OneBigGame is an interesting change of pace from a normal video game publisher. They proudly advertise themselves as “the world's first and only non-profit publisher of videogames”, working with concepts that are provided pro bono by designers and donating the profits to children's charities. This is an undeniably admirable goal, and the fact that they exist as a counterpoint to the modern AAA studio makes me feel optimistic about the future of the industry.
Unfortunately, when I played their latest release SXPD, I found myself losing a lot of that optimism.
SXPD casts you as a member of the all-female police force of the fictional American state of New Royale. There's some vague “near-future dystopia” undercurrents to the setting, but none of it is ever elaborated on. There are brief glimpses of backstory or setting, but nothing ever gets more than a cursory look.
This vagueness is one of the weaknesses of SXPD, as there's very little to sink your teeth into in the game's story. There is an evil organization that's out to destroy New Royale and they have a very dangerous package that must be retrieved. You are a rookie officer and the only survivor of her squad, and your job is to retrieve the box. That gets established in the first few pages, and nothing more ever comes of it. There's no exploration of what's in the box or why it's so dangerous, and no growth of the heroine or anyone else.
I say “pages” above because one of the primary selling points of the game is its presentation. It bills itself as “the world's first true comic book game hybrid”. While I disagree on the “first” part – games like XIII have blended the two mediums together in the past – I have to admit they're mixed exceptionally well in SXPD. The graphic design was by far my favorite element of the game. While others have done similar things before, none have impressed me as much as this did. Somehow, watching the hand-drawn blur effect made me feel like I was going faster than I ever do in Gran Turismo. What little story there is presented in a series of comic pages, and the transition to the actual game is surprisingly seamless. Once you turn the last page, suddenly everything is moving, and you get a quick countdown before you take control.
Speaking of control, I found the game to be rather difficult to handle properly. I have never been a fan of tilt-controls with the iPad, as I think the tablet is too large to do that effectively for very long. Worse than that, though, is the fact that you can't slow down. You're permanently stuck at full speed, and turning around in the tight corridors within some of the stages proves aggravating. To make matters worse, crashing is much more damaging than any enemy weapons. Compounding that frustration, where exactly the game decides to put you after a crash seems to vary wildly. At times I would start a good distance back from my accident, but other times I found myself crashing into the exact same spot again before I had time to react.
The game is also rather short – I completed it in a couple of hours, including the bonus stages. While it does promise a part two, it's difficult to get excited for that given how bland and aggravating the first part is.
While I support OneBigGame's mission statement and love the idea of non-profit game studios, in this case, you may want to donate to the charity of your choice directly and look for other iOS games.