There’s an indie gaming subgenre known as RPGMaker style games that uses simple interfaces to represent impressively deep stories. Vindictive Drive, created by Balthasar02, is one such game that takes this story-telling to a level that I was definitely not expecting. One that is, admittedly, wrought with hiccups in the actual gameplay. It’s available now through steam for a measly £1.99/$2.99, if you’re interested.
This story is about a young woman named Arris Fern, who, after watching her mother murdered at the hands of her father, who also happens to be the president …stick with me here… sets on a vengeful journey to destroy her father just as he had destroyed her. Though far-fetched, it does tell an interesting and unique story, one that goes deeper than I first imagined. The story is thick with intrigue and was the driving factor that actually kept me playing. But in this praise, I would be remiss to not mention here, the dialogue is downright awful. The angst-filled teen revenge plot is held back a good amount by this and is one of the main reasons it gets a bit difficult to feel invested. While this is true, the melodramatic nature of the story at least fit with the game’s visual and audial theme.
If you have ever played one of those old browser flash games, you’ll see the comparison immediately. It’s basically a deeper version of those which, I’ll admit, does tap on the ol’ nostalgia button. That being said, for a game these days, especially with an over-arching plot like the one laid out here, the graphical capability does hinder its story-telling prowess. The art style of the character portraits, on the other-hand, does not. These play into the story and give a better understanding of what kind of world the creators set out to portray. One thing I do have to complain about, though, is that darn soundtrack. The late-90’s synth is attractive and reminiscent at first but, man, repetitive does not begin to describe it. Being a text based game; I found it better accompanied by my own playlist, with the sound turned completely off.
Even with all of the mixed feelings that I felt toward Vindictive Drive, the gameplay should be the deciding factor on any review. Sadly, I have to say here is another place that it does not exactly shine. While the controls dug deeper than I saw at first glance, they are just too wonky to get a hang of, even after putting a good chunk of time into it. For example, one of the first tools you are given is a device that allows you to grab items that would otherwise be out of your reach. I’m not sure if I accidentally clicked through some key bit of information on how to use the tool but without proper explanation, I couldn’t make out how to use it for a good five minutes. And that’s only after trying to find what the damn thing was for! Now, I may or may not be inept as a player, but I think it should definitely be a primary goal in any game to explain in detail the main tools of the gameplay, as without that, there’s not much gameplay to be had.
I feel it’s very important to keep in mind just how small the creative team is here, I have to complement such a team on creating something like Vindictive Drive. Even still, it doesn’t distract from the fact that I’ve seen it done better elsewhere. The strong plot seems to be the only real backbone and as such, I can’t honestly say I would play it again. It’s a bit too rough around the edges for my taste but, maybe if you had some change burning a hole in your pocket…