Review: CID The Dummy (Sony PSP)

cidthedummycoverCID The Dummy
Developer: Twelve Games Interactive
Publisher: Oxygen Games
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 07/07/2009

What if they made a license game without a license?

Within a few minutes of playing CID The Dummy, this was the question I was forced to ask myself. The game really acts like it wants to carry the Crash Test Dummies brand, but I guess the rights simply weren’t available. So they changed it to Crash Impact Dummy and decided to keep going anyway.

So even without a license, how did this game manage to be included in that nefarious brand of games in my mind? Read on to find out.

Story

The story follows the titular character of CID. He’s bored with his job of crashing into wall after wall and testing product after product. He can often be found complaining to his fellow dummies that there should be more in life although he never does anything about it.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, CID’s creator decides that CID is the perfect candidate for a mission he needs completed. He pulls CID from the assembly line, fits him with a power suit and a bazooka, and sends him to collect his kidnapped daughter.

The plot is silly enough there already. The main character’s sole motivation is avoiding boredom. How exciting is that? The game tries to be humorous with its names as well. The professor’s name is B. M. Werken (BMW!), the daughter’s name is MIA (Missing in Action!), and the baddie responsible for her kidnapping is named D-Troit (I really hope I don’t have to explain that one!). There are also more “Who’s the dummy now?” and like jokes that I suppose might illicit a chuckle from someone under the age of ten the first time or so, but don’t do anything for older players or even kids after the first time.

You can see the twists coming from a mile away. Some characters are randomly given story angles that don’t make any sense. None of the characters even manage to become interesting or worth caring about. This is like a Saturday morning cartoon gone horribly wrong. You can’t just throw someone into a story and expect it to be good. CID manages to be the least likable hero I’ve seen in quite some time. He’s got nothing going for him.

Graphics

If you exclude the character models, the graphics here are pretty decent for a PSP game. The environments are in full 3D and feature some decent detail and, for the most part, clean objects. The effects aren’t spectacular or anything, but they’re at least on par with most things on the system.

There are also some nifty animations. When you sprint headlong into a wall, you’ll get the satisfying sight of CID smacking face first into the wall and then falling over. Its about the only time he actually looks like a dummy.

The character models really don’t do anything for me though. CID himself is the oddest talc color, and I’ve never seen any dummy with this particular shade. It makes his head ridiculously reflective, and you often won’t be able to see anything but a glare when he’s moving about. The rest of the characters don’t manage to impress either. The professor looks more elastic than the dummies around him and the villain just looks plain silly. The best looking models are found in the forms of the game’s gigantic robot bosses. These tend to all look the same, though. They’ve got the square metal jaws, the huge muscular frames, and the tendency to shoot fireballs or attack with a giant hammer. Still, they’re pretty cool to look at, if nothing special.

On the whole, the rest of the game looks pretty good, but the character models drag the whole experience down.

Audio

I kind of dig the music in this game. Sure, it’s all generic instrumental and techno music. Some of it also sounds like a rip off of Fatboy Slim, but the music is fitting and can often add to the atmosphere the game is trying to create. The real problem is that the tracks are really short and loop quickly, meaning you can get bored of it pretty fast.

Everything else about the audio is awful, if not the worst I’ve ever heard.

Whoever they hired to do the voice acting for this game should never be allowed to speak again. Seriously. CID is a whiny prick who gets on your nerves every time he utters a word. The worst offender, however, is the professor. You’ll hear his voice constantly throughout the game and I really can’t describe it properly. It’s like some guy trying to do a British accent, but it somehow comes out as the voice of a high-pitched she-male. There wasn’t a single time when his voice popped up that I wasn’t tempted to rip my own ears off to avoid having to listen to it. True, it would be simpler, and a lot less messy, to simply turn the volume off, but I want you to understand how truly awful this voice is. You can probably find it on Youtube or something. I suggest you don’t, but if you think I’ve exaggerating or something, feel free.

It doesn’t even fall into that “so bad its funny” category that games like House of the Dead and Resident Evil made famous. If that were the case, I could forgive the game a bit. However, all it does is cause any latent aggression I have in me to rise up to the surface. I pity anyone who bugs me while I’m playing this game. Granted, I’m pretty sure someone could get off on the insanity plea after it was discovered he or she was playing this game.

The best part of this whole thing is actually something that still manages to drag the score down. I witnessed several moments where the audio would suddenly cut off in the middle of a sentence. While it was a blessed relief missing even only a few words, the fact that it happened is not something the game should be proud of.

Oh, also, the sound effects are merely below average. There are awkward sounds when you hit things, and CID makes a silly “oof” sound when he gets hurt. It wouldn’t be so bad on its own, but you’ll be so irritated at the sound of his voice that it makes the whole experience worse.

Gameplay

CID’s basic premise is pretty solid. You’ll move through linear environments by defeating enemies, leaping from platform to platform, and solving simple puzzles that open doors. There are secret areas to find with extra lives and power ups, multiple types of ammo for your weapon, a decent variety of enemy and level variants, and a fairly generous checkpoint system.

From there, though, it all falls apart, thanks to broken mechanics and stupid design choices.

For one, the world you’re in is 3D, yet the camera is presented and the game is played as if it were a 2D adventure. We’ve seen similar camera styles in beat-em-ups for ages, but those use sprites instead of models, so it was easy to judge whether or not an attack would find purchase. Here, the camera is immobile for the most part, yet you’re required to make precision jumps, fire at enemies, and navigate environments. What this amounts to is you never being able to tell if you’re facing the right direction. You can miss an enemy who’s barely an inch in front of you because he might be slightly above or below you. There are moments where you’ll need to move between the foreground and background to avoid obstacles, but a lot of the time you won’t be able to tell where exactly the obstacle is, so you’ll end up hitting it anyway. You’ll also miss a lot of jumps or fall off of ledges because you simply can’t tell where you need to end up. Whoever designed this needs a brick to the head. Trust me, it would help.

There’s also some delay between button presses and actions on-screen. For instance, CID’s punch is almost completely worthless. You press the button, and then watch as CID flails around. The actual hit seems to come well after the button press, making it hard to time attacks and very easy to take damage because the enemies are a bit more direct in their attacks. Also, I’ve noticed some bizarre issues with the jumping mechanics. One of CID’s most important moves is a wall jump that is used to activate some switches and reach platforms. You need to press towards the wall and hit jump, but the timing never seems to be the same for each jump. Also, if you need to jump at an angle, you’ll really have to get your timing down right or you’re just as likely to jump straight up instead.

I mentioned a variety of enemy types earlier, but that was a bit misleading, I now realize. Most enemies fall into one of two categories. Some enemies will run at you and swing for the fences, while others will stay back and shoot at you with near perfect precision. There are some slight variants of these types running around, but most of that variation is in regards to the best way to kill certain enemies.

Speaking of which, your main weapon is a bazooka with three different types of ammo. You can fire rubber bullets that can activate switches and cause minimal damage, flame bullets that pretty much serve as a flamethrower, and ice bullets that can freeze enemies in place. The problem here is that it is practically impossible to aim, and therefore extremely hard to ever hit what you’re trying to hit. Also, you can not carry ammo over to the next level. Then, at the beginning of that level, the game will suggest that you use a certain type of ammo against an enemy, so, many times, I’ve sat there cursing because I had just finished a level with near full amounts of the ammo the game wanted me to have, but now it was all gone.

You can collect little orbs around each level, which you can spend ten of at a time to activate panic mode. What this does is send a huge shock wave from CID’s body, which fries any enemies nearby. This technique can prove invaluable at times, when there are multiple enemies on screen coming after you. Problem is, there is a good two or three second time delay between when you start holding down the button to activate this and the actual action. Considering you’re most likely to use this when you’re overwhelmed, it seems a bit silly that you’re so open to attack.

There are also a few sections where you’ll be riding some sort of vehicle. These are simply terrible. The controls suck and you won’t be able to understand how they justified putting any of these sections into the game.

The sad thing is that there is some nifty level design at work here. There were some sections I actually managed to enjoy, but this was short lived when I couldn’t hit an enemy directly in front of me and ended up dying yet again because of it.

This game is a broken, poorly designed mess that offers no real redeeming quality.

Replayability

Like any licensed game (again, this doesn’t actually have a license.), CID The Dummy is short and offers little to no replay value. Depending on how many times you get a Game Over, you could probably finish this game in a few hours. After that, you can replay a few sections over to get better scores. These would be the vehicle sections I mentioned earlier. Don’t even bother.

After that, you can play the game on one of three difficulties. Why you would is beyond me, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you do. Even with that, you’ll be lucky to get even ten hours of play time out of this game. Considering the quality of those ten hours, you’d better off playing it once, if at all, and then never again.

Balance

How can you have balance when the game is broken and poorly designed? You can’t.

Because you can’t aim properly, going one on one with an enemy is pretty dangerous. However, if you managed to land a hit, just don’t move and keep firing. No matter what the enemy, they will keep running at you from that angle and take every hit until they die. If you’ve got more than one baddie to worry about, your best bet is to run around like a madman trying to find a second to land a hit or simply to run away altogether if possible. Generally speaking, I save panic mode for those rare cases when three high powered enemies are all trying to kill me. The worst part is that the enemies that chase you all move at the same speed as you, meaning that you can’t really get away once you’ve been backed into a corner. It also means that if you’re trying to buy time to get an angle to shoot from, you’re more likely to get hit the second you turn around. It is truly unforgiving.

Boss fights are a complete joke. Every boss I’ve come up against was easy to beat. The only problem was having to use the broken mechanics to do it. I beat one boss by running around in circles so he could never touch me. All I had to do is strike at my leisure and pick up regenerating health packs if I got hit. Yet another boss merely required me to run a simple obstacle course until the idiot walked right off a cliff and into a stream of lava.

The rel problem is the fact that the game relies on the ancient method of giving you a certain number of lives until you get a game over. If you die, you restart at the last checkpoint. If you run out of lives, you get a game over and have to restart the level from the main menu. There’s no option to continue from the game over screen. It’s like this is a game from the early nineties or something. Worst of all, when you save between levels, it keeps track of your number of lives. At one point, I was stuck with one life, meaning that a single death caused a game over. If I chose to continue, I had to start the level all over again and I wasn’t given even the default number of lives. Considering only the most evil games ever did that, you can understand my frustration with this game.

While technically easy, you’ll die so many deaths from this game that you’ll quickly reach a point of blind hatred. Winning isn’t about skill here. Its about compensating.

Originality

When it comes to your modern day action platformer, CID The Dummy doesn’t stray from convention one bit. You’ll get a sense of deja vu as you play the game. You’ve got the fire level, the ice level, the jungle level, the industrial level, the graveyard, etc. The game does feature a pretty good mix of ideas from its genre, but doesn’t offer anything new at all.

This all begs the question, if you’re just going to borrow ideas from one of the most established genres in gaming, how in god’s name you screw it up so badly?

Addictiveness

Given the nature of the checkpoint/life system and the many, many times you will die due to the horrid gameplay, you’re going to see a game over screen a lot.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if the levels were a decent length, but platforming levels are ridiculously long and have probably eight or nine checkpoints apiece. It can take forever to beat a level thanks to this. It is quite easy to put this game down and not touch it for days, if ever again.

The boss fights are also overly long, mostly because the bosses have a ton of health and no real patterns. The first boss could only be attacked when his weak spot was open, which happened at random intervals. At one point I had gone about two minutes between opportunities, so basically, I was running around dodging telegraphed attacks. I was bored stiff. Later on, I fought a boss that took forever thanks to the fact that he had a ton of health and a tendency to be followed by annoying long range guards. When I finally beat him, it took about ten minutes in total, because I had to keep leading him along until I could strike without risk of dying.

This game just isn’t fun, the levels go on longer than they should, and it just isn’t enjoyable to play.

Appeal Factor

While I’m sure there are plenty of us that remember who the Crash Test Dummies were, I hardly think any of them are young enough to be a part of this game’s target audience. Imagine if a game came out today for the Silverhawks. The people who even know who they are have to be in their twenties at the very least. True, this game doesn’t actually have the Crash Test Dummies license to work with, but it clearly got its premise from those old PSAs.

So it doesn’t offer a recognizable figure, but most games don’t and some of them manage to find an audience, right? CID won’t find much help there either as most people will probably never hear of it.

Those that do hear of it will just as likely hear that is a broken mess. It doesn’t offer anything to platformer fans, and parents would be advised not to purchase this for any child, as the frustration involved would upset them more than simply refusing to buy them a game in the first game.

This game isn’t for anyone.

Miscellaneous

On top of everything else, this game has a weird loading problem. Rather than load an entire level, the game usually only loads up to the next checkpoint. Nearly every time I reached a checkpoint, which is nothing more than a marker on the ground, the game had to load for several seconds. Worse yet, if you get ahead of yourself, you can actually end up a little beyond where you should be and walk right into an enemy before you can react.

Another thing that happens often is that every time a new enemy shows up, the game will pause, drag the camera over to the enemy, and then introduce you to them. Then you have to press X to continue, which brings up another couple of seconds of loading. This happens whenever you try to skip conversations as well.

For some reason, when you want to start up a load game, you have to go to load game, chose the game your want, then go back to the main menu and chose to continue. Talk about redundancy.

As far as unlockables go, you can unlock the vehicle sections for replay, and also various art pieces. Yippee. I’ve seen games do less, but these still don’t offer any reason to continue.

What it all boils down to is that this is one poorly put together game that doesn’t feel finished at all. It leaves you with nothing but ire for it. I really can’t think of a good word to say.

The Scores

Story: Bad
Graphics: Decent
Audio: Very Poor
Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Very Poor
Balance: Dreadful
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Awful
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Very Bad
Final Score: VERY BAD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjackNot since Insecticide have I given a game “Very Bad” as a final score. Interestingly, these two games are fairly similar in a lot of ways. Both had solid concepts that were squandered by poor implementation, shoddy controls, and broken mechanics. This isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but it is easily one of the worst games on the PSP, up there with Aliens vs Predator: Requiem and Death Jr. I recommend that you avoid it all all costs, because there isn’t any enjoyment to be had from this game.

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