Here in Canada the indie gaming scene is not only alive and well but it's getting stronger every year. Canada probably has one of the richest pools of young unsigned talent in the industry and a lot of that development talent is found within the borders of Quebec. I got an opportunity to meet a few of these Quebecois developers at the Montreal International Game Summit. One such team of developers were the guys from Crankshaft Games. Crankshaft Games is a small outfit which used Kickstarter to finance its first game Party of Sin. In Party of Sin you take control of the Seven Deadly Sins as they escape from prisons in Hell, journey through Purgatory and Earth, and finally bring the fight to the doorstep of the Angels in Heaven. While the game is rife with humour and some sinful heavy metal grooves, an inconsistent art style and lackluster combat are a few of the blemishes found among the challenging puzzles and quick reflex platforming.
Co-op and Concept
I tend to think puzzle platforming games are fun. It's a genre that combines two good things; puzzles and platforming. Everyone likes a good challenge to test one's mental mettle yet there that other part of our brain that relishes in thumbtastic feats of fancy. At least that what playing Super Meat Boy will teach you. Party of Sin features both puzzles and platforming with a good amount of combat mixed in. As I mentioned before the combat leaves a lot to be desired but the remaining core mechanics are executed pretty well for the most part. When you're fighting Angels while trying to hit switches as you try to keep a door open long enough to get your selected sin through, the weak combat matters much less. But when you’re making your way through a level or having to take on an Angelic boss, it becomes very obvious that there seems to be little to no weight behind your attacks. I think what's missing is some more obvious feedback. There were many times where an attack registers and the enemy takes damage but as a player I feel that I barely did anything. It prevents you from feeling empowered, a feeling that I tend to enjoy.
Sins and Sounds
Aside from my problems with the combat I do find that the multi-protagonist (there are seven) approach lends itself very well to co-op play. Since each of the seven deadly sins has unique powers it's a lot of fun to discover how they all work together. Shoot your partner with Envy's green eye lasers and your health will be equalized between the two of you. If you need to help a fellow sin reach a high platform, Greed has a grappling hook that will do just the trick. It was challenging to get all the sins to work together while playing the game solo. Switching between the different sins to accomplish objectives was where the solo experience really shined. I didn't have much of a chance to play the game co-op but what I did experience felt pretty different from the solo game. There's a decent amount of replay to be found in Party of Sin if you have three friends and feel like waging war on heaven and earth. But they must be close friends since only local co-op is available. If you feel that your friends are a little too much on the smelly side of things, the game is fun solo but shouldn't take any gamer more than five hours to complete. I also need to give some credit to the audio team. Party of Sin's metal riff ridden soundtrack reminded me of my own days as a sound designer. The music fit the game really well, for the most part. Like any game's soundtrack the music can eventually wear on you, but this was not a case where I had to mute the soundtrack altogether. The voice acting was limited but funny and my only complaint was that I wish there was more of it.
Party of Sin is a genuinely strong effort from a new company on the Canadian indie scene. While the game does have its flaws, lackluster combat being the biggest, the concept and subsequent design is worth your interest. The humor, soundtrack, and in-engine look of the game is worth your money. So while I feel that games like Trine and its sequel, represent the more polished puzzle platformers out there, Party of Sin is a decent execution of a good concept. Considering that Party of Sin is a Crankshaft Games' first full-fledged effort it's not a bad way to kick things off.