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Pain
Score: 65%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Idol Minds
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
At heart, I think nearly everyone who plays videogames is a closet designer. I challenge you to find a player who hasn't at least one time or another uttered the phrase, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a game where you..." As it relates to Pain, the question ends with, "...could launch someone out of a giant slingshot." Although it is a neat idea, Pain also proves that not every idea translates into a great, long-lasting experience.

As far as downloadable games go, Pain looks great. The city is full of details and lots of things to have your character run into. There are a number of nooks and crannies to discover throughout the city. Characters look just as good and have a fun cartoon look that works well with the number of well-animated stunts that your character can perform. Animation is pretty good and transitions are handled really well. Sound is entertaining, especially the number of screams, yells and other phrases your character shouts while doing his best Superman impression.


Gameplay:
Pain is based on a very simple premise; load a guy into a giant slingshot and launch him in hopes of inflicting harm to both his body and environment. The idea is similar to the recently released Jackass: The Game, only there's only one event to take part in and the thrill is short-lived.

This premise is the basis of several of Pain's gameplay modes. PAINdemonium is sort of the default "main" mode. Here you launch your human bullet into the city and try to rack up as many points as you can. As your character flies through the air, you can grab objects and control his trajectory as well as perform various moves that give you bonus points, as well as allowing you to injure specific body parts. Once he hits something, you can nudge him around it and try to keep his flight going a little longer.

The two other modes are a little more focused. In Mime Toss, you grab a mime while flying through the air and try to crash him into panes of glass while in Spank the Monkey, you're going after monkeys who are scattered around the city. Both modes are extremely challenging and add some replay value, though most of the game's fun stems from simply finding new and interesting ways to ricochet your character around the city. However, the fun doesn't last very long - especially when you consider the game's asking price. There's only one city (and two characters to launch around it), so you'll run out of places pretty quick.

Even with the more focused gameplay modes, there really isn't that much to Pain. In many ways, the game's unstructured nature feels more like toyplay that gameplay. There are numerous in-game goals that you can try and accomplish, namely in the form of trophies you can earn, though you have to be a self-starter if you want to milk the game for all its worth.

Pain is a fun premise and, unlike some other one-shot ideas I've heard (and believe me, I hear a lot on a near daily basis), it actually has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, Pain's structure and gameplay only scratch the surface about what the idea could offer. After the first few launches, I felt like I was spending more time thinking of ways to improve it rather than enjoying the experience. For instance, Pain seems like it would be ideal for some sort of user-generated mode similar to Halo 3's Forge. Seeing as how important the physics engine is to the game, I would love to see the number of intricate Rube Goldberg devices players could come up with. I could also see a big market for Pain replay videos.

Multiplayer adds a little more value. Although the explosion-filled bowling game type is entertaining, I had the most fun with Horse. The mode plays just like the basketball game it gets its name from; one player launches a character and the second has to match the shot while attempting to get a better score. Still, multiplayer is only entertaining if you have someone to play with, so the lack of online multiplayer is a bit of a downer.


Difficulty:
Depending on which mode you're playing, Pain can be either a fun challenge or a bit on the frustrating side. Since a majority of what goes on during each launch is dictated by the game's physics engine, there's no telling what could happen. Though you have a reasonable amount of control while your character flies through the air, you're also at the mercy of the laws of physics, which are indeed a harsh mistress. This is most evident in the Mime Toss. The object is to break as many panes of glass in as you can in just a few tosses. Even if you take the time and plan out your character's flight, there's still a certain element of unpredictability that can screw up even the best planned launches.

Game Mechanics:
Pain's simple premise comes with equally simple controls. Each launch begins with your character in a slingshot. Before sending him crashing around the city, you can adjust the angle of the shot as well as deciding how much power to pack into it. Once airborne, you can steer him around in the air and perform trick stances by pressing the Left shoulder buttons and face buttons in various combinations. The face buttons can also be used to grab onto objects in the environment.

When your character hits a solid object, like the side of a building, you can bounce him around the object by using an "Ooch" ability, which keeps refilling as long as your character is moving. You can also activate a one-time "Super Ooch," which is a slightly more powerful version, by shaking the SIXAXIS. Smart use of the ability will keep your character flying longer and give you the opportunity to earn higher scores.

It is pretty clear that additional content is on the way for the game. However, the amount of actual gameplay that comes with the game's price isn't really worth it. If the initial package were cheaper (or better yet, free), Pain would be a better value than it currently is. Though this may change with future content, there isn't enough to Pain to justify the purchase.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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