Review: Basement Crawl (Sony PlayStation 4)

Basement Crawl
Developer: Blooper Team
Publisher: Blooper Team
Genre: Action/Puzzle
Release Date: 02/25/2014

When I first saw the trailer for Blooper Team’s “Basement Crawl” pop up in the PSN store, the sinister Killer Klown esque mugshot of the character portrayed in the static preview was definitely enough for me to watch the video. Something I rarely do, especially for a title I knew nothing about, and in spite of whatever general interest comes by default with anything previewed for a new console.

The video effectively showcased the games dark and macabre aesthetic, potentially crazy characters, and what immediately registered as Bomberman style gameplay. Being a fan of all the individual elements Basement Crawl intended to combine, I was considerably interested in the finished product.

I wish Basement Crawl remained the “cool little game” my imagination turned it into after watching the trailer, but sadly I played the actual interactive game, and now I wish Basement Crawl existed as a “cool little video” for a game that never got off the ground.

A mysterious intro sequence features the shadows of a young girl and her grandmother discussing the dangers of the world outside as an eerie soundtrack and various horrific paraphernalia accompany the dialogue. The sequence will succeed in getting you interested in the premise of Basement Crawl, but whatever the hell that premise might be begins and ends with said minute long intro movie. While the
movie definitely builds up what is obviously a concept and general idea, whatever it hints at apparently exists only in a spiral bond notebook kept by one of The Blooper Team staff members. The game’s playable characters and various stages are present in the video, but any and all explanation of their existence and purpose is left completely up to the player.

This would not be a big deal, especially considering that Basement Crawl is effectively a take on the generally simplistic idea of Bomberman, but the movie is obviously meant to allude to specific concepts and ideas. Perhaps these ideas couldn’t find their way into the game for one reason or another, or perhaps the video is the result of expectations for a game that didn’t turn out the way the development team wanted them to, but “we paid voice actors, edited this intro together, and whether or not it makes sense in regards to our final product, we’re putting it in there.” Take your pick, but the inclusion of the intro as it is simultaneously stinks of laziness, confusion, and broken dreams.

After the intro sequence concludes, you’ll be taken to a bare bones start menu that displays how you can spend your time with Basement Crawl. Unfortunately the game can only be played online, against other players, or locally against other players, which set off the possibility that the exposition hinted at during the intro I just watched would go unrealized. A thought that proved itself to be accurate as I continued to spend time with the game.

The game offers four playable characters, each with various statistics that make them different from one another. One can move faster than the others as an example. Again, these characters exist solely for no other reason than to do so and besides cosmetically fitting in with the horror theme the game purports. Thanks to the confusing intro that ties the game to concepts and premises that are not at all realized, we the players are left to our own imagination as the what they even are and why their blowing each other up in, based on the game’s title, what I’m guessing is grandma’s basement.

After selecting the Network Multiplayer mode, I was taken to the character select screen which contains the complete roster of the four characters available in the game. It took a few tries to find a game to get into, and while I was waiting in a lobby, I unlocked a game trophy for “Not dying during an entire match”. “But I haven’t even played a match!”, I exclaimed in bewilderment. Initially I find the familiar Bomberman formula in place, as the stage consists of assorted blocks, and a handful of other players scurry around laying down what the game describes as traps. These traps explode, like bombs, creating a blast radius that destroys the block obstacles that touch the ends of it, and inflicts damage to other players or yourself if your caught within it’s spread. Bomberman. The game features various power ups and other items you can pick up which again, are mostly borrowed from what is available in any number of Bomberman games.

Moving around the stage works fine enough, but thats pretty much the only aspect of Basement Crawl’s gameplay that actually does. The game’s dark color palette makes seeing whats going on a constant strain, and if more than one player is using the same character it’s virtually impossible to decipher which one you’re controlling visually, leaving you to move the analog stick back and forth to match movements as the only way to know where you are on the map after a re-spawn or chaotic moment.
The stages themselves are only a screen wide, which is also truly problematic especially in game’s with more players. The poor implementation of what makes Bomberman fun works in tangent to make any game of Basement Crawl a dark and confusing mess.

While the confusing decision to omit any sort of single player option is reason enough to be sour with Basement Crawl, the multiplayer mode itself is dearth of any variety whatsoever. Your only option is literally a death match for up to 8 players. Even if the game was a competent clone of Bomberman, this really sucks.

Short Attention Span Summary:
On paper, and even up to the point you reach the title screen, Basement Crawl seems like it could be a cool little game. Unfortunately spending any amount of time actually playing it will dash any possible aspirations you might have had for it against the rocks repeatedly. With literally nothing to support it’s concept and premise, you’re $9.99 is essentially spent on a poorly designed and criminally limited take on Bomberman painted with a light horror aesthetic for no other reason than the aesthetic itself.



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