Review: Orc Attack: Flatulent Rebellion

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Any time a game offers the chance to play as the “bad guy,” I’m all for it. I only ever dabbled with an Alliance toon in World of Warcraft, but spent countless hours as an undead rogue, a troll mage, and an orc warrior. Then came Of Orcs and Men which allowed me to continue the tradition of seeing what the “evil” side had to deal with while chasing overbearing, power-hungry humans. Now, next in the line of playing as an orc, Casual Brothers has let one rip in a new game called Orc Attack: Flatulent Rebellion, offering gamers a chance to burp, fart and slash through various levels filled with ever increasing waves of tough enemies.

The stereotype of orcs being brash, gross creatures is the cornerstone of Orc Attack, with each playable orc (there are four) charging into battle with a special fart and burp attack in addition to their standard melee combat skills.  Sadly, the combination of gas and melee attacks falls short of its potty-humor potential. Framed around a Castle Crashers-like mission structure where the arcade beat ’em up gameplay allows players to collect gold and XP from slain enemies and increase the skills of each orc. These orcs have attributes in attack, defense, agility and mana–mana of course equaling how much gas an orc has to burp or fart. Throughout the levels, shields can be picked up to temporarily boost defense. Weapons can also be picked up to add to damage, or change how attacks are performed. 

From the start, orcs carry two wooden spiked clubs that allow for rapid attacks but seemingly join together as different attacks are chained together, allowing you to perform some fun and devastating combos attacks. Giant two-handed axes or hammers are dropped by mini boss-like enemies. These deal much greater damage, but are countered by slower attack wind ups. While all of these mechanics sound like they should work in concert to make for an enjoyable experience, several design choices and performance issues work against the game’s commendable efforts.

First off, the lack of camera control immediately becomes an issue. Playing the game solo, the camera does a fairly decent job of staying close behind the only orc on screen. The problems appear, however, when enemies swarm all around you and quickly facing multiple directions forces the camera to stay in one spot (not always framing the most necessary part of the action) and slowly pan around to return to behind the orc. My biggest gripe with this omission is the simple fact that the right analog stick is not used for anything, so why not give players control over the camera with that stick? Of course, I can already answer that question myself: co-op. How do you let multiple people control one camera? Frankly, you can’t.

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That’s right, co-op (local and online) players all share the same view. Similar to the way the LEGO games keep all of the action on one screen, Orc Attack also forces the camera to stay in one spot (and under the control of no one). Unlike more recent LEGO games, Orc Attack does not allow players to split the screen and camera view in the chance that any one orc strays too far from the middle of the camera. Instead, a marker with that particular orc’s face appears on the left or right side of the screen approximating where that orc is. Making matters worse is the fact that off-screen orcs can wander pretty far out of view which makes it a challenge to figure out the best way to turn around and get back on the screen.

Another area of poor design is the inadequate presentation of information. Some information is presented in a main menu How to Play section, but even there the descriptions don’t offer a full explanation or provide context for how or when a move should be performed. When the game first launches a menu option allows players to choose between “Dirty” or “Magic” play styles yet offers no good indication of what either one means. As far as I can discern from the developer’s web page, “dirty” means co-op players can hurt each other, while “magic” offers no description. Buried further into the Settings menu is an option to switch between the two choices, but again there is no explanation of how these options alter the game. Additionally, nowhere in the game is there an explanation of what each burp or fart type is offered by the different orcs. One orc has a fire burp, while another turns enemies to stone, and another to ice. Some farts heal or double the amount of gas expelled. Playing co-op, these variations fairly quickly become apparent, but playing solo, no guidance is offered to help you choose the best approach for your style of play.

Levels are designed to be replayed so you can go back and grind out experience to grow your orcs’ abilities, except no where in the UI is there an obvious indication of how much XP a particular orc needs before increasing to the next level. Increasing skill points is only available after a level is completed (or failed) and you only get to see where points have been previously placed when a new level has been acquired. If you opt to switch to one of the other orcs, the newly selected orc must then go back to replay the first few levels. Grinding through the same levels combined with dragging load times make the game feel more like a chore than an escapist moment of fun. All of these little design missteps add up to a messy experience.

And then there is co-op.  As I mentioned above the camera is not great, but adding two or more players on screen only adds to the madness. At one point my son and I were playing a co-op level and somehow we managed to back ourselves into a corner. Instead of the camera smartly panning to the right or left to allow us to see, the camera pulled straight up and continued to point down. The problem with this is that the camera pulled up so high that the tree line came into view and blocked our ability to actually see where enemies were attacking us from. I could only force my son to play local co-op for so long before my frustrations with the game spilled over on to him and he flat out said “I need to go play something fun,” and then he put the controller down and walked away. While he went off to play better games, I forced myself to continue beating my head against the wall in an effort to find some good in this game.

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After several nights and several attempts at trying to join an online match, I was successful in finally finding a crew of farting orc allies. When I started the online match I had already managed to level up to 11 through solo and local co-op play. However when joining an online match I found that my level progress had been reset to 0. My first reaction was, “Oh well, online stats are tracked differently.”  As it turns out, I was wrong.  Playing online, I was grouped with a level 14 and a level 15 player. While we played through part of a level, the mission quickly came to an end, partly due to the fact that camera wouldn’t allow any one of us to focus the view at one particular spot, but also because the sheer number of enemies thrust upon us quickly overwhelmed our unbalanced team.

After being spanked so gloriously, I decided I should push through and level up my orc via solo play once again. Except, well… Something clearly wrong occurred with the online transmission. Somehow all four orc types were now listed as being level 14. Okay. I can live with that. Except bad things were even more clearly bestowed upon my game. All of the mission progress I had made was gone. I now had four level 14 orcs, but none of them had any increased skill stats in Attack, Defense etc. Additionally, none of the previous levels I had completed were available and all of the weapons and shields and hats I hand unlocked were gone. All the hard work I had put into my level 11 orc was blown away. WTF?

While the premise of Orc Attack sounds like a fun idea, the practical implementation is marred by flaky online functionality, poor UI menu design, a dreadful camera, and annoying load times. I can’t honestly recommend this game to anyone. With a glut of titles already coming out for the holidays and the launch of new consoles on the horizon, don’t spend your money on this. Buy a rose–it’ll smell much nicer.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ Local and online co-op up to four players

Cons:
– Slow load times
– Poor camera work
– Glitchy online functionality
– Failed humor

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3 via PSN, also available for Xbox 360 via XBLA
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Developer: Casual Brothers
Release Date: 10/9/2013
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4 (local and online co-op
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.