"Giant Spacekat is sitting with an absolute winner in Revolution 60."
Last year, a little press demo for Giant Spacekat's debut title, Revolution 60, came out of nowhere and thoroughly entranced me. It was one of the most polished and well thought out samples of software (indie or otherwise) that I'd experienced in a long time. Revolution 60 became my most anticipated game of 2014, and I waited on the edge of my seat for it to finally drop. When it comes to upcoming titles, sometimes that initial excitement fades and the final product doesn't live up to your internal hype, but Revolution 60 is a rare game that surpassed my internal hype and ratcheted up my excitement from "this game's gonna be really cool" to "Wow! This game is [expletive deleted] awesome!"
Revolution 60 has been described as "Mass Effect meets Heavy Rain," and I could not think of a more apt description. The game is story-driven, like Heavy Rain, and consists of watching cinematic scenes unfold and then influencing those scenes through various QTEs (Quick Time Events) requiring myriad finger slides and taps to move the action along. Several of these are timed, and "beating the buzzer" yields Proficiency Points that open up dialogue choice prompts. Like Mass Effect, Revolution 60 presents you with various dialogue and action choices that can influence your paragon/renegade alignment (called Professional and Rogue here) and which of two characters you form an alliance with.
The game is not all QTEs, though. There are also a ton of RPG-style battles throughout the game, and the battle engine is quite good. Melding the best aspects of turn-based and realtime battle engines, combat is viewed from a three-quarter view perspective and has both player and enemy grids, similar to those of Radiant Historia. You tap the square you want the protagonist (named Holiday) to move to and tap an on-screen button to fire her gun. There is a small charge time between blasts, so players continue to make her "dance" around the grid to avoid enemy attacks while planning her next strategic move. As hits connect, an energy bar at the bottom of the screen fills up like a Limit Break bar to open up special attacks. If Holiday is on the front row of her grid and aligned with the enemy, a blue circle appears around the enemy, and tapping it initiates slow-motion "bullet time" QTE combos to pull off special attacks. All this may sound awkward and complicated in writing, but it's fast-paced, fluid, fun, and makes perfect sense in execution. Battles not only allow Holiday to level up, but also open up a branching skill tree so you can build her proficiencies as you wish. Patience is definitely a virtue during battles, as some of my split-second decisions resulted in some miscalculated movements and actions during battle.
Unlike some games of this ilk that drag you by the collar from one place to another, Holiday does get some leeway to explore her environments. When she can move around, green circles indicate where she should move next to advance the plot, whereas yellow circles indicate places off the beaten path she can explore. It is a good idea to explore these areas and pan the camera around, because there are lots of medical kits (for when you lose all HP in battle) to collect and several encrypted disks that can be given to either of the characters Holiday can form alliances with to increase favor.
The controls are tight, fluid, and responsive, making the game super fun to play. The menu interface is quite intuitive as well, with all necessary data easily accessible and easy to read. The game auto-saves at various checkpoints, so if you mess up a QTE, it's easy to reload your last save and try again. There is some loading, but load times are fairly brisk and the loading screens contain helpful tidbits of information about the game, the world, the characters, and the developer, all of which are nice to read. The game also has two selectable difficulty levels (Beginner and Normal), and completion on Normal opens up the hardest difficulty, affectionately named "Girlfriend Mode." A single playthrough can be done in a weekend, but the branching pathways allow for immense replay value. Up to five endgames can be saved in special slots, so you can choose which save to carry over into the sequel. The only downside to the replays is that previously played content cannot be skipped or fast-forwarded. I did not mind this too much, but other players may wish for battles to at least be skippable during subsequent playthroughs.
Revolution 60 has a very unique sense of style. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, because I think the game looks beautiful, whereas some of my peers disagreed. This sits well with me, because I can easily look at this game and immediately know it's Revolution 60; it's not another "me too" game in the looks department. The vibrant polygon world, with its detailed textures, has a colorful look similar to the Aspen MLT comic book Bubblegun (by Mark Roslan). The in-game graphics animate very well and the game looks lovely in motion, particularly in characters' facial expressions. Some of the full motion video cutscenes aren't as crisp as the in-game graphics, but they're still pleasant to look at, fun to watch, and showcase plenty of cinematic action.
The character designs are where some mild controversy lies. The heroines sport Barbie doll proportioned bodies and wear clingy mini-dresses or skintight bodysuits. Detractors may decry that stylistic choice, but as far as I'm concerned, this is Giant Spacekat's concept and therefore Giant Spacekat's choice. And you know what? I love the character designs. Their brightly-colored anime-style aesthetics appeal to my more Japanese stylistic tastes while also boasting distinct and expressive facial characteristics that are not typical anime faces or western cartoon faces. I could easily shout my usual righteous indignation about skimpy armor on female characters, but I have to admit, it's delightfully fun to run around on a suicide mission in a mini-skirt. If action figures of these characters existed, I would buy a set.
The universal agreement regarding Revolution 60 should be that the music and voice acting are both fantastic. The soundtrack is a happy blend of classical, electronica, and even has some touches of industrial metal. Basically, it's every kind of music typically associated with various kinds of science fiction. The voice actors really get into their characters and seem to have great fun with their roles. Veteran voice actress Amanda Winn Lee is gleefully cuckoo as antagonist Crimson 09, but the others nail their roles as well. Aside from Amanda Winn Lee, I did not recognize any of the other names, but I hope these fine actors get more voice over work in the future. Combining voice and music was the delightfully psychotic vocal theme during the end credits, featuring lyrics from Crimson 09's perspective.
Games of this nature are sitting ducks without a good story, and Revolution 60 certainly has that. Protagonist Holiday is an assassin for a small squad of operatives working for the counterterrorism group Chessboard. She, commanding officer Minuete, a pilot called Unknown (her real name is Valentina), and a tagalong engineer named Amelia are tasked with regaining control of a space station that the terrorist organization Snow Leopard is trying to commandeer. To do this, Holiday and company hijack an enemy spaceship, pilot it to the space station, infiltrate that space station, and enact their mission as best they can. As expected, there are plenty of snags along the way, such as Holiday's misjudgment early in the game that causes a grenade to explode in Unknown's face, leaving her with severe brain trauma. As the plot thickens, several people and situations are not what they seem, and the line between friend and foe becomes rather blurry.
The story itself will not make you rethink your philosophy on life, like Xenogears, or take you a turbulent emotional roller-coaster, like Heavy Rain, but it does the rollicking "Star Wars" style of sci-fi very well. The characters are memorable, the dialogue is excellent, and the impactful moments tug on your emotions just enough to keep you engaged and wanting more. The pacing is exceptionally smooth as well. Not once did the game drag, nor did it ever throw too much at me too quickly.
As with the Mass Effect games, the choices you make and the Holiday you've built will factor into the sequel. The choices become weightier as the game progresses, and some decisions can be painful to make. I mentioned the Professional vs. Rogue alignments, but affinity toward humanitarian engineer Amelia or coldly mission-driven Minuete determine also one of several endings. My first playthrough yielded the Professional/Amelia ending (which was a lengthy and satisfying ending), but I still wondered what would have happened on that path had I altered a gravely difficult decision from earlier on. So, I played it again, got the Rogue/Minuete ending and took the other path on that aforementioned gravely difficult decision. I now know which type of ending I want to carry over to the sequel, so that will be my third playthrough.
Giant Spacekat is sitting with an absolute winner in Revolution 60. I hope the Revolution 60 universe gets the hype and attention it deserves, because it is fertile ground for tie-ins like an animated series, a toy line, and all that other good stuff. The game has no in-app purchases out of respect for players, but Giant Spacekat does have a companion book available for purchase through the Bonus menu called The Chessboard Lethologica. This book contains art, comics, and several backstories. Purchasing The Chessboard Lethologica is completely optional, but after thumbing through it myself, I think it is definitely worth purchasing with the game. The only negative I have about Revolution 60 is that I now have to wait with bated breath for the sequel, which simply cannot come soon enough. So what are you waiting for? Join the Revolution!