REVIEW : Escape from Naraka (PC)
Isn’t it a coincidence that Escape from Naraka comes out just a few weeks before Naraka: Bladepoint? What piques my interest, even more, is how unfinished this game appears to be. There are a few good concepts here and there, but Escape from Naraka’s two-hour length, chronic game design faults, and tiresome trial and error made me want to stop playing well before the end credits. Maybe when I’m done writing this review, I’ll be able to leave genuinely.
If you don’t know, Naraka is the Hindu religion’s interpretation of hell. Because the player character has ended up there, do they want to flee? Except for a brief slideshow cutscene at the beginning and finish of the game, there is no plot. That’s fine because this is an arcade game with leaderboards. If you accept the task (which you shouldn’t), you’ll be guiding your character through seven levels of platforming and dying to a bunch of cheap bullsh*t you couldn’t see. When I got to the credits, I was genuinely grateful.
That’s right, you read it accurately. It takes two hours to get out of Naraka. It has seven levels, and you can beat the first one in a matter of minutes, so you’d be forgiven for believing the others would be the same. In reality, I spent over half of my time playing levels 6 and 7 because that’s when the design started to get wonkier. You must make your way to a doorway at the end of each group. You’ll platform, run away from enemies, and ponder why some decisions were taken in the first place.
Run as slow as you can
Escape from Naraka’s stages is designed to keep you moving. You’ll be rated on numerous aspects after you reach the exit portal, including how long it took you, how much shining stuff you grabbed, and how much damage you received. Despite the emphasis on speed, your character travels at a reasonable pace. Because there isn’t much momentum, attempting to traverse each level’s twists expertly and turns isn’t particularly enjoyable. On top of that, the jumping seems a little strange. The angle of each jump doesn’t feel exactly right, and landing on platforms with any degree of precision is often challenging.
Even with solid controls and physics, first-person platforming is challenging. In Escape from Naraka, however, not seeing where I was about platforms was a significant cause of death. The jumping is also weirdly unresponsive, exacerbating the problem. In this game, I never felt like I had a legitimately decent amount of movement control. Given that this is a platformer, this is a significant flaw. There’s more to it than jumping, of course. You’ll unlock new skills as you continue through the stages, which will shake things up.
The dash is one of them, and it may be employed whether you’re on the ground or in the air. It would help if you waited for a tic before using this ability again because it has a cooldown. Then there’s your ice magic, which can slow down specific traps and opponents for a short time. This must be charged, and nothing remains frozen for long periods. Finally, you can slow down time later in the game, which is vital for surviving some tedious obstacles. Naraka is hurling at you, and you must flee.
Why couldn’t you tell me that?
Two other purposes of the slowness ability are not adequately explained in the game. The first is supplied through perplexing instruction, and the following is left unexplained. You’ll have to figure it out, or you won’t be able to advance. If you take fatal damage while the slowing is active, you will be returned to where you were when the ability was used initially. At least, that’s how I understand it. I’m not sure about that. On that topic, I’m not sure why this function is in the game at all; it’s unneeded and not applicable.
The second, and perhaps most important, element of this ability is that after you dash once while time is slowed, you can run again without waiting for a cooldown. Because I had no idea that this was a thing, I had problems with the first jump required, and it wasn’t enjoyable. Naturally, you’ll use this skill to avoid traps that move too swiftly. Escape from Naraka contains a variety of lures. Spike platforms that rotate, whirling blades, you name it.
Then there’s the opposition. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about them. The first enemy sprints towards you and, if it gets near enough, hits you. It isn’t a significant issue. It can’t jump, either, and you can freeze it. The second foe looks like a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who, and it can’t move while you stare at it. It’s not supposed to, but I’ve seen it move a few times because they can’t stop in the middle of some animations. Oops. They move so quickly it’s almost as though they can teleport. And you may have to deal with more than one at the same time.
Is this supposed to be fun?
When it comes to teleporting, one of the opponents is capable of doing so. It can teleport right on top of you and one-shot you. Your only option is to shoot and freeze it before it can unleash its attack, but you must act quickly. Also, as you’re trying to platform, Escape from Naraka will toss this enemy at you, which is ineffective. The game devolves into trial-and-error areas where it’s unclear what you’re intended to accomplish, and I just kept dying while trying to figure it out.
There are also platforms that you can’t stand on, even though they appear to be able to stand on.
In reality, you must jump on them and then instantly jump again to go to higher ground. Escape from Naraka fails to inform you of this yet again. There’s one of these rights in the sixth level just before the exit portal, and I honestly believed the geometry was broken. I figured it out eventually, but I almost wish I hadn’t because I would have avoided the seventh level.