Monday 20 March 2023

Grid Force: Mask of the Goddess Review (Switch)


Written by Dan Gill

Peanut butter and chocolate are a winning combination. Salty and sweet flavours mingling into one delicious taste sensation are one of life’s little pleasures, yet on paper it sounds like it shouldn’t work. The adventurous may branch out into other hybrids such as cheese and jam, or chips dipped in strawberry milkshake. Flavours at two ends of the food spectrum combining in delicious harmony. Gaming enjoys a similar alchemy thanks to indie developers (for the most part). Slay the Spire’s melding of RPG and deck building mechanics comes to mind, or perhaps Brutal Legends’ combination of action-adventure and RTS (with a dash of rhythm action). So, there’s no reason to expect Grid Force’s melding of RPG with bullet hell shooters to fall short. Maybe it could work?

The game starts with Donna awakening with no memory of her past and being dropped straight into a battle. The player can choose to go through a tutorial or take their chances, being gradually introduced to the mechanics of the game and additional characters. It’s a nice opening and is interspersed with some manga-style exposition. As the game goes on, the story segments get longer, and begin to drag on a little too long.

The game itself plays out on the eponymous grid, your current character on one side, and enemies on the other. Using a combo of light and hard attacks, and knowing when to dodge, reflect attacks and select the right character for the current battle is crucial to success, as the game takes no prisoners. It has several systems that need to be learned in order to succeed, otherwise you’re promptly punished with a game over. There’s also a rock-paper-scissors mechanic regarding enemy element styles in a similar vein to Pokémon. There’s a lot to learn, and the gameplay leans more into the shoot ‘em up camp in its testing of reflexes. The RPG elements are more for the levelling up of your team and the story.

The game plays well, even if it’s a little rough round the edges. Enemies require a level of strategy rather than button mashing. Exploiting enemy weaknesses, along with reflecting projectiles and dodging heavy attacks brings a bit of weight to conflict, and the RPG-lite levelling up system allows you to customise your squad, along with the option to equip any masks collected along the journey. Battles are often tense affairs, and you start to feel a little of that bullet hell energy when things get hectic.

The tactical options broaden with the expansion of your core team through recruitable characters. Unfortunately, this is where my biggest issue with the game lies. The characters are all a bit bland. The tutorial briskly assembles your core team of four, breezing through introductions for each through scattershot dialogue. First impressions count, and I was left underwhelmed from the off. Of course, your mileage with this crew may vary, but I was left with little desire to follow the lengthy comic panels to find out what’s going on. Each new character bears some kind of grudge against another for some reason or another, and things just get a bit samey and one dimensional.

Presentation is also a mixed bag. The music’s catchy, the comic book panels look nice, if a little inconsistent in style (which may be deliberate due to the fractured memory of Donna), but the in-game graphics feel like a spruced-up Flash game. It’s pretty enough, but the construction paper style animation left me wanting for a bit more polish.

After the initial adjustment to its quirks, Grid Force offers a fair amount of enjoyment. Its systems work together well enough, and there’s plenty of challenge on offer. It’s let down by a lacklustre story and lack of polish in a few areas, but those looking for something a little different to broaden their tastes may find enough here to tuck into.


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