Entropy (Second Chance with the Chick)

Entropy was part of the third Indie Games Uprising.  Like other members belonging to the second week of the event, it was one of the weaker games.  Graphically, it was head-and-shoulders above the rest, but the gameplay was clunky and boring.  The developers, even knowing that I wasn’t likely to upgrade the status of their creation to Chick Approved, still asked me to play around with it some more today to show the progress they’ve made.  Guess what?  They were right.  The game is improved, but my personal seal of quality is out of reach.

I would make a Jerry Lee Lewis joke, but there’s nothing great about Entropy. Not even the balls of fire.

Before going any further, you should probably check out my write-up on Entropy.  So what’s changed?  Well, thankfully I didn’t offer up my immortal soul for the ability to pick up the balls.  The guys at Autotivity Games added such a feature in.  It’s not perfect by any means.  In fact, the learning curve for it is almost as steep as figuring out the best way to slowly push the balls around using your body.  It’s still a step in the right direction, even if they got a little dog doo on their shoes.  They also cut out some of the more tedious bits in the opening section of the game.  Again, smart move.

Thankfully there’s no cake joke.

Sadly, the choppy frame-rate is not only still intact, but it’s actually a bit skippier.  So now when you chase around the little pink ball of light designed to point you in the right direction to go, you might not even see where it’s going.  One step forward in dog poo, one step backwards into a bear trap.  It sucks because Entropy really did go all out with clever puzzles and beautiful scenery, but the biggest problem still remains: Entropy is boring.  I’m not encouraging the guys at Autotivity to call it quits.  But they need to stop mending this snoozer and start work on something that can capture people’s imaginations.  Start by giving it a name less depressing.  What is the opposite of Entropy?  I don’t know.  Euphoric Kangaroos Dancing the Polka?  Feel free to steal that one.  It has to be good enough to sell at least 100 copies.

Entropy was developed by Autotivity Games

80 Microsoft Points said “more like Entropoohey” in the making of this review.

Entropy

Entropy received a Second Chance with the Chick.  Consider this the definitive review, but check here to see what they fixed.

Here’s irony for you: I played about half-way through Entropy yesterday.  Now, I know the game was making track of my progress, because at one point I left the game and checked the level-select on the menu.  I just wanted to know how far I had made it.  Then, I went back to the game.  I played for a while, got bored, hit Borderlands 2, and figured I would finish Entropy today.  Instead, I found that my save file was gone.  So a game called Entropy experienced entropy.  Awesome.  Thankfully not all games do what their names say.  Wargasm for example.  Shudder.

*Note: I’ve talked with many players and nobody else has had this happen, and in fact it didn’t happen to me when I tried to recreate it.  It’s unknown what happened, but this is not expected to be anywhere remotely a common issue. 

Hey look! Writing on the wall. Just like that one game!

Perhaps it was somewhat merciful that I lost my progress in Entropy.  I was downright bored by it just a few stages in.  Maybe I’ve over-loaded on puzzlers as of late.  More likely I’m just sick of test-chamber games that have the personality of a sea cucumber, which is the perfect way to describe Entropy.  The setting is so lifeless, grim, and dark that it’s exhausting to experience.  Games like this need something entertaining to drive the player forward.  So many games seem like they want to be Portal, yet their developers completely missed the point of why Portal turned out the way it did.  Portal was given personality out of necessity, because the game would have been tiring without it.  I think this is why so many players succumbed to Gateways!  As cool as the puzzles in that were, there was nothing but the promise of more puzzles to drive the game, with no reason for players to stick around and “see where they’re going with this.”

Entropy does have some kind of plot.  I guess.  But things are kept too abstract and minimalistic to get a feel for what’s going on.  You have no character yourself.  You’re just a camera that hovers five feet off the ground.  The antagonist is a pink ball of light that leads you around from room to room.  There’s no dialog, so all you get to go by is the rare pop-up hint, or a sketch on a wall that points you in the direction of a puzzle’s solution.  Forget about seeing where they’re going with this.  I don’t even know what they’re doing right now.

The hook of Entropy is that it’s a first person puzzler.  On XBLIG.  That’s pretty much it.  It doesn’t sound like much, until you remember that your average first-person XBLIG would qualify as the worst game ever played by your average gamer.  My expectations were set so low that Satan himself had to do the limbo under them.  I figured the controls would be unresponsive and the jumping mechanics would be crippled.  I was wrong about both.  Entropy actually handles reasonably well, and features the best first-person jumping physics on XBLIG.  Of course, that means absolutely squat.  It would be like being the best arm wrestler at the Center for Arthritis.

Entropy looks better in screens than it does in motion.

Unfortunately, the well done mechanics are let down by puzzles that are really a chore to solve.  Most of them revolve around pushing balls around a room.  There’s four kinds: rock, water, fire, and acid.  Your goal is typically to get these onto a scale that measures heat, pH levels, or weight.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to pick up a ball, so moving them around means clumsily shoving them around and hoping they don’t roll into a wall, off platforms, or into each-other in ways that cause them to vaporize.  It’s not totally broken, but the process is slow and clunky and makes you wish there was some other way.  I wouldn’t exactly sell my soul for the right to pick up the ball, but if I was negotiating it for a long and healthy life, I would have that thrown in.

The slowness factor really kills Entropy dead.  When a gun that sucks the orbs up in a bubble is added, it just further slogs down an already snail-like pace.  It’s kind of sad, because Entropy really is the best controlling first-person game on the platform.  It even looks good too, chugging frame rate not withstanding.  And I like how you can undo mistakes with a Prince of Persia style rewind.  It’s just too bad that the actual game here is just not fun.  Remember developers, that’s your ultimate goal: give players something entertaining to pass time.  A game should be at least as entertaining as throwing paper airplanes at the seniors waiting at the bus stop.

Oh don’t look at me like that.  It’s safe.  They’re seniors!  They all have glasses on!

Entropy was developed by Autotivity Games

80 Microsoft Points said the scoring for Airplaning Old People (aka Greatest GeneRAGEtion) is as follows: 1 point for making them flinch, 2 points if they look cross at you, 3 points if you get it stuck in their clothes or hair, 4 points if they threaten to get up at you, 5 points if they actually get up, or 10 points if you get a direct hit and they do nothing in the making of this review. 

Also reviewing Entropy: Clearance Bin Review and TheXBLIG.com

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