DeadCore snuck up from nowhere. A complete FPS platformer, out on Steam tomorrow, whose terrible name belies a swishy, entertaining and rather tricky game. There's is no shortage of FPS platform jumping of late, so does DeadCore do enough to stand out?
I'd say so. While we've seen GlitchSpace, InMomentum and perhaps Fotonica in recent times, there's plenty of room in a much under-used genre. And DeadCore wins approval by playing things very straight.
There are platforms, you can jump, and so upward you must progress. That's almost the entirety of it. There is the rather strange inclusion of some "logs", which are part fiction, part instructions, and wholly superfluous. There's no need for a narrative to justify anything here - it's about climbing upward through utterly enormous levels for no other reason than to reach the top. And that's reason enough. Making it a worthwhile pursuit depends on the game getting various aspects of the mechanics correct, and in that regard things are pretty faultless
Most importantly, DeadCore gets the jumping pin-point perfect. It takes place in a geometric world of impossible, floating platforms and tricksy, spinning obstacle courses, but I've never felt a moment of movement being too floaty nor twitchy. And second-most importantly, there's a double-jump, which automatically affords the game an extra ten percentage points in any marking scale - even a non-existent one.
So up you go, picking a route through the peculiar architecture by evading deadly red barriers, floaty-cube baddies, and propelling gates that point in the wrong direction. You make that route for yourself with the use of a gun-thing, which lets you temporarily disable various obstacles, usually by firing at nodes in order to open doors and dodge traps. As you climb, you also pick up speed and confidence - so that by the time the game introduces a "zip" move, which propels you forward in a quick burst, you're able and required to combine it with double-jumps and deft aiming to perform swift, balletic maneuvers.
I think that's where I've most clicked with DeadCore (every time I type it I shake my head at the awfulness of the name) - how quickly it's all fallen into place, and I've started to feel properly good at it. Levels can be repeated as speed runs, and there's a lot of scope there for those who want to shave seconds off their best times by finding smarter routes or pulling off a particularly tricky manoeuvre in an instant. Or you can keep ploughing forward in what is rather overstatedly named "Story" mode, facing increasingly difficult paths.
In a game with high difficulty, a quick restart is essential, and again the game gets this exactly right. Checkpoints are placed throughout levels, usually fairly (with a couple of frustrating exceptions), and you respawn at them almost before you're done pressing the R key. It's Trackmania-style restart speed, meaning you're not frustrated and put off a challenge by loading bars or spinning icons.
DeadCore, in all but name, does everything it sets out to do right. Which is perhaps the game's weakness, too. I'm not sure it sets out to do enough. Not least because there is already InMomentum, and while there are differences, I never felt like DeadCore planted a flag in the genre to call it its own. It comes from especially humble origins - five friends entering a week-long game jam, then spending two years putting it into Unity and making it a full game - but while it's exceptionally pretty and remarkably sleek, it doesn't have any ingredient to make it essential.
Despite that, this is five enormous levels of engagingly difficult dashing and leaping, all for a very weeny price during the Steam sale - £4 rather than £8. The game came out in October, I was reminded of it by an email today and it was well worth catching up on. While lacking enough spark to be truly outstanding, it meets its limited ambitions with aplomb.