Beyond-Human has vast potential and obvious, invested love, but has the vitality of a mayfly. While the swordplay is exceptional, the gunplay and the level design simply can’t coexist in its current state — with its many tight hallways, unexpected dead ends, and aliens.
The video includes Max’s thoughts and boss discussions. The post is written from Shawn’s original notes only.
We are indeed free. Free from the capsule holding us in and immediately dropped into a station unknown.
The presentation is overall solid.
The graphics and aesthetics are pleasing to the eye with a fitting color palette and exceptional pixel-art. The pixel art and atmosphere has that Metroid feel, which is exactly what the developers were going for. I wouldn’t use the comparison lightly of course, but the tagline is Metroidvania Sci-Fi Hack & Slash Platformer.
A mini-map that matches the color glowing on his suit fits right in at the top-right of the screen. It feels like the HUD elements could be on the character or his gun because of how well the color palette meshes. The health indicator is green and could potentially be changed or add green to the suit to continue that HUD feel.
If you want the player to know or recognize a mechanic or an event, react to it. There are doors of various colors depending on clearance. From the first room, move left and the red door blinks and says “Access Denied.” The developers could have just left that red and make the player think, “Well, I’m guessing I can’t go this way yet ’cause it’s red,” but they didn’t. The voice effect used is perfect.
The lighting and the soundtrack sets the ambience right from the start. Sparks fly from the control panel without unrealistic exaggeration. The sparks have a lighting effect. Only one sound effect is used, but no variation is needed for a single room. The amount of care and attention that went into this game from little details like that shows.
Finally, the jump. The jump is variable, depending on how long the jump is pressed. The visual effect is obviously Metroid, while the jumping itself feels like Hollow Knight but not nearly as tight.
Does This Game Have Teleporting?
Two things I noticed that were a bit.. jarring.
First, transitioning through doors before the player walks through them. Of course, this becomes second-nature to the player as he or she continues onward, but that’s no excuse I’m willing to use.
Second, there are stairs… everywhere… that our character just doesn’t even bother to take. Yet again, the stairs become second-nature to simply ignore, but that can’t get rid of my initial flabbergasted reaction. For a handicapped gymnast, he does pretty well for himself.
Enemies, Enemy Placements, & Combat Opportunities
It’s important to preface with the fact that the health indicator is very deceiving. Although it comprises many green marks, everything in this game chunks you. This is a frustrating phenomenon when the alien bosses come around.
Introduction To Enemies And Combat
We walk into a hallway and a guy starts shooting at us. Mechanics should be introduced out of harm’s way. If a player would be hit by something out of their knowledge or awareness, it feels unfair.
For a shooting introduction, there could be barrels or other objects to destroy. Maybe objects that are blocking a door. Enemies could be shooting at something else to demonstrate what they’re all about to the player, especially if it sets the narrative.
Nothing But Hallways
The first enemy could have been placed in a more spacious room with more platforms to help maneuver instead of a hallway. Later on, three base enemies are in a single hallway at different elevations and are impossible to maneuver through and try to poke at. It feels like the game takes place in nothing but hallways.
The same could be said of the sniper. The sniper is in a hallway and shoots immediately. I’m sure the devs can do a better job than just placing enemies in the middle of hallways and forcing us to take damage in order to learn their patterns.
Soon we come across a more spacious room with wall turrets. They move up and down and shoot straight ahead. These enemies would have been much better to start off with since they’re straightforward and predictable. The shooting pattern is visible and it’s up to the player if he or she wants to tackle them or not.
Now imagine if you couldn’t shoot up and had to shoot at the turrets little-by-little.
I’m happy to say that isn’t the case. Max and I didn’t discover this until after our recording session since there’s no indication such as the gun aiming upward before shooting. Nevertheless, it’s a relieve that the devs didn’t overlook what could have been a blunder.
Purple Shield Men
A brand new purple and white enemy with a shield. The design is fresh and looks unique, but the enemy has the same shooting pattern as the base enemies, so it feels more of a clone than it should.
There’s a lot of hopping and spattering bullets about, slowly knocking enemies out at a safe height. I think this is a problem with how the enemies just stand stationary and shoot. In Metroid, there are moving enemies with physical attacks, which makes hitting them much easier and less strenuous.
There are moving enemies Max calls Purple Genjis. As he points out in our video, they are fun to face, but too many are thrown at you at once.
There’s value in moderation.
Artifacts, Currency, Dark Souls, Oh My
The Artifact Room. The music changes and green lights traverse the seams of the background wall. The artifact and the artifact base has a well-made animation. The room stays consistent with its color palette, stands out as a unique room, and flows well with the game.
Oh, wait, the artifact is a shop?
My favorite part about finding these types of rooms in Metroidvanias or other similar genres is finding new gear, new upgrades, and new abilities. The sword and the dash ability were gained, but the new upgrades have to be bought at a shop. Not including the upgrades into the mix of obtainables doesn’t feel nearly as good as it could be, but I wouldn’t argue against the variety it brings to the table.
Leave Dark Souls’ Currency-Drop Mechanic Out
The heading pretty much summarizes the currency system (if the shop system isn’t okay with you, this just butters the bread).
The currency system haphazardly implements the mechanic that has become the bane of everyone’s existence: The backtrack-and-progress-further-or-otherwise-lose-your-progress mechanic. Why should a game dictate whether or not the player should make their way back through the exact same route if he or she decides to take a different path? Beyond-Human is a game where a new ability or likewise can unlock multiple new paths and where dying is easy since every hit chunks, so the frustration can easily settle in.
There’s a difference between difficulty and frustration.
Of course this is more of a problem with well-designed games like Hollow Knight (stop making me face Dung Defender), but it’s still a problem nevertheless.
The Metroidvania genre of games could use some innovation, and Beyond-Human does make some innovations.
Dynamic events were the most effective at grabbing our attention — whether it be an insta-killing purple mech blasting enemies away, a collapsing platform, or an alien stabbing an enemy.
Even simple events, such as the collapsing platform, does wonders for immersion (given how well-driven the presentation is already).
Although, if the player can just go through the next room to reach what the collapsed platform previously made impassable, then the journey feels pointless and reflects bad level design.
Well-Presented New Dash Ability
There’s a new ability found past the Purple Genjis! The new ability is a dash that uses energy. We can now dash through objects such as enemies, bullets, and electricity.
Using the dash as a double jump doesn’t use energy, which is a very smart design choice. It would unnecessarily break the pacing of the game if it used energy and the player had to stop and wait for it to recharge.
Heading back feels similar to how Metroid handles it, where the player can’t get back out unless he or she has the new ability. That is a feature that Metroid does exceptionally well, and so it was a joy to see that implemented here.
Promise Me You’ll Come Home
This is their second Beyond-Human Kickstarter campaign after a year of creating and providing a demo. I admire their dedication and the wonderful presentation the game has. The potential is there, especially once the sword and the accompanying sword upgrades are obtained.
However, the glaring flaws are too much for my somehow still-beating heart.