[Review] Laraan – Nintendo Switch

Written by Shehan Amarasekera
  • Developers: Flynn’s Arcade
  • Publisher: Flynn’s Arcade
  • Release Date: 09/07/2020
  • Price: £4.49 / $6.00
  • Review code provided by Flynn’s Arcade

Introducing: Laraan Switch Review

Like with the other games I’ve reviewed, I knew little to nothing about this one when picking it up. And yet, when I decided to do a little bit of research before I got stuck in, I discovered that this was originally a Steam Greenlight game – one that I own. Now, there’s no inherent problem with Greenlight games at all. The problem is that, I had somehow managed to purchase this game and completely forget it existed. Was it a sign of things to come? Or was this a game I shouldn’t have overlooked?

Zoah’s Arc

The start to this game makes you think there will be a huge focus on story, but in reality, this is not the case at all. You’re presented with a wall of text which, for all intents and purposes, is just fluff that both you and the game will forget about pretty quickly. It’s an oddly religious synopsis; it mentions how God regretted making humans because of how much they corrupted the Earth with violence.

And then in comes Zoah. This guy managed to curry favour with God. The game doesn’t really seem to explain much beyond saying he’s a man of integrity, but essentially, God is about to annihilate everything, but because he likes this one single human, Zoah, he warns him about it, telling him to collect 8 Golden Stones to be rewarded. Yes, this entire dissertation was in the game just to say “collect 8 rocks to win”.

I’m glad they don’t dwell on the story at all after this beyond the ending. There’s some extremely subtle images of what looks to be how mankind corrupted everything (I’m not sure if you picked up on my sarcasm, but these paintings are littered throughout the game in what is probably the laziest attempt at world building I can think of) and some brief weird cutscenes, but that’s about it.

A Corrupted World

And so you’re put into the game. The first thing you may notice is the absolutely baffling controls – both in terms of the scheme and how movement feels. Jump and run are mapped to the left and right triggers respectively, with crouch and roll being on the face buttons. Considering you need to roll/crouch a grand total of around 3 times, this means your right thumb is basically free to do what it wants.

While this might seem strange for what is mostly a platformer(?), having camera control at all times proves useful. However, moving the camera while you yourself are moving presents another issue: your character cannot actually run left or right. This is not an exaggeration. Holding the joystick to a side makes your character run in that direction – but all they’re doing is pivoting in place.

This can actually be proven if you try to turn the camera against them as you pivot – for some reason, the camera also rotates your character, so you end up just running in place. This essentially means that if you want to line up a jump that you’re a bit off to the side of, you need to turn and face the side, run forwards for a second, then turn back. “Unintuitive” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Exploration in a Desolate Landscape

Couple this then with what is undoubtedly the worst feeling jump in a game that I’ve played in recent memory, and you’ve got yourself some simply atrocious controls. Not only is it the biggest and floatiest thing (making it hard to be precise with it at all), it’s got Castlevania syndrome in that, once you jump, you’re committed to that jump. You can’t adjust your momentum halfway through, so if you suddenly realise you messed up, have fun watching your character float through the air for 10 seconds before falling to their death.

To be fair, the game isn’t exactly hard. It’s hard to judge just how huge your jump is, but if you fail, you usually get it down on the second try. But platforming isn’t the game’s only focus. In what is one of the only positive things I’ll say about this game, it desperately tries to throw in variety over its 1 hour runtime. You’ll ride a motorcycle, you’ll skydive, you’ll have a chase sequence, you’ll swing a sword exactly once… it’s a shame then that all these mechanics just control so badly.

Both the motorcycle and skydiving control so bafflingly – the left stick in essence strafes, while the right stick actually turns. The fact that you can strafe with a motorbike, or you can literally change your falling direction while skydiving is bizarre. Meanwhile, the chase sequence has you running through such dark holes that I had to close my curtains to actually see where I was trying to go. And I’m not kidding about the sword. You swing it once.

A Low Poly Adventure

The biggest sin of this game though by far is that it’s just so unbearably boring. Levels are huge, and especially at the beginning, there is almost nothing to do in them except run forward. There were literally points where I held up on the d-pad, pressed the trigger with my leg, and then used my free hand to just browse Twitter, because there is just nothing to do!

I guess one other thing I can praise this game for (yes there is something I like about Laraan!) is its presentation. In my eyes, the low poly look is starting to feel a touch overdone, but it looks great here. It helps keep the nature of the game abstract while still making it pretty clear what you need to do and where you need to go. That being said, if you crash in the motorbike section, you get a stock explosion and sound effect which looks so hilariously out of place, but this is a one off moment.

But all told, the summary of this game you can find online is such blatant false advertising. It mentions how you “investigate” and “solve puzzles”. The literal two puzzles in the game are both trial and error. It mentions how it “it bridges the gap between cinema and action/adventure games”. The cutscenes are some of the most stilted and awkward parts about this game.

A Bit Too Minimalist

When it comes to the port itself, I have virtually no complaints. It runs at 60fps most of the time, and while it isn’t perfect, it holds up pretty well and the occasional dips aren’t huge deal breakers. The game itself isn’t actually that glitchy. There are a lot of walls you can infinitely jump up while your character exhibits the dopiest looking animation, but this actually saved me in a couple of occasions, so I’m definitely not complaining about that!

I guess there’s the fact that the camera zooms in really awkwardly if it gets stuck on a wall but the areas are so huge this usually isn’t an issue. There was also one occasion where my character for some reason was stuck running forward, and rebooting the game fixed it. I have literally no idea how a glitch this major occurs, but since it only happened once, it wasn’t that big an issue.

Now, there’s one part I haven’t really touched upon for good reason, and that’s the music. If I’m to be brutally honest, it was so forgettable that I couldn’t even remember what it sounded like when I started typing this up. It’s definitely not bad – the only time the sound gets bad in this game is when it plays some annoyingly grating sound effect over and over, but the music is as bland as the rest of the game. Maybe to some it would hit all the right notes, but for me it was in one ear and out the other.

Conclusion

All my issues with this game are squarely directed at the fact that it’s just so dull. You would think the variety would help things, but it’s always so uninteresting. Honestly, I even wish this game was frustrating, because that’d be more interesting than nothing! When you’re running across a huge landscape, you can be sent back because you missed one tiny collectible in it. Or when you’re skydiving, scraping the side of a rock also sends you back. But this never annoyed me, much to my dismay. I just felt the same dull pain that I felt throughout the entirety of this.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on Laraan (fun fact, there’s no indication of why the game is called this, by the way). After all, a boring game is technically harmless. But consuming boring entertainment is probably the biggest waste of time I can think of, so I just cannot recommend this, even for its cheap price and extremely short length.

Pros

  • Neat presentation
  • Lots of variety in its short run time

Cons

  • Incredibly boring
  • Appalling controls
  • It’s just not fun at all

Verdict
This game is about as fun as watching paint dry for an hour while you hold a controller

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