Get ready to buy a new controller, as DeadCore by 5-Bit Games will have you shattering your pad against the wall. This frustratingly difficult FPS tower-climber will challenge your puzzling skills and push your twitch reactions to the brink of their abilities: imagine Portal meets Super Meat Boy and the turbo tunnels from Battle Toads. But don’t let the difficulty of this game put you off as DeadCore is as much fun as it is infuriating.
As you slam into the floor after endlessly falling through a magnetic storm, you awaken to find your memory gone and a series of words floating in the ether, urging you to travel upwards, towards the peak of this mysterious tower and the secrets that it holds. However, gaining access to the summit will be no easy feat as it is protected by a high-tech security system. Complex defence mechanisms, fatal lasers, and robots intent on pushing you to your doom stand in your way. If you have any chance to survive, you’ll need to use your new found ability to jump, double-jump and dash, while making good use of your SwitchGun to disable traps, immobilize robots, and navigate a series of brutal environmental puzzles as you endeavour to reach the top of the Tower and uncover the secrets of its origins.
DeadCore is split into five levels that dramatically increase in difficulty as you progress. The first two areas, though delivering a certain amount of challenge, are nothing in comparison to the rage-inducing final three-fifths of the game. There are numerous sections where you’ll repeatedly die as you desperately attempt to string together the perfect combination of jumps and dashes that take you along the optimal line past a series of fatal traps. Timing, skill, luck and the patience of a saint is needed if you hope to get past the devious snares that await you as you ascend the tower. On many occasions I found myself screaming at the screen as I miss-timed a leap or charged at just the wrong moment, slamming into another barrier or plummeting from the precipice before watching the red mist of death fill the screen. The RAGE monster was fully in control and if it wasn’t for that last shred of restraint, my controller would be dust on the floor. But these moments of frustration and pain are contrasted beautifully with the glorious elation that comes as you finally conquer these devious traps.
DeadCore’s controls are easy to use and though the game does seem more suited for the PC, the inclusion of an assisted aim feature allows console players to get the same sense of speed and frenetic action that you get from its Steam counterpart. The aesthetics of a Tron-inspired world where a tower looms out of the mists, soaring in to the stratosphere, works wonderfully alongside the game’s ever present sense of vertigo. With no nets below you and the tip of the tower always just out of reach, this isn’t a game for the faint of heart.
However, there is more to DeadCore than just making your way to the top of the tower. As you progress up the levels you’ll find collectables, story logs that fill in the gaps to your missing memories, Sparks that improve your skills, and music tracks that do nothing to help the tension of the situation. Should you feel the need to take a break from the pressures of the game’s main story mode, there’s the option to attempt a speed-run of several of the levels and with an on-line leader board and the ability to take multiple routes up the tower, I can see this becoming a speed runner’s dream come true.
5-Bits Games have created a well designed, fast paced, puzzle platformer. Not only does it push you to the limit of your gaming abilities but it also gives you a real challenge – that may drive you to distraction but will also give you the greatest feeling you can get in gaming. It is true that the difficulty spike will put off a large amount of casual gamers and the placing of some of the checkpoints only serve to infuriate you more. Yet, if you’re up for it, DeadCore is brilliantly, exquisitely, excruciatingly fun. Well worth the cost of a new controller!