Thursday, June 15, 2017

Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M.

Released on November 30, 1999, by Acclaim Studios for the Nintendo 64, Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. features five worlds of first-person, bug-blasting action.

I have had one rule for these Nintendo 64 reviews...okay, that's not true, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I have many rules for these Nintendo 64 reviews, but one of the most important is that I actually finish the game before I review it. Well, Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. must be the Joker, and I must be Batman, because tonight I am going to break my one, that one rule. I cannot finish Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. for the Nintendo 64. It is not because it is too difficult. It is because Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. is one of the least fun, most joyless games for the Nintendo 64 I have ever played. I can't even pontificate for too long about it without feeling a little nuts, so here is, in comparison to my usual work, a brief review of why.

Don't let this menu fool you: the gameplay doesn't look like this, and all these modes suck.

Armorines was developed by Acclaim, using the same graphics engine as the blockbuster Turok 2. However, the Acclaim studio in Austin who made the Turok games did not make Armorines...Acclaim's then shiny new London office is responsible. This distinction ends up being quite important. While the Turok games give the impression that Acclaim Austin wanted to make the biggest, most impressive, most fun games for the Nintendo 64--even if they weren't perfect--Armorines gives the impression that it was created in a dull, grey, lifeless office, where the developers just wanted to get something on the cartridge so they could put it in the store.

Developer Boss: "Hey, design a gun." Gun Developer: "Erm...a gun? How about this?" Developer Boss: "What? A gun? Who cares?"

Yes, the graphics are boring. The five fog-laden worlds, ranging from an icy mountain, to a jungle, to a desert and volcano, are so bland and nondescript, you could just sub out their dull white, blurry green, boring tan, and nap-inducingly over-dark black and red with each other and never know the difference. Outside of a cocooned body here and there, there's little detail to be found. The low-res is ugly, and the expansion pak-enabled high-res mode is so clunky it is nearly unplayable...though you feel like you are controlling an unwieldy wooden crate, no matter which mode you choose. The bugs, especially the bosses, look okay, but there is little variation between them, never many on the screen at once, and they are generally as generic as possible. The weapons you blast those bugs with are a downright eyesore, and speaking of both, the bugs' A.I. is generally, let's run at this dude, and the weapons are so personality free, one wonders if the developers made a bet to see how boring they could make them. The player can only use four weapons per controller pak-saved level, one of which is an infinite ammo default energy weapon that is about as fun to fire as a routine piss. Everything is just so joyless. Surely, one would think the developers played the game while they were working on it, and thought, this is not fun. We should make this more fun. However, there is no sign that this ever happened. Instead, the player is tossed into these bland, densely fogged levels, with these bland weapons, and given bland objectives, like "destroy eight bug nests in this maze-like, overdark, monochrome level that is the same color as the nests you are trying to destroy." Die and you get to start the same level over. Accidentally enter the level's poorly-marked exit before completing this objective? Start over.

Oh, yeah! I can't wait to slog through this again!!! 

But surely, from the Starship-Trooper-esque artwork on the box cover, this game is at least full of personality, right? Surely, after Turok 2 featured loads of immersive voice-acting and a film-worthy score, Armorines' soldiers will feature plenty of voice-work banter among one another, set to rousing music? Nope! There's no voice-acting, whatsoever! Sometimes, your mission will change mid-level, and all you get is a quick text-banner from your military leader at the bottom! Even he is speechless! This came out a month before Y2K was supposed to happen! Where is the technology?! Where's the production value? Also, Armorines' music is so generic and unmemorable, generally a 20-second drum loop per level, that I actually wonder why Acclaim even bothered. The explosion and bug sound effects are pretty good, though.That's actually the only semi-kind thing I can say about this game: the explosion and bug sound effects are pretty good. Also, the game doesn't even feature an intro! It's as personality free as your local sociopath! There is a co-op mode, where you can play through the game with a friend, but the downside of this is that you still have to play through the game. There is also a multiplayer death-match. Here is a screenshot of what that looks like.

How about we turn this off and just punch each other in the face instead?

I'll end here. I tried for months to work up the enthusiasm to finish Armorines after getting about halfway through...but I just can't do it. Life is full of beauty and wonder, too much beauty and wonder to take in in just one lifetime, and instead of forcing myself to joylessly grind through this soul-sucking game, I think I'll move on to the next one. Does anyone know if Superman 64 is any good?

It all looks the same, it's foggy, and it's slow. A few of the bugs look nice, but they're essentially rocks in the mud of this game.
Music and Sound
Armorines needs voice-acting, but it has none! Plus, its music is boring! Sound effects are okay.
Like dragging a stick through the thick mud of a fire ant hill, while trying to kill its inhabitants. Multi-player and co-op mode are non-starters.
Lasting Value
I don't know why anyone would ever want to play this once they reach the point, shortly into the game, where they realize it is terrible.