August 25, 2011 13 Comments
Sigh. I really thought I was going to love T.E.C. 3001. It just looked so fun and polished. Stills of the game don’t do it justice. In motion, it’s really a sight to behold, almost like you’re running through the world of Tron. And the early buzz on Twitter from the usual gang of idiots (™Mad Magazine) is that it was the single greatest achievement in the history of gaming and milestone for Xbox Live Indie Games.
Of course, T.E.C. is none of that. It’s a barely controllable reflex-tester starring a robotic Sonic the Hedgehog wannabe. Yea, it’s pretty, but calling this “great” devalues the word to such a degree that the ghost of Ivan III is now going to personally haunt every single person that would label it as such. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In T.E.C. 3001 you play as a robot that has to run around collecting batteries. In order to clear each stage, you have to get a minimum number of batteries before reaching the goal. I’m not sure why they bothered with this aspect. It wasn’t until very late in the game that I actually missed the target amount, and I only failed at this once. It seems kind of tacked on and not really necessary.
Running is handled automatically. All you do is dodge left and right, jump with A, and slide with B. Unfortunately, the controls fail the player more often than not. T.E.C. is designed in a way that requires the utmost precision for all movement and jumps, but you’re not provided with anything resembling smooth and responsive controlling at all. Your robot dude moves too damn fast, yet he handles like a shopping cart. Thus, you’ll spend the majority of the game running off ledges or crashing into pillars.
You also have a double jump that can be a bit on the fickle side. Sometimes it just didn’t want to work, almost at random it seemed. I would jump and wait until I was on a slight downward arc before jumping again and it would work. Then I would die and have to start over. I would try the same exact move, in the exact same spot, pushing the button for the double jump at what sure as hell seemed like the same moment I previously used it, and watch nothing happen except my dude fall to his death.
Still, I’ve played games that handled less than well but still managed to have a good time. And early on, that was the case with T.E.C. 3000. I immediately recognized that controlling would be an issue, but the amazing aesthetics and lightning-fast game play were sure to make up for it. And then, about four levels into the experience, I realized that everything from that point forward would revolve around trial-and-error game play so unforgiving that there would be no room left for fun. Allow me to walk you through a hypothetical level of T.E.C.
Start the level, avoid a pillar that you see, hit the pillar you couldn’t possibly see behind it.
Start the level over, avoid a pillar that you see, avoid the pillar you know is behind it, hit the barrier you couldn’t possibly see behind it.
Start the level over, avoid a pillar that you see, avoid the pillar that you know is behind it, jump over the barrier you know is behind that, hit the larger barrier you couldn’t possibly see behind it.
Start the level over, avoid a pillar that you see, avoid the pillar that you know is behind it, jump over the barrier you know is behind that, slide under the larger barrier you know is behind that, fall into a gap you couldn’t possibly see was there.
Does that sound fun to you? Because it sounds tedious and archaic to me. Games like this died out years ago for a reason: because they’re boring and people quit paying to play them. With the absurd levels of speed your dude runs, there’s just no margin for error here. They tried to make up for it by adding a decent amount of checkpoints in each stage, but it doesn’t help. Clear one memory-testing section of obstacles, start a new one. Yippee.
T.E.C. 3001 feels more like a concept build for something that, with the right amount of time and finesse, could be amazing. The graphics are among the best I’ve seen on the Xbox Live Indie Game market so far, and the idea of an insanely quick robot running through a neon-coated futuristic wonderland is pretty cool. But the stop-and-go nature of its game play negates the entire speed gimmick, and the controls kill off whatever pleasure remained. T.E.C. has style, but the only substance found is a cocktail of bad controls and level design that tastes like fecal matter.
Oh and before I go, I want to set the record straight on something: I don’t troll. If a game sucks, I say it. If I enjoy it, I say it. My standards aren’t even particularly high. I have no bias against any developer, person, or genre. I just want to have fun with a game that I purchase with money out of my pocket. If I don’t have fun, I’m not afraid to say it. If that rubs you the wrong way, I don’t know what to say except put on some pom-poms and a miniskirt because you are nothing but a cheerleader.
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