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Review | Excruciating Guitar Voyage

When Tickly Guitar Voyage doesn’t cut it

Format: PC/XBox 360 | Genre: Puzzle Platformer | Publisher: WickedWorx | Developer: WickedWorx | Release date: Now | Price: £3/240 points

Leena van Deventer enters a world where Metal is a four letter word in EXCRUCIATING GUITAR VOYAGE.

IT’S A tricky thing to really nail “naff on purpose”. The danger is if you don’t caricature enough it seems like you’re just as bad as what you’re lampooning, and Excruciating Guitar Voyage flirts with that line. Often. I was consistently wondering if they were serious or taking the mickey, and a feeling of unease was the unpleasant ramification of that.

No stairway

Excruciating Guitar Voyage is a world where metal music has been made illegal – it is an offence to own metal music, watch live metal performances, and own any metal related paraphernalia such as fan magazines and newspapers. Any metal sympathisers are jailed and forced to dance against their will to pop music in a hideous prison asylum. You play as PX, a metal fanboy who is aching to rage against the machine and listen to his beloved music, laws be damned. You go on a point and click slash platforming adventure to find your mate Craig who has some neat metal magazine you want to check out.

The art style is the first thing you see that gives you a twang of fear when you begin your excruciating guitar voyage. Not because it’s creepy or spooky, but you get that awful feeling that this might be a student submission for a game development course or that it is the bastard child of a night at the pub where the creators decided to go home sloshed and make a video game. It has a collage style to it, with the faces of the characters being actual photos (assumed to be the developer and his mates, all harvested from Facebook). The second twang of fear is in the voice acting. Some might say we should be thankful for ANY voice acting in an indie game, it’s rare to see because it’s so hard to get right – especially on the minuscule budgets independent developers are generally running on. But it’s not just “not good”, it’s cringetastic. To be blunt, it feels like the voice acting is where the “Excruciating” part comes in. Some voices were too quiet to hear, some were too loud, some where too monotone, most were horribly executed and all were missing pop filters and equalisers.

Lighten up, shake it off

As you try desperately to be a good sport and see it for the silly bit of fun that it is, you come across ‘giantised’ crickets, minecarts, sewers, lasers, electrified fences, a taco shop,  and a dude called Dude Simon, among others. You jump, action, and scroll through your inventory to interact with your environment and other characters, all over this platforming world, sometimes needing to electrocute and set yourself on fire in order to clear certain objectives. Don’t touch the lasers though. Being on fire can’t kill you, raw electricity can’t, but lasers sure as shit do! Knowing what is acceptable and what isn’t in the world takes a little getting used to, normally by trial and error. Some drops look like you’re supposed to go down them to explore but you find yourself dying by plummeting to your death. After you lighten up, know what the ‘rules’ are, and can relax a little bit, it can actually become a bit of fun – but I think it’s a learning curve that some people are going to struggle with or not have the patience for.

When a game is trying to be unprofessional looking it still needs to have a nicely polished base, and I fear Excruciating Guitar Voyage may be missing that base and leaving its audience scratching their heads wondering whether they’re taking the piss out of something bad or are actually bad. The lack of polish is evident not only in the voice acting, but the controls. Jumping was fluffy, with a jump taking about 5 minutes to land, and you need to use Page Down and Page Up to scroll through your inventory, making it a pain for people using small keyboards such as laptop/notebook keyboards where there’s no numeric keypad. It also requires you to be logged in as Administrator whenever you want to play, which I think is a little discourteous to require of players. It’s not uncommon to need to be logged in as Administrator for the first time you play it (and set up) but to require it for every session is a little brassy, in my opinion. This lack of polish makes the game a little less a joke I’m in on and feel more like the joke’s on me. The best person to portray a terrible singer is a great singer, and that is where Excruciating Guitar Voyage falls short of the mark. I appreciate where they were going, what they were trying to do, and how they were trying to go about it – but ultimately they forgot to bring me along with it.

4/10

What does this score mean?

Excruciating Guitar Voyage is available from Wicked Worx for the PC version and the Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace for the Xbox 360 version.

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