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Have you ever asked yourself if 80s movie themes, 90s video game mechanics and art styles from the 2000s could be combined into a fantastic and unique game experience? Yeah, me neither– but that is exactly what I got from Final Exam. The newest entry from French development company Mighty Rocket Studio, formerly Hydravision Entertainment, is an entertaining romp through a small town infested with thousands of murderous creatures. It was released on Steam and Playstation Network November 5th, and hits Xbox Live November 8th. The game was originally slated to be a reboot of the team’s ObsCure series, but after some backlash over the game’s serious departure from ObsCure’s survival horror theme, the name was changed to Final Exam.
Your studies begin with a well-animated cutscene detailing the gang getting back together for a high school reunion. There is the bulky jock, the rough troublemaker, the scrawny nerd, and the red-headed popular chick. Sound familiar? It should, as that is 80% of The Breakfast Club. Sorry Ally Sheedy, maybe they can offer you up as DLC? This is one of the dozens of references to the last 30 years of pop culture found in the game. This dose of nostalgia lends some laughs, and the occasional groan, to strong gameplay and great visuals.
Final Exam is a side-scrolling masterpiece. It nods at game series like Metal Slug and Double Dragon while maintaining a distinctly modern feel. Find some friends, choose your character and get to work bashing, shooting, cutting, and exploding green monsters to your heart’s content. No elaborate gimmicks or story quirks, just good old-fashioned arcade-style mayhem. There are 8 playable levels. These range from the town subway (what small town has a subway?!) to the fairgrounds, sewer systems, and beyond. Each level has different weapons, hidden objects and max scores to try for. Each level also offers a small section that serves as a change of pace from the constant bash and shoot action; maybe you dodge obstacles on top of a speeding train or maybe you convert an old float into a makeshift gunship. The controls are smooth and easy to use. Each character has a unique style of play and can be customized to suit the player’s wishes. Up to 4 players can play at once, and thankfully we don’t have to share the same camera; each character may come and go as he or she pleases. I do recommend the use of a controller for you PC gamers out there, as using the keyboard to control your brawler is a bit confusing (I felt the same way about Castle Crashers).
The unique art style and feel of the game deliver exactly what consumers are looking for from indie games. I always look for how an indie game uses a particular art style to make it stand out or maybe cover up for the graphics being a little behind what the big studios can offer. Final Exam delivers an all-out cartoon knock-out punch in this regard. The characters, especially the fat ones, have kind of a Team Fortress 2 look about them. The levels remind me most of the later Battletoads games, as they sometimes ask you to bash enemies while also maneuvering around through a hazardous environment. But the overall look of the game is one of a kind. The sound is over the top but not overdone. The heavy rock music and groans of the slain creatures all compliment the gameplay experience. The cutscenes are strategically placed, and they are basically just short cinematics that use a slightly ramped up version of the game’s art style, which give it a good overall flow from game to cutscene and back again.
I would highly recommend this game to players of all ages. There is something for everyone here. It is nearly flawless in all aspects, and at only $9.99 or $29.99 for a 4-pack, the price point is amazing. This is the best ten-dollar game on the market. Period. I put down Battlefield 4 and ironically neglected to study just so that I could play it more. Brush up on your pop culture knowledge, get those thumbs ready, and go nuts.
Originally posted on Corrupted Cartridge here.