This time around, I'll be looking at something that ended up being different from the usual fare I play and review for the site. Usually, I like to play RPG games, strategy titles or experiences with deep and engaging stories and, after reading the description for Aborigenus, it sounded like something I might enjoy. Its store page described it as "an adventure/RPG/platformer" and that, along with the retro-styled pixel art, got me intrigued enough to request a code for review. What I actually ended up with though, left me feeling disappointed in an experience that was much simpler, and WAY shorter, than what I initially expected. So gather round, get comfortable, and let me tell you why I felt let down by Aborigenus by Drageus games.
Upon starting this title you'll be presented with a pixel art slide show, along with some lines of text, that describe the world and events that will shape the upcoming adventure. Basically, the various tribes of this land live in a world composed of flying islands that float through an ocean of clouds. It seems that for most of its history this realm has been an idyllic place, with its various tribes living in peace and harmony.
Recently though, that has all changed.
The various different peoples have fallen to infighting, the wildlife has become aggressive and an "Ancient Evil" has awoken and begun causing great strife across the land.
Which brings us to the tribe that we, the player, are a member of.
Attacked in the dead of night by a nearby people, this enemy tribe appeared quickly and then disappeared into the darkness, carrying off as many of your fellow tribesmen as they could capture. The elders of your village say that they've been carried off to be part of some nefarious scheme and, fearing they'll be sacrificed in some horrible way, have decided to send the few remaining warriors on a desperate rescue mission. You, as a young and untrained member of the tribe, were told to stay behind but, as one of the captured people was your beloved wife, you decide you'll head off after them, on a mission to save the woman you love.
How this plays out in terms of gameplay is, for the most part, through a rather basic and uninspired version of the "head to the right" type of platformer that we've all seen a million times before, in a million permutations. The various levels are made up of floating platforms, ranging from flying islands in the clouds, rocky mountain outcrops, and desert areas, to a village of wooden treehouses suspended high in a huge forest. There are also many vines spread throughout the areas that can be used to climb vertically and scaling these allow access to the next available platform. Falling between any of the gaps, or getting knocked off will, as you can expect, cause you to die and restart from the last checkpoint you touched. Environment wise, it really is this simple with the different areas mostly differing in the style they take. The platforming is also extremely basic and plays out in a strictly linear fashion, there are no paths to choose from, hidden areas to discover and actually making the leaps between platforms requires very little skill. Don't expect to need pixel-perfect jumping, or split-second timing, this isn't near the level of Meatboy, Shovel Knight or any of the other great platformers that leap to mind. The level design is very simple and unchallenging, and the actual leap ability feels adequate and nothing more. There is a small section that breaks up this basic gameplay but it's very short and also really easy. Located about halfway through the game, you'll come across a very short riding section where you jump on the back of a giant chicken and ride it, Chocobo style, through a series of caves. The only difference this makes to gameplay is that your mount runs forward of its own accord and you simply tell it to jump over gaps or duck under low ceilings. It lasts maybe 30 seconds before it is back to the bog-standard platforming again, and I wish more of these sections but with different mounts had been included, increasing the game’s variety.
As you travel through the few different areas the game covers, making your way from checkpoint to checkpoint, you'll not just have to avoid falling to your death but you'll also have some of the "dangerous" animals and enemies to contend with too. Unfortunately though, just like the platforming, these opponents are mostly basic too, with combat providing almost no challenge at all. There are giant chickens that simply walk back and forth before running straight to you and trying to peck you to death as soon as it spots you. There are bats and birds that simply fly from left to right, doing damage if touched, as well as spine shooting porcupines that will fire a spike towards you every second or two. These enemies populate the beginning stages of the game and provide almost no challenge at all, they have extremely basic movement patterns and simple attacks that are really easy to avoid. Later in the game, some slightly more interesting enemies are introduced, they're still basic but the spike encrusted rhino creature and the ground-pounding stone Golems at least require some timing and avoidance in order to do damage to them. Although they take more effort than the "just spam attack" of the starting creatures, they still won't challenge anyone who's played any platform game that's released over the past couple of decades.
When it comes to any of the baddies though, you have 2 ways you can deal with them. First is simple avoidance and second is to kill them through combat or use of your skills. This second option should be your preferred method, as each enemy grants experience when defeated that will allow you to level up when you've collected enough. Each level you increase grants one skill point that can be spent on improving the small list of abilities you have access to. Before we get into that though, I'd like to bring attention to something that's mentioned in the game description that's available in the e-shop. It mentions the ability to choose your class - a shaman, warrior or hunter but this isn't really the case. At no point can you choose from a list of preset classes, or decide which of these you'll evolve into. Instead, you begin with three simple abilities, each of which can be upgraded by a maximum of three levels. The first ability is simply an increase in the strength of your basic weapon, a handheld spear that you can jab at your enemies. Secondly is an increase in how long you can stay in stealth mode. By pressing downwards on the left control stick your character will duck and, as long as the enemy doesn't see you, you'll do a critical hit with your spear attack. This skill is almost useless though, enemies have such simple attack patterns anyways and stealth isn't needed, but it becomes even less effective when the third skill is considered. This third ability allows you to throw a ranged weapon and is probably the most overpowered and effective attack available to you, especially when fully powered up. It basically makes every other skill useless and allows you to sit at a distance and pepper every enemy from a distance. At first, it allows you to throw simple knives that do relatively little damage, but you do have an endless supply, with a seemingly unlimited range and they'll keep going till they hit something. Get it to level 2 and it becomes a boomerang, doing more damage, as well as causing injury on the way out and on its return. The 3rd and final upgrade changes the weapon again, this time to a punishing throwing axe that does high damage and can easily overpower most enemies pretty quickly.
After a few levels, you'll encounter a witch who will grant you shamanic abilities and unlock a further 3 skills, bringing the grand total to 6 in all. Just like the beginning abilities, these can also be upgraded a maximum of 3 times and include the ability to fire an energy blast, create a damage reducing shield or add magical damage to your spear attacks. These are powered by your newly acquired mana bar, with different abilities using it up at different rates, but it will also recharge slowly over time if you stop using them. Again though, these skills are pretty useless as your throwing weapons are a much more effective weapon in most, or even all, situations as you can spam them indefinitely and they don't need to recharge.
Graphically Aborigenus is also nothing spectacular. There's been a huge influx of gorgeous pixel art to gaming this generation, from a wide variety of different titles, and when compared to those Aborigenus comes off as looking particularly basic. In-game characters like your tribesman, or the enemy sprites, are all simple blocks of color with none rising above the level of adequate. They don't seem to have the charm or detail we've come to expect from this style, with only the title screen rising anything near the level of noteworthy. This simple and basic look also applies to the backgrounds and environment designs with most looking like they belong in an 8bit title, and not in a good way. The mountains, desert and caves are almost identical apart from the color, with only the later treehouse village adding any variety, although it too is simple and basic and wouldn't look out of place in an NES title.
There is one other thing I'd like to mention before we wrap things up and that's the overall playtime you can expect. Aborigenus is short. Like REALLY short. I first fired up the game to take a quick look and planned to play through the first few levels only. I did this pretty quickly and reached what I thought to be the first boss character, a powerful energy bolt firing wizard. I quickly dispatched him as, although being the toughest enemy so far, he was still easily overcome and got ready to face the next level...
Only for the end credits to begin rolling. I quickly realized that, in my short 15-20 minute playtime, I had completed the ENTIRE game and had seen EVERYTHING it had to offer. I was also playing on Switch so there were no achievements to try for, meaning no reason for a 2nd run.
There's one small plus I can think of in the game's favor, and it is a niche one, but achievement hunters might find it worth picking up an Xbox copy simply for the quick and easy gamerscore boost. Everyone else though will probably find this short playtime (with no replay value) to be a serious letdown.
So, in summary, Aborigenus is a budget-priced platform game that is very short and very simple. Reading this review you probably noticed I used the words "simple" and "basic" a lot, and those terms sum up this game very well. The platforming, the combat, the powers, the enemy attack patterns and everything else is bare-bones and minimal. It's all functional and working but there's nothing about it that feels inspired, unique or challenging in the slightest. Apart from introducing young children to platforming games, although there are a million better examples to choose from, the only other people I can see getting anything out of its extremely short playtime are achievement hunters. This is probably one most people will want to avoid.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final SCore: 3.5/10
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