I was bashing a horde of paper-crafted zombies with a huge flaming matchstick when it struck me that playing Squareface is a decent amount of fun. The charm of the game had gotten to me. My mission quest had me pushing a giant skateboard of craft supplies across the room, zombies coming at me from all sides. I was laser-sighting tiny zombies with my gun near a vacuum cleaner and grinning from ear to ear. Squareface just oozes creativity, even down to the menus and zombie finger mouse pointer. There are shortcomings for sure, but it does a good job of creating an inviting game atmosphere.
Developer: VAN CUBO
Publisher: VAN CUBO
Genre: Third-person Action RPG
Release date: 12th September, 2016
At first glance from the steam page art, it just looks like another cubic character game. I’ve seen tons of these lately, so it barely peaked my interest. However, once the game started I immediately had a “this is cool” moment. There’s a sort of whimsical Double Fine vibe here that reminded me of the first time i played “Psychonauts”. It’s that charm that will likely ride you through the game, as every level seems to bring something just a little unexpected. For an action adventure RPG with shooter and melee gameplay, i was pleasantly surprised.
We begin as an amnesiac who finds himself in a world that apparently resembles the confines of my teenage bedroom. It’s all there; video game controllers, remote controls, guitars, and of course paper-crafted man-dolls strewn all over the floor with little guns. You are a tiny paper figurine come to life in this world. After an intro on some game mechanics, you are led by an old man to discover some tribal paper-doll struggles within this bedroom. You get your best Rambo face on and run into the fray with guns blazing and your matchstick swinging.
There are four main areas to explore in the house. You start off in the bedroom, make a daring excursion to the bathroom, followed by a trip to the kitchen, and finally the living room. Each area has several mission levels with a variety of goals to achieve in order to move on to the next mission.
One thing that did confuse me a bit was understanding which mission goal advances me forward to end the mission. Sometimes, it was all three goals but occasionally I would be doing one goal and suddenly the mission would come to an end before I could finish the next goal. This may frustrate those who love to get achievements.
Progression seems fairly well paced, but most of the RPG customization comes from the multitude of options you can purchase with the coins you retrieve from your kills.
The first choice should be your costume. Level up your coolness and wallet size with costumes options such as hats and coats. I personally went for the items that maxed out both of those. This enabled me to get as many coins in game as I could and convert zombies into love-struck minions who help fight by my side just because I’m uber-cool.
Guns are also upgradable, but my favorite was getting a katana. It just made melee a lot more fun to slice through hordes of zombies rather than continually shooting them.
There are also Pets you can have along with you who range from a variety of animals such as cockroaches to a manned tank. These pets can also be set to attack on sight, which can help when the zombie hordes come running for you. Some of these are unlockable as you play, but the better pets are available for purchase with your game coins.
Inside every level is a “Funerales” merchant who allows you to purchase one ticket for 10 coins to get your life back should you die. I thought he might have extra tickets or other items for sale, but he only sells the one ticket to you. Beyond that, you can pay 200 coins to revive yourself in the event of multiple deaths. This is helpful as it really progresses the game along nicely without the need to redo a level again in order to move forward. That’s not to say the missions are easy.
The day i started playing was just after the first release of controller settings in the game. With an xbox 360 controller in hand, I went right at it. One thing you’ll notice is you cannot zip through the menu by pressing buttons. Instead, you must use the right joystick and slowly click the right trigger like a mouse click. After that, the movement of the character is very fluid without much slowdown. I did notice if i swung my melee weapon I would move about enough to fall from a ledge. Also, targeting was very sluggish. On the sniper level, it was virtually impossible to keep the laser sight still with a controller. That was the only main instance where I had to alternate between a mouse and a controller. If using the controller I’d suggest trying the game with mostly melee action because aiming is not going to be a quick action. Also, I could not figure out how to set my pet to attack with the controller, so that part seemed to be only keyboard enabled.
For an RPG, the story was sparse. If you are looking for character development, story arcs, drama, or intriguing dialogue you will be disappointed. What I found is each mission level started with a tiny amount of dialogue with perhaps an extra line here or there towards the end. Don’t expect to get attached to characters or find more than a barebones storyline during the gameplay. The game is more about the game world than the story. That’s not to say the story is bad, but it certainly lacks depth for an RPG.
While not a must play title, Squareface is certainly a fun romp through a household battleground. Where else could I fight to the death on top of a toilet seat firepit? It’s got originality and style. You can feel the studio spent time giving the game world a quirky persona. Even the missions carry this through. I would finish a harrowing gunfight mission to follow it up with another mission where I could set zombies on fire with a stove burner or shred them with a cake mixer.
I did encounter a few odd geometry issues where I would get stuck in place. Occasionally, my allies would block my shot while I was sniping. Even lovestruck zombies would attack my thumbtack barricades, destroying my cover. This can frustrate the gameplay a bit, but in general you work around it without too much trouble.
The weakest part of the game is the lack of full RPG storyline. In an RPG I’m usually expecting to find a story with a larger measure of narrative. Squareface does not have that and it becomes more of a shooter action game than anything else.
Overall, I say it’s worth a play if you have some spare time and want to enjoy an action RPG that’s different than the norm. If traversing the confines of a kitchen counter chased by zombies and using condiments for cover sounds like a good time, by all means give it a go.