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Eat Them!
Score: 68%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Fluffy Logic
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local)
Genre: Action/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
Eat Them! seems to draw most of its visual inspiration from Borderlands, and it's all the better for it. While it would be nice to see a developer create a monster-themed destruct-a-thon with a realistic slant, the cel-shaded comic book style is practically native to the monster genre. While the style is neat, there's not enough variation over the several episodes presented in Eat Them! This unfortunately puts a damper on the replay value and helps limit the amount of time you want to spend with the game itself. Still, there's no disputing that the real stars of Eat Them! are the monsters themselves and the destructibility factor. The monsters may not be very expressive, and they're certainly not frightening, but the ways in which they interact with their environment (read: slowly and awkwardly) are plausible. Buildings go to pieces in a matter of seconds, and smaller structures can be simply plowed over. This kind of stuff is thrilling at first, but the ways in which buildings fall apart don't look too natural, which makes the game feel like an exercise in controlled chaos.

Eat Them! has a lighthearted soundtrack comprised mostly of upbeat synth tunes and a bit of surf rock here and there, but all of it is completely forgettable stuff. The game even lets you know the title and artist of each piece, as if it's expecting you to stop what you're doing and get interested. Chances are high that you won't, but to be completely fair, the music isn't bad. The sound effects are decent, but they don't complete the scenes of destruction aptly enough. I wasn't expecting the developers to go outside and record themselves tearing a building down piece by piece or anything, but the explosions in Eat Them! just sound a little too canned and subdued to be convincing.


Gameplay:
Eat Them! is a game that invests everything its got in its core premise, and not much else. I'm not talking about the story, which is bare-bones (not necessarily a bad thing). This game hopes you have fond memories of titles like Rampage; games in which you are let loose in a playground of destruction to cause as much havoc and mayhem as you please. So the main idea is easy enough to digest, and thus the foundation seems steady. Unfortunately, most of what they've built from the ground up smacks of silly contrivances that are notably uncharacteristic of the subject matter.

Eat Them! spans a number of episodes, each containing an assortment of special challenges. Meeting the criteria of these challenges rewards you with special monster parts, which you can then take into the lab for customization. Eat Them!'s structure is its Achilles' heel.

When I think of games like Rampage and King of the Monsters, I immediately think "one-trick pony, but the tricks are good." Well, Eat Them! is a one-trick pony that thinks it's capable of far more than it really is. Other things that just so happen to feel completely out of place in a game about monsters. Eat Them! all but begs you to destroy and kill everything you see, yet it often goes out of its way to force you into playing the game in a way it was clearly never meant to be played. If I'm playing as an oversized and all-powerful atrocity of science, the last thing I want to do is race from checkpoint to checkpoint while keeping collateral damage to a minimum. Eat Them! also throws in survival challenges and a few objective-based missions, but it was clearly built for the Maximum Destruction levels (in which you just destroy, destroy, destroy).


Difficulty:
Eat Them! is a difficult game, but the difficulty stems from design problems, rather than a natural and carefully balanced challenge. As your monster tears a city and its inhabitants to pieces, people don't stand around doing nothing. Okay -- some do. However, human defense forces start coming out of the woodwork in no time, and soon you'll have to contend with gunfire coming from both ground and air. Small groups are rarely tough to put down, but the game rarely throws small groups at you. You'll round a corner only to find a legion of tanks and battle mechs waiting to pepper you with fire.

Some parts of Eat Them! can be amazingly easy, but many of these moments stem from design problems, as well. You can indeed exploit the game's limitations to get your way with regards to some of the objectives. For example, I made it through a Survival challenge by simply hiding behind a building near the level "walls." Nobody bothered to look back there, so I simply sat there. Sure, I won, but it wasn't any fun.


Game Mechanics:
Translating the chaos of a classic monster movie into the interactive space can't be too difficult, because the actions we often see are extremely basic. And so it is that Eat Them! has some very simple mechanics. You run, you punch, you kick, you stomp, you fire your weapons, and all of that tends to do a nice job of creating chaos.

Regardless of how you build your monster, it will lose health quickly. That brings us back to the title of the game. The rate at which these abominations consume energy is appalling, which leaves you constantly on the move, trying to find new sources of energy all the time. That energy is best found in good old Homo sapiens. Lots of people unwisely walk the streets as you terrorize the city, but you'll need a good handful to stave off the rate at which your health bar naturally depletes. Eating people and destroying things are two very different activities, and learning to make time for both is really frustrating. Worse yet, people are so small; your monster swings his open hand in a tight arc that often misses certain individuals. Time is money, or in the case of Eat Them!, life force.

I appreciate what Fluffy Logic tried to do with Eat Them! The monster genre needs a next-gen comeback and this game looks good enough, but fresh ideas are a must. Eat Them! doesn't really have any, and it instead uses ideas that make other types of games fun. It's a shame those ideas aren't compatible with this kind of game; I could have recommended Eat Them! if it kept its eye on the ball long enough.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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