A game featuring a parody of many other videogames should be the ultimate title to pick up and play. While Matt Hazard isn’t quite that title, it certainly is worth checking out.
Those familiar with the character will recall a poor title called Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard on the Xbox 360, early in 2009. It didn’t inspire people and can probably be found in a bargain bin somewhere in the depths of your local videogames store.
What it did do that was a great throwback to the classic videogames, was include a variety of levels and dialogue that reflect the past twenty odd years in gaming. Matt himself is supposed to be an 8-bit super-hero, but his character is very much new on the scene.
With the criticism of the full retail game, Vicious Cycle has developed the sequel as an XBLA instead and it strips-down to its bare basics. Not that this is a bad thing mind, this is a classic run-and-gun title which fits in with the Metal Slug and Contra feel very effectively.
The humour is very much a stand-out in Matt Hazard. It begins from the selection screen where a few options are thrown up, do you start on ‘Wussy’ or attempt the ‘Fuck This Shit’ mode. Yes the use of swearing can be immature, but in Matt Hazard it is effective because of its parody roots.
Dialogue is visual between characters due to the ‘lack of budget’ which is interjected into the cut-scenes, again an amusing nod to the games industry. This is the game that takes the piss out of itself and everyone else and thus in doing so, you’ll throw a few laughs out whilst reading the text. Like with any game, voice acting would have being more appealing but the fact the developers know there is a lack of this and includes it in the dialogue to try and justify it, is amusing all the same.
You’ll find nods to Super Mario Bros, with a Western theme as well as BioShock, Pokémon and the film Back to the Future. Matt himself is the perfect protagonist with his witty one-liners and his inquisitive nature.
Each of the eight levels will test your skill with some notorious bosses to face at the end of them. While the beginner mode gives you infinite lives, each continue that you use will dent on your final score (which can lead to an achievement). Ramp up the difficulty though and you’ll get only three chances to continue, which when it comes to the end-of-level fights, will no doubt throw you into a tantrum.
The basic method of shooting the shit out of everything works very well in the game with some impressive rag doll effects, including Matt flying when an explosion occurs or getting minced by some machinery. More importantly, the controls are solid and the shooting well implemented with the option to manually aim into the background of the levels or the foreground if needs be, rather than just left or right.
You can gain power-ups including stronger guns, such as Rockets and Fire blasters as well as collecting coins and hidden-items during the quest. Certainly the end-of-level bosses are ever more frustrating with the default gun, so it’s wise to seek out the best weaponry before taking them on.
The main criticism with regards to the handling is the awful jumping sequences. Whether it be avoiding some toxic water and trying to land on top of a moving train, you’ll end up with a few instant deaths on your hands. It certainly lets down the game which is a shame because the basic premise is very good.
Level design is carefully planned out, with all those throwbacks mentioned previously and the effective explosions and end-of-level bosses alongside, the colourful 2.5D graphics are a joy to behold.
Despite a lack of any voice talent, there is the inclusion of the cheesy arcade ‘voiceover’ featured in games such as Time Crisis, which announces the inevitable death or weapon upgrade you may have just collected. Small things like this bring a nostalgic grin to the face.
Sadly though, like with many arcade games, at 1200 MS Points, it doesn’t come cheap. Alright the budget was probably eaten up on the cute graphics, but without any cut-scenes and additional game modes (aside from offline co-op), you’ll be done and dusted with this within an hour.
Due of that, I cannot give the game the ultimate praise it deserves. It isn’t perfect (and with its satirical humour, it knows that!), and it certainly isn’t Shadow Complex, but what it is, is a nostalgic piss-take of the things we used to love.