Germinator Review (PSN)
Creat Studio’s previous works have been solid games, if somewhat unoriginal. For example: take Mushroom Wars, a port of a free web based RTS game that’s been replicated elsewhere countless times, but is charming enough to keep you interested. Or SkyFighter, with it’s slightly awkward controls made more bearable by its fantastic soundtrack and simply being a non-bullet hell 2D shoot ’em up that is so rare these days. Hamsterball is a rodent Super Monkey Ball, and then there’s the excellent little dungeon crawler, Labyrinth Legends.
You get my point. What they lack in unique ideas, they make up for in robust experiences that are good to casually waste time with. They have a pedigree. One that they’re sadly willing to sabotage with a rather clunky version of Bust-A-Move.
Germinator involves the player trying to clear all the black germs from the screen by attaching coloured, exploding germs to them. As with other variants of this type of game, it’s a case of matching colours to drop them off the board. Once a coloured germ reaches critical mass then it goes BOOM!, taking out any black germs in contact with it. To mix it up a little, there are also special powers unique to each germ which can trigger chain reactions, wipe out a row, or munch through as many black germs as possible. So with a time-tested formula and a decent enough twist to separate it from the pack, what could possibly go wrong?
I’ll get my sound guy rant out of the way first: the music sucks, the voice over mumble is horrible, and the sound effects aren’t exactly doing much either. I get it, the squidgy bass line is because the germs are gooey, but everything else in the mix just grates on the nerves a bit too much. Perhaps the default volume overpowering everything has something to do with that.
Visually the game fares better. It’s bright and vibrant with some pretty backgrounds to boot. The only main clunker is the eponymous Germinator though,and he has some rather stiff animation and generally doesn’t match the rest of the games visual style beyond being green.
But it plays alright right? Right? Well… Not so much. Aiming is a bit of a chore on the PS3 version due to the fairly short launch reticule, making precise targeting difficult. And you can find yourself being frustrated by the fact that blobs won’t merge despite practically touching each other on screen. Both of those issues combined are a major headache even in the opening levels. From the looks of things it’s far easier on the Vita as you can use the touch controls to aim.
The main chunk of the game isn’t exactly solid either, with some levels having some odd design decisions. For example, you can start a level with no red blobs on screen, only to have your first bullet being red. This could have an impact on gameplay if you had to get rid of coloured germs too, but instead just seems like a wasted move. The game tries to use the specials to create a bit more strategy, but in some cases you’re often quicker just firing off germs, as you’ll be done before your special meter charges. Slap on a timer in the form of a continuously rising level, and you can see why this might be considered a problem. Then there are the scrolling walls of text in between chapters. And the needlessly long game over sequence (with irritating music to boot), and tutorials that you can fail, triggering that annoying sequence.
Puzzle mode is a more enjoyable experience from a puzzle perspective, giving you a limited amount of ammo (so no shot-spamming) while having multiple possible solutions for each stage. This seemingly minor change makes completing a level that much more rewarding, trying to beat the number of moves the game thinks you’re going to need, and with no bloody timer to get in the way of strategy forming to maximise your score.
It’s fairly difficult to recommend this game. There are so many quirks and issues that aren’t worth contending with in the main story mode, and can put a bit of a damper on things when you repeatedly scrape past your target in puzzle mode on each rage-restart. The music can be turned down, but that doesn’t excuse it from being sub-standard. Especially as it’s been a highlight of some of their previous works. The art is nice though, I suppose. Ultimately though, this kind of thing has been done better elsewhere.
4 germs, uncured out of 10