History repeats, so they say, and inevitably in the far future we will once again become a distinctively Egyptian-influenced society (or Star Gate reruns fan community, as the case may be). Of course, like all good videogame futures, Void Pyramid also happens to be dystopian one and, naturally, full of acid-spewing sheep.
Like that one uncle at your family gatherings with obscene surrealist shouts about the ‘before time’, Void Pyramid might put you off at first glance, but underneath all the strangeness lies classic dungeon exploration and the action of raising stats to arbitrary levels to jump over pits. What I’m saying here is that to an old school RPG gamer like myself, it’s more addictive than crack.
Trapping you on the titular orbital floating space pyramid (in space), as either a slave, scribe or soldier, Void Pyramid is at its core a retro RPG/adventure that mixes exploration with turn-based battles, wrapped in a sort of surreal neo-Egyptian meets Escape from New York vibe.
Although you’ll find ye olde turn-based battles, Void Pyramid is perhaps better described as an ‘exploration-JRPG’, as the combat is more of a secondary side dish to the exploration at hand. The world is relatively open, split into several openly transversable zones, but with key objects or pathways blocked by conveniently placed monsters and obstacles.
Your primary three stats (brawn, wits, agility) are key in determining which obstacles you can pass, and how. For example, an early locked door may require 20 agility to pick locks, but failing that, 20 brawn may be enough to simply force it open. Those with wits of 20 may instead just hack a nearby console to open it.
This pseudo violence/hacking/stealth approach may bring forth memories of Deus Ex, but the JRPG wrapping is far more reminiscent of Tower of the Sorcerer (downloadable here), which similarly saw you in a pseudo-RPG trying to figure out an optimum order to upgrading stats and making a path through monsters. However while Sorcerer basically boiled down to “figure out the one carefully planned correct order to win”, Pyramid is far more flexible and forgiving; allowing pretty much any progression to work in the end – and also allows for some light grinding in emergencies.
The JRPG-side comes in the form of the visuals and the Mother/Earthbound-style combat, with a similar first-person perspective and similarly weirdly surreal and dark atmosphere. While Where Earthbound appropriated modern culture (for the time) pitting you against street punks and random park animals, Pyramid carefully appropriates Egyptian mythology, such as turning mummies into cybernetically controlled corpses, and scarab beetles into scarab worker bots. Which now join my nightmares alongside giant spiders and killer clowns.
Since the focus is more on the exploration and finding stat-increasing rewards – battles are more of a side-step and only give random rewards such as money or items, and sometimes a random stat gain. The primary method for increasing stats is done at the shop – where stats cost a flat 100 coins regardless of level, which means you’ll still have control over which stats you focus on, which suits the game’s emphasis on exploration over combat.
Still, Void Pyramid won’t be for everyone – no game is – and is subject to some noticeably rough edges. Some of the graphics are patchier than others, and the turn-based combat is very basic, boiling down to attack, item or run options, so it sometimes just feels more like an interruption. Of course, similar could be said of many JRPGs, and at least here the combat is fast and the weird and wonderful creatures also keep things interesting. Meanwhile, while the presence of three classes to choose from offer a few slight differences it’s nothing in depth, and the brawn/wits/agility system could arguably be utilised more – in the end you effectively max everything anyway – but the frequent upgrades kept things moving and there were always stats worth upgrading till the very end. So while these things could arguably be fleshed out – they didn’t really hamper the experience for me.
Void Pyramid in some ways feels like a much more sensible version of another psychedelic adventure called Space Funeral: both take place in a dark, weird, and disturbing world, have rough MS Paint style art and gameplay that both is derivative yet unconventional at the same time. However, Void Pyramid balances the surrealism for a stronger, more conventional focus on coherent exploration and character development which, to me at least, makes it more fun.
Posted on May 29, 2016, in RPG and tagged 1 Player, Android, Egyptian Mythology, exploration, Free, mac, Puzzle Elements, Surrealism, Void Pyramid, Willy Electrix (developer), Windows. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.