Be careful where you’re pointing that DLC, man, you don’t want to hurt nobody
In a treacherous game of greed and escapades a princess gets kidnapped under the watchful eye of her lover. Now, in a fatal game of cat and mouse, facing almost insurmountable odds, he must overcome his limitations and embark on a journey to … buy more stuff, because he can’t even jump over obstacles let alone walk left and the shopkeep is the only one selling these abilities to him. DLC Quest (2013) contains two adorkable little satires by Going Loud Studios in which players go through the motions of everything that’s wrong and right about video games of the early 2010s.
Included in this bundle are two games, the original DLC Quest from 2011 and its sequel, Live Freemium or Die, from two years after, 2013. Although the first game is loads of fun, the second is falling in the same trap as too many sequels before it. In order to understand what is wrong with the second game, it might make sense to have a brief look at the first one. Shall we?
DLC Quest starts in such an “unfinished” state that the player character is just a still image. Part of his task to save the day is to buy enough additional content (gear and mechanics) to beat the bad guy. To do so, “Player”, as he is called, has to talk to the townspeople, listen to their funny antics, and collect enough coins in a game that takes around 30 minutes to beat the first time around. DLC Quest’s humor is easily understood by anyone, even by those who are unfamiliar with video game tropes and who have no idea what DLC (downloadable content) are, which is key to good comedy: Reference jokes should still be funny even when the source material is unknown to the recipient. Luckily, the mechanics match the humor in both playstyle and simplicity.
The controls themselves are as easy as in the first Super Mario Bros. (1985) on the Family Computer with “Player” attacking with one button and jumping with another. The entire adventure can even be experienced with either a gamepad or keyboard. Despite that, one tiny problem is that the hero’s shoes seem to have somewhat slippery soles as he valiantly slips off of a ledge or two while attempting to jump on to a platform. Luckily, he can’t die and there’s little punishment for not making a jump. This also means that the game relies mostly on its humor over challenge. With all that said, what’s the deal with the second part?
Live Freemium or Die
Live Freemium or Die picks up right where DLC Quest left off. This time around, the world is somewhat bigger and more mazelike with checkpoints, deadly spikes, and different townspeople. Glossing over these additions, the two major problems of this title quickly become apparent once its booted up: It is still lovable and quirky, but the creators failed to see what made the first one work.
The game’s core problem is in its design, which can be seen in three aspects, its mechanics, its humor, and its length. The protagonist can now wall jump and there are death states that will teleport “Player” back to the last checkpoint he touched. The controls are still as slippery as in the first entry, but there is a stronger emphasis on platforming with some coins only being reachable after successfully wall jumping across gaps. Depending on whether or not “Player” missed or skipped a checkpoint, dying might teleport him back quite a bit. Though not too difficult for semi-casual players, the more elaborate platforming gets slightly annoying, as it substitutes quality content with busywork and a pay-off consisting out of some in-game coins. And just like the mechanics, the humor as well could have used some revision.
Analogous to its predecessor, this title too heavily relies on comical dialog, yet multiple (not all) jokes are referential and can only be understood by those familiar with core gaming trivia from the mid-1980s to 2012. One character in a cave, for example, is a direct reference to Markus “Notch” Persson and tells “Player” that he used to love mines but is now into space. Persson, the creator of Minecraft (2011), was developing a space game titled 0x10c at the time Live Freemium or Die came out, but had indefinitely halted the project in 2013. Sadly, unless players know about this or other things that were popular in gaming at the time, they won’t understand several of the game’s antics, while others familiar with the subject matter will simply say “Oh, yeah, that was a thing back then” instead of finding them funny. Despite a couple of jokes still putting a smile on one’s face, they are overall not as good as in DLC Quest and, due to the level design, are too few and far apart from one another.
While the platforming and jokes are minor bumps, the biggest complaint I have is that Live Freemium or Die is too long. The game should have ended at the latest, right after retrieving the “Box of Various Supplies” in an area called “Allan Please Add Zone Name” with an entire “Cave Zone” cut out as well. The way it is now, its world is too large and mazelike for what little there is to discover. It may only take an hour to play through the entire game, but, thanks to the level design, the game feels much longer and drags on. Because of these issues, Live Freemium or Die suffers under the same predicament as many sequels before it: It tries to focus on and dig itself into a couple of aspects the developers liked about the first game instead of taking a step back to try to see if the product as a whole is still fun to experience. While the title still has its moments and the ending is hilarious, it does not reach the same level as its predecessor.
Does this double pack come recommended? DLC Quest would definitely be worth getting over the weekend, if there were such a thing as video game rentals. There isn’t really any replay value to both games and, with a combined playtime of one and a half to two hours, players will have seen everything there is to see through the course of one afternoon. I really like the art direction in both games and the music is awesome. I loved the humor in the first title and would love for my readers to play it as well, but I’m not that big a fan of its sequel and think that people wouldn’t miss out on much if they didn’t play that one.
DLC Quest gets 7 hopeful and heroic quests out of 10 horse shoes
Where to Get
DLC Quest costs $2.99 USD or your local equivalent and is available on Steam, Xbox Games Store.
The stuff that comes after Reviews
If you’d like to, please feel free to leave a comment. The comment section is completely open and you do not need to register or log-in. All screenshots presented here were taken by me during my gameplay and you can also follow my curation on Steam by clicking on this link here: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gaoscorner#curation