Monday 17 January 2022

Speed Limit Review (Steam)


Written by Thomas G J Sharpe

At the time of writing, I am hooked back into the moping bleakness of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly, and I didn’t expect to find Speed Limit the more frustrating game. Unlike S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Speed Limit tests my patience in a way that I can’t quite express without mashing my keyboard. I don’t appreciate this as I just got it and am looking forward to shedding my finger-skin into its wee crevices. If the comparison between a brutal and harsh FPS survival game and a little Canabalt-like game seem a reviewer’s overreach, you’d be correct. There is something here though about the subjectivity of frustration, and stylish difficulty.

Speed Limit is a pixel-art’d arcade game of getting this little guy through various challenging jumpy, shooty, crouchy, and steering challenges. Starting on a side-scrolling train, you have a gun slapped in your hands by a rough-up lookin’ fella and hordes of SWAT, cops and trenchcoated goons start in pursuit. The action adventure across different modes of transport rollicks on at a whiplash inducing pace, but there are regular checkpoints if you get shot, battered by a barrier, crash your helicopter, take a missile to the face, or fall between two trains. That’s really the measure of the game; timing, rehearsal, memory, and execution until you get it right. Your reward is the feeling of speed and the thrill of a chase. Although this didn’t quite measure up to the legendarily well designed respawns in Hotline Miami, you get back into it fast enough with a little VCR filter flourish. Does this break the sense of chase and flow? A bit. Will you stay engaged after death twenty on one section? I didn’t.

In S.T.A.L.K.E.R., as I sat down to enjoy some Neminoff around the campfire with my NPC apoca-gopniks, I thought of McPixel. You remember McPixel? It had a similar chunky pixel-art design, and an absurdist and humourous approach that Speed Limit is in the same park as. The repetition of McPixel was baked-in and part of exploration. In Speed Limit, it is an inherent punishment to me. So, expect to go back over the few short levels a lot. In bits. Like lots of little rushed quick-time events without the prompts, but really there’s little creativity allowed. Think closer to No Time To Explain. Quick reactions and good situational recall are the loops.

I feel the price (£7.99 on Steam for PC) is about a quid too high, but maybe that’s petty. Players who want a more gawdy and varied Canabalt will find a lot of fun in this exercise in escalation. To return to the frustration, however, I absolutely bounced off of this after the fifth (I think… ) level and watched a video showcasing the final segments. The fifth level is like playing any of the Strike games on rails, which was a step too far for me. I’d had enough. I will guarantee you, however, (without spoiler) that the ending is rather great. But I’ll never see it as a result of my own efforts.

And this all sounds rather negative, but really if you enjoy precision movement, nailing that series of moves, and you like something with a sense of humour, you may well lap this up. After seeing the Door Kickers: Action Squad style art, maybe I wanted more, but it’s just… this. And that’s ok. It’s not for me, but there will be some sadists out there who enjoy this.

And now, excuse me, as I need to go back to an irradiated wasteland where I can be insta-gibbed by ball-lightning, with no hint nor preview, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. Because that’s not frustrating at all.

Overall 6/10

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