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Patent Blaster Review: A Mediocre Invention
Want to shoot stuff? Want to wave sticks at things? Want to hop around, fly, or hover in small rectangular rooms? Do you have a revenge grudge against bad patent art? For example, did bad patent illustrations kill your parents? Boy, do I have the game for you! Also, you have a weird life.
Patent Blaster is an indie game made by David Stark, an indie developer based in Switzerland, and this is his first attempt at self-publishing a game. It’s currently available for PC, Mac, and Linux for $5, but unless you’re really hard up for a casual game AND you want to support the indie scene, I wouldn’t recommend it.
The one thing I can say is that game titles don’t get much more accurate than this – all you do is blast patent art. Endless waves of bad patent illustrations will attack you with fire, cold, acid, or steel attacks, but you’re far from defenseless. You can attack back with those same attributes in the form of a single shot, a shotgun blast, a sword, or a flamethrower.
From the title screen, you can change a few options, set the difficulty, and start the game, and you’ll be given four randomly selected characters to choose from, all with randomly-generated stats and weapons. And then the absurdity begins.
The characters and enemies are all drawn from the same pool of patent art, and it’s all more or less ridiculous. Giant, floating eyeballs, cartoon elephants, mummies, women on their hands and knees….I’m just not going to comment. And the names of everything are all drawn randomly from Wikipedia. One of the game’s strengths is that the bizarre scenarios that can occur are quite amusing if you stop to think about them; how many games can have you saying to your friends that your robot torched a cat with a flamethrower named “Herpes”, and that’s when your evil twin showed up, and you would’ve killed him if the cat hadn’t come back to life as an undead Revenant?
Having said that, there really isn’t much to Patent Blaster. The closest thing to an actual “boss” you fight are the evil twin versions of your own character. The “sword” is less a sword that slashes, and more just waving a stick at enemies. While there’s jumping, it can’t really be called platforming as there’s no gaps you can fall into, the various steps almost don’t serve a purpose – except they can occasionally be used as cover from enemy fire.
There’s some RPG elements, as you can boost your stats by picking up randomly dropped buffs that increase your hit points, regeneration, resistances, or even give new abilities. You also get to choose a new buff or weapon at the beginning of every level. The system isn’t balanced terribly well – on Medium difficulty, I think I’d reached level 15 or 16 when I realized that my hit point regen, healing-per-kill percentage, and resistances were so high that I’d basically become invincible. And the stages apparently go on forever, I got as far as level 40 before I finally called it quits.
There’s no story in Patent Blaster – and I don’t see why not, it doesn’t even have to make sense, the game is already ridiculous. David Stark might as well create the land of Patentia, where King Fish-Fingers has had his jar of peanut-butter unicorns stolen, and he spread a call across the land for heroes to rescue them. Unfortunately, the only Patentians who showed up were from the unemployment line.
The graphics are pretty crappy, even considering the source material. None of the characters or enemies are animated at all, excepting some minor stretching and compressing during jumps. The particle effects are about on par with what you could see on a Super Nintendo, and everything except the characters, items, and enemies is made out of blocky pixels. The walls and floors are just all white, and the backgrounds are ugly, flowery wallpaper, with pictures of patent art hung up on the walls, which makes as much sense as anything else, I suppose, but it isn’t exactly eye-catching.
The controls are solid, though the jumps are a bit more floaty than I’d like, but as I’ve indicated, precision jumping isn’t necessary, so this is a minor gripe. The music isn’t bad, just some techno loops of various quality, but nothing that I wanted to hear again outside of the game. And I didn’t notice any bugs or glitches.
There’s some potential here, but it’s not enough to justify a purchase. It just isn’t engaging for very long. With no story or unlockables, the only reason to care is novelty, and that wears off rather quickly. It’s a time-waster and nothing more.
In conclusion, if this game were a free flash game, I’d probably be more lenient, but I inevitably have to compare it to other games you can get for $5, and it does not compare favorably. David Stark is clearly talented, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future, but the idea that Patent Blaster is his magnum opus? Now that’s patently absurd.
(Note: This review was conducted with a review copy on a PC after five hours of gameplay.)