Glitch Buster's great co-op shooting silliness unsurprisingly falls apart in solo mode
Don't go alone
I first played co-op third-person shooter Glitch Busters: Stuck On You at Summer Games Fest last year, and came away really impressed. I played with couch co-op with two members of developers Toy Logic, which was lighthearted, slightly chaotic fun; everything couch co-op should be, right?
So, I thought I'd give the game a whirl but as a solo player. How would a game built for up to four players cope when there's just one person taking the reins? Well, sort of fine for a bit, then quite agonising, actually. That's not to say it can't be a fun time, but bots definitely aren't a substitute for real people.
I've championed Glitch Busters before, mainly because it's bright and colourful, with a clear focus on couch silliness with your friends. Essentially, you play as a glitch buster, or a little emoji face with magnet legs, who must eradicate nasty glitches that have gunked up servers. Trolls have the cloud in a vice grip, for instance. There's mention of a social media brand that's remarkably similar to Twitter but not quite. YouTube is YohTube. Mentions of these things make your eyes roll slightly, sure, yet they don't distract from the efforts paid to making couch co-op a truly co-operative experience.
Glitch Busters is neat in the way you're able to hop in with up to three of your friends online via matchmaking, a private lobby, or by picking up a bunch of controllers all hooked up to the same system. The options are strong. And the levels aren't too shabby either, meaning you've got to traverse a slightly Splatoon-inspired cityscape by shooting glitches, hopping on switches, and platforming.
As each character has magnet legs, the game lets you pull off some clever moves. At the press of a button you're able to stack on top of one another, which lets the player at the top of your makeshift ladder either do a mega-jump or poke their shots over any enemy's shield. Some enemies are a bit hermit crab-y, so you can activate a magnetic mode that'll have you skating towards your nearest attractor, which then lets you bash into enemies and forcibly remove them from their makeshift hidey homes. There's a lot here that's designed with camaraderie - and to some extent, inter-competition - in mind.
All of the above, then, is great… with friends. When you're on your lonesome, things take a bit of a turn. I've tackled some of the game's Story Mode, which is what I played last year. Normally you'd do the whole multiplayer lobby thing and hop to it. But going in alone, you're given three AI companions, who, in fairness, are quite intelligent. I mean, this isn't a complex game, but they'll at least shoot stuff, follow you about, and follow your pings to a tee.
Ah, love a ping I do. You can press directional buttons on the D-Pad (I wouldn't dare play this game with mouse and keyboard), which barks orders at your pals. You can stick a pin on the floor to get one of them to stand on a big button, or tell them to disperse, or tell them to clamber on top of you in an instant. It's a decent system, if a bit of a micro-managing nightmare as the levels up in complexity…
I watch a lot, I mean a lot of reality show Below Deck. It's one where you get to see folks who work on superyachts go about their jobs and have lots of petty fights about who did or didn't do the laundry, that sort of thing. Anyway, one of the captains is very stern and hates it when he has to constantly micro-manage senior folks - for example, when the deck crew hasn't planned the beach picnic properly, and the captain has to leave his post to go and pick up some stranded guests. This is a long-winded way of saying that Glitchbusters transformed me into a weary captain.
Specifically, I became a weary captain as I entered a forest level and realised that it looked a bit basic. The colourful cityscape gave way to a - I hate to say this - quite bland, polygonal wind through a series of enemies, and an eventual boss, who required increasing levels of teamwork. Sometimes my AI teammates wouldn't quite get my pings in time, or fall into water and drown for no reason. Sometimes they'd not quite stack up when needed. Most of the time they'd get on my nerves.
Once I reached a boss who demanded all the game's little intricacies, like hopping over waves of gunk, while simultaneously being stacked on top of eachother, while being in mechs that can't quite stack on top of each other unless done in a specific order - I actually just rage quit. I rarely ever do such a thing.
None of my rant is to say that Glitch Busters: Stuck On You is a bad time. I imagine it would be a solid laugh with pals, or a perfect family sort of game if you've got some young'uns keen to pick up a pad, and that is, after all, what it's designed for. But if you're forced to hang with AI companions? I wouldn't put yourself through it. You might be a captain, but you will need to micromanage your deck crew and/or organise a tiring beach picnic.