Talent Not Included is a two-dimensional side-scrolling platformer developed and published by the wonderful folks at Firma Studios. It tells the story of three monsters, Zordok, Derp, and Kevin, which are incredibly bored one day and decide to write their own play. Being fans of Shakespeare and over-the-top destruction and combat, they hire three actors (mediocre ones I might add) to fulfill their dreams of orchestrating their very own play. The three actors, Cecile, Bonnie, and Gundelf are sent on a perilous journey through the lush forest, harsh deserts, and bone-chilling tundra.
This title consists of three different acts containing fifteen stages in each act. Every five stages will greet the player with a boss fight increasing in difficulty and leading up to the final boss of the stage. The boss fight during each act consists of the same boss but differing their attack patterns. During Act 1, we are greeted by Cecile the knight on his adventure to acquire a new helmet. He travels throughout forested areas; destroying enemies and collecting coins to finish his journey. Bonnie the rogue and Gundelf the wizard has similar ventures; however, they travel through deserts and tundra, respectively.
The main mechanics of Talent Not Included are scaling the levels side to side collecting coins, killing enemies, and avoiding dangers. The stage is equipped with seven spinning platforms that change between safe havens and dangerous mechanisms. The ground is denoted as dangerous when it glows an orange-red and the gears are exposed. Encountering these panels will instantly take one of your hearts away. Each stage awards the player with one of following three masks depending on how many points they scored: a wooden mask, a silver one, or a gold one. The wooden mask is presented when the stage is completed with any score and the silver and gold are two higher tiers differing every time. Collecting a certain amount of coins or killing so many enemies will cause a multiplier to increase. Maxing out a ‘X5’ multiplier will yield the player with the most points possible, granting them a gold mask. However, taking damage will cause the multiplier to reset and it must be built back up. There is also the option to play this game in local co-op. It does not differ at all from the single player experience aside from having a second character on the screen. Playing the game in co-op also turns the game into a competitive setting as you race to see who can get the most points and be crowned MVP.
The setting of this title is the main stage of a play, more importantly, a marionette show. Each of the actors along with the bosses and enemies are reminiscent of puppets or dolls that you would expect to see in puppet shows. The backdrops are beautiful landscapes that remind me of hand-painted backgrounds that would be featured in amateur plays. The developers did a great job at making the game feel like you are watching this new puppet show. The soundtrack; however, is nothing to write home about. It is enjoyable while playing, but in the end, is just an average score. Nothing amazing, but not terrible at the same time.
My time with Talent Not Included was average at best. At first, the game was fun and something different. I went through the first act rather quickly and I couldn’t put the game down, I was having so much fun. Then I got to the second act and it went downhill. I noticed that I did not care for the move set present in Bonnie compared to Cecile, who was bland. The level design started getting repetitive and I just was not having fun. The biggest issue I started noticing while playing as Bonnie was the sudden changes in landscape would become extremely fast and cause you to lose a heart, resetting the multiplier. This would become infuriating as ending a large run could ruin your chances at the golden mask or even prevent you from finishing the level if you lack hearts. The game was challenging and enjoyable, but in the end, fell flat and began to drag.
Overall, Talent Not Included was a cool premise that just didn’t live up to expectation. The game was fun at first, but couldn’t carry the momentum throughout. It is priced at $15 USD and I don’t see that as a big issue, but I would probably wait for it to be on sale. My recommendations, play this game in chunks or you will just tire yourself out on it. Remember: Break a Leg, the Show must go on!
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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