Published on December 11th, 2013 | by David Guild2
Review: Final Exam
There’s nothing I love better than some old school shooter mayhem, so when the powers that be (Tony) said I’ll be reviewing Final Exam, I had to do some research. XBLA has been in darkness for me for the past few months since the change to real cash, but after watching the trailer I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
Final Exam is a side-scroller, 2.5D shooter slash beat’em up developed by Mighty Rocket Studio. The premise of the game is thus: A group of 4 friends have reunited at their old school to throw a party – but (naturally) something else has other plans! Monsters have crashed the party and invaded the town leaving you and up-to four friends to fix the mess. Each of the 4 playable characters fall in to one of your generic American high school stereotypes: the jock, the geek, the bully and the beautiful token female. Did I get that right? As you’d expect, each class has their strengths and weakness such as Brutal Joe (the jock) who (as you’d expect) exhibits strength. As the game is more a brawler than a shooter for a lot of my play through I favoured the tank out of all of them (as I could take hits – but also dish out the pain).
The story is pretty simple and I admit I found it pretty forgettable as I just wanted to keep on smashing monsters and get to the end. Thankfully the lack of story didn’t bother me as being a gamer since the Atari 2600, I can quite happily play a game just for the gameplay and enjoy the challenge of facing the hordes of monsters. I found myself going back and forth through quite large level, doing certain objectives to move on to the next level (which can be either flicking some switches to saving children and getting them back to the typical yellow school bus). Most of the time the objectives feel like it’s there to pad the game out as most of the objectives are quite pointless and unbelievable. As I said before the levels are vast and to increase the action at times the game tries to create some form of panic. On occasion, you scramble through the corridors, climb up and down the ladders looking for the key to get you out when you hear the dreaded noise of a pack of monster approaching! This is where the game ramps up the number of enemies you encounter, as before you were running in to small groups of 3-to-4 monsters but now you take on wave after wave.
The game has a pretty solid combat mechanic where you can choose where you swing your bat in either of three directions. Up in the air, right in front or down to the ground. This allows chain moves to juggle some enemies in the air and then can follow up with a jump to slam them back to solid earth. Final Exam also allows you to buy special attacks and moves by earning points from completing sub-objectives (like finding collectables in form of orbs and weapons, along with getting the target score). This in turn allows you to mix up your attacks depending on which character you chose. For the jock it gives you a charging move which charges your weapon, then with one swing can knock any amount of enemies off their feet and back (giving you some wiggle room), or you can build up your ability to release a massive earthquake attack. Along with your melee attacks you can also grab ranged weapons such as pistols, machine guns and shotguns. These give you an equal hand against those enemies who can get at you from a far. For crowd control throw in some grenades or Molotov cocktails, mix and the combat stops it becoming too stale.
The enemies do get increasingly harder as you progress and the bosses can be exhausting, which is why the game is a far better multiplayer than solo. The first night I played it, our fearless leader Tony joined me for a level plus a boss battle and it made the game a lot better as we found the character’s weakness’ were balanced out. While I was the brawler, Tony was more the tactical technician who has more a finer hand than me when it comes to catching barrels. Even playing this with my non-gaming partner (Miss Danielle Warren), who cannot game to save her life, she was able to handle the simple controls and give me back up when needed – especially for the much needed boss fights (even though she claimed the prize of Best Cannon Fodder).
The visuals of the game are straight out of a comic. Dark colouring to show off that end of the world vibe, and while that suits this game, it’s not going to blow anyone away. The game also lacks a decent soundtrack nor includes any voice work for the characters. A real shame.
In the end, while I enjoyed the game, the story was weak and didn’t provide any special memories. The game is forgettable, however would say it’s a great filler between games with friends. The difficulty settings allow even the non-gamers to get a feel and can be ramped up to give the more hardcore games a good challenge. I just wished they put some more thought in the story and even spent some time adding a simple, yet cheesy voice over. As you can expect the game isn’t trying to be serious but it isn’t all that funny either – which they should of aimed for. With games like Castle Crashers and Double Dragon, the game has some stiff completion and doesn’t have the fan base to keep it in front.
As always thanks to the publisher allowing us to review the game, and if you fancy checking out Tony and I play Final Exam, check out our ‘Lets Play‘.
Final Exam is available now and Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360 version reviewed).
Summary: Side-scroller brawler which is plays better with friends but scores below average grades.