- Developers: Diego Garcia, Greg Heffernan, Wyatt Yeong
- Publisher: Everook
- Release Date: 23/04/2020
- Price: £12.19 / $14.99
- Review code provided by Everook
Introducing: Damaged in Transit Switch Review
Let’s start this review off with a quick disclaimer, something you should keep in mind as you read this review. I personally am not a fan of difficult games, complex puzzle games, or games that require a lot of trial-and-error. I find my enjoyment in playing games on the lowest difficulty setting, and find no shame in checking a walkthrough or a guide if I get stuck. This of course is in no way, shape or form the optimal way to play video games for everyone, and many gamers revel in the chance to get their butt handed to them by a brain-bending game. However, this is just how I choose to play my games. That being said, I do love me a good indie game with a slick art style and unique gameplay mechanics, so let’s see how Damaged in Transit holds up against the battling viewpoints swirling in my head.
The concept of Damaged in Transit is simple. A blue-collar delivery man at a port takes his two wacky, remote-controlled drones across the sea through a series of challenges. Their goal? Deliver a package, one per world, or about every twenty-five levels. This story is told through funny, impeccably drawn comic-panel style story boards, which pop up between worlds to give a smidgen of context to the upcoming mission of the next set of levels. This easy to understand story style works exceedingly well with the lighthearted tone of the game, and the pixelated/hand-drawn art style of these story boards is really a joy to look at.
This joy extends past the “cutscenes” and into the main game, where the characters are presented in a simple but clean pixel-art style, reminiscent of flash games I used to spend hours on as a kid. The game has a great color palette with the tone changing in each world, and everything is animated with fun, charming animations that give it a lot of character. My only gripe is that the backgrounds of the levels are pretty bland, being almost entirely one flat color, and I think that adding more waves to the water would have added a ton to the liveliness of the world.
Buttons, boxes and spikes, oh my!
The gameplay here is the most important aspect of the game, and what will ultimately be the deciding factor to whether or not this game is for you. You control the previously mentioned drones of the delivery man, navigating them through each level to reach the end, which is some sort of basket… I think. The drones move forward automatically, and the only influence you have over them is to change the direction of arrows built into the floor of the level, which alter the movement of the drones once they pass over the associated tile. The twist is, however, that you must manage both drones simultaneously. They both continue to move at the same pace throughout the level, and you must have your mind in two places at once to ensure that a change you make to save the life of one drone doesn’t instantly result in the destruction of the other.
There are many obstacles placed in your way, with new mechanics introduced every few levels. There are buttons that toggle boxes when you pass over them, spikes that become dangerous with every other button press you make, keys that you can carry to open a lock, and even a boss battle at the end of each world. Each level takes place on thin paths located over water, oil, etc., that the drones can easily fall off of if you aren’t careful to note the position of each one. This creates a constantly tense and nerve-wracking design that always has you on your toes.
For me however, the issue with the overall game design is the lack of a consistent difficulty curve throughout the levels. While you are usually given one or two easier stages to learn a new mechanic when it’s introduced, outside of that the difficulty can range from the low (accidentally completing a course on your first try) to the high (fast paced maze that requires an inordinate amount of trial-and -error to bumble your way through), with many frustrating deaths along the way. This makes the pacing of the game feel all over the place, since you may breeze through a stack of levels in a couple of minutes, then get stuck on another one for an hour.
Fortunately, the game does have a way to allow greater accessibility in the form of an easily understood difficulty option that simply changes the speed at which the drones move. This allows you to have more time to make decisions for your button presses and plan your route, but also makes it so a split-second death at the end of a level can make replaying an absolute slog, as your drones move slower. It’s a necessary trade off, but the pros and cons do make it so each difficulty has something that holds it back from feeling just right, in my opinion. Even so, this is a fantastic way to handle difficulty that more games should adopt.
There is co-op play available for the entire game, which allows one player to control the up and down presses, while the other can only choose left or right. I didn’t have a chance to try it myself, but it’s a cool addition for those wanting a likely hectic and infuriating cooperative experience.
THE FINAL PACKAGE
Damaged in Transit fills a specific niche that unfortunately I’m not a fan of. I have a huge amount of respect for the developers, coming up with such a unique gameplay concept that they fully fleshed out, and adding things such as an easily adjustable speed setting that makes the game more accessible, which more games should have. This sort of mind-boggling, think-it-through game just isn’t for me, but the charming package (pun TOTALLY intended) it comes in is a fun time either way.
- Snazzy art style with charming animation
- A unique concept that’s thoroughly explored
- Easily adjustable difficulty
- Terribly balanced difficulty curve
- Levels rely heavily on trial-and-error
Damaged in Transit is a cleverly designed puzzler in a slick package that unfortunately falls prey to a rocky difficulty curve and over-reliance on trial-and-error.