Early Access: FL337

gets to grips with this sidescrolling beat-’em-up game

FL337 - James LeesPlatform: PC, Mac
Release Date: 17 November 2015
Developer: KWL Productions

Early access is something of a swamp if all truth be told, too many developers use it as an excuse for poor quality or even unfinished games. Some however (Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect being notable examples) use it as an excellent springboard to make sure that the game is not only great but also what people want it to be. FL337 however falls somewhere in the middle.

What immediately strikes you as soon as you begin to play is the jarring variation of asset quality. The backgrounds and some of the other parts look very good and emulate the classic graphic style of Shank. But then you’ll come across an enemy, or even another playable character and they’re not only done in a different style but of vastly different quality. This is also compounded by a pretty basic and ugly UI – this leads to a fairly bad impression of the game.

Ignoring how the game looks, my biggest problem with the game becomes almost immediately noticeable during gameplay. You have three attacks; light, heavy and ranged. The heavy attack takes slightly longer to perform than the light, but does a couple of additional points of damage, and the ranged does less still but can hit right across the screen. That’s your lot. I’ve played a large number of passable indie brawlers (typically developed in Japan) but all of them have focused on having a large and interesting set of moves, as that really is the heart of a brawler game. However in FL337 all you can do is increase the amount of damage your attack does. The reason this is a major issue is that it means that all the enemies are the same – and when I say the same I really do mean it. If you play the game each level after another then your power increases roughly at the same rate as the enemies meaning that every single enemy at any point takes roughly two or three light attacks and their dead. There’s simply no variation to this at all and the enemies all feel exactly the same just reskinned.

The only exception to this rule is the bosses. At the end of a level after fighting through several waves of the same enemy you reach a big boss. The first couple are defeated in exactly the same way, get behind them as they walk around aimlessly and attack them from behind. With others, you just dodge out of the way of their big attack and then hit them whilst they recover. Again, because you only have the three attacks there is no real strategy or difficulty to the fights.

The final major issue with the game is it’s animations. Each animation individually is perfectly passable, I’ve seen far worse out there in great games, however they don’t link well together. Moving from a roll into an attack is very jarring as there is little to nothing in the way of transition and enemies struggle to move from their knockback animation into an attack animation meaning that you are frequently hit without any kind of animation being visible so you just lose health.

Currently this really isn’t a game I could recommend that you play it’s not really got anything going for it. Whilst it has an interesting idea behind it the incoherent quality of the visuals along with the downright boring gameplay mean that there is little reason to pick it over other games out there. However I really do hope that this is one of those games that early access was made for. It’ll take some fair amount work to make FL337 a great game, but it’s one that I’ll certainly reexamine at when it’s released. I should point out that the review key for this product was provided by the developer free of charge.

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