that said, everyone grab your umbrellas because here is Chaos Domain.
Released to Steam on May 1st by Holy Warp and Black Wing Foundation, Chaos Domain is a side scrolling shooter starring the rad Egyptian god, Anubis…in spaaaaace. I wasn’t able to suss out much in the way of plot beyond “go right and shoot those fools.” Why is Anubis in space? Did the developers know who he is or did they think it was cool? When playing multiplayer, what would the plural of Anubis be? Anubises? Anubi? Seriously, it doesn’t matter when it comes to this type of game. Contemplating these questions is just where I had the most fun with this one.
The game wants to fashion itself after the old Contra series, with weird Alien influenced enemies, power ups that float by for those quick enough to shoot them down, and various jumping challenges. I can certainly get behind this idea as I have been looking for a new old-school style side-scroller. Alas, this one needs a major retooling to work. Even when there are a few enemies on screen, everything feels barren. The levels themselves simply feel uninspired, lacking any sort of excitement or “cool factor.” They are just sort of there, waiting for you to meander through.
The controls don’t help the situation. While they are simple with you only needing to worry about move, jump, shoot, and aim, they just feel off. I did detect a bit of lag a couple of times, but that wasn’t the primary issue. It was more the aiming while moving never felt locked in the way it should be. To combat this, you will find yourself moving forward slowly, inch by inch, to take on enemies one at a time. This way, you can avoid being done in by the controls themselves. For a game of this style, that is a death knell. There are two solutions that could be implemented to alleviate aiming the control issues. They could add an angle lock button, similar to Contra 3, so you do not need to worry about your movement direction when firing. The best solution would be a mouse or twin-stick aiming solution similar to Abuse or Blood of the Werewolf.
You know how I mentioned power-ups before? There are a few, including the machine gun and the mighty spread gun. Don’t rely on them. Their appearance is exceedingly rare to the point that they are rendered moot. If you do happen across one, try to hold your adoration at bay. Similar to a trip through a TSA checkpoint at the airport, even something that would only be remotely lethal if the user has twenty minutes of uninterrupted time will be taken away as soon as you pass through the gate at the end of the level. It’s a poor decision to start you at the beginning of each stage with the basic pea-shooter even if you ended the last one with the better weapon.
There is also an upgrade system in place where you can spend money to power up weapons, but this is like adding a sparkly unicorn horn to a huntsman spider. There might something appealing, but you still don’t want to go near the creature.
When all is said and done, I really can’t recommend Chaos Domain. It simply isn’t the game it sets out to be and doesn’t manage to land anywhere worth while. I certainly hope the developers can take the experience gained from building this one and channel it into a more polished, better designed experience, but for now, I’ll just move along.