‘Sick Brick’ Review – Perfectly Healthy
The FPS genre isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed. New games add in new features and mechanics, but the core experience of “Run down the hallway and kill everything you see” still works. Sick Brick‘s developer, Misfitt Villager, is well aware of this and offers a classic shooting experience with a few modern bells and whistles for extra fun.
Clearly inspired by the classics of the genre, Sick Brick has a heaping dose of DOOM in terms of its gameplay and many aspects of the level design. Run down the hallway to find a room full of enemies, then shoot them all! The arsenal is slimmed down to just five weapons: Shotgun? Check! Rifle? Check! Grenade Launcher? Check! Chainsaw. You bet! For the final handful of levels there is also a big blaster that can kill just about any enemy with one shot. There few fancy features to it – just grab guns, ammo, and the occasional keycard and fight your way through a swarm of evil robots. Yes, in an homage to the old days, you’ll need to pick up the color-coded keycard to make it through a section.
Despite the old school feeling, there are many obvious allusions to Portal here. The player is a test subject trapped by a malevolent computer in a laboratory filled with traps and hostile machines. There is much more combat in Sick Brick than in Portal, but players will still find themselves following in the footsteps of a previous test subject who leaves messages scrawled on the walls in the same manner as the Ratman from the Aperture Science facility.
These messages, from the titular Sick Brick fill in some of the story, and Brick is also helpful enough to have painted arrows that point the player in the right direction to keep players from getting lost. Although gamers probably aren’t playing a shooter for the story, this one has a pretty good tale behind it, if derivative and sparse. The protagonist is silent and unseen for almost the entirety of the game, but there is a terrific reveal/plot twist that occurs near the end.
While it’s patterned after the classic indoor shooter experience, for a change of pace there are a couple of levels that allow players to drive around in a tank. Drivable vehicles are mandated by law in all shooters these days, but the tank levels here aren’t just tossed in, rather they’re some of the most fun parts of the game. Each of the driving sequences uses a slightly different tank with a unique kind of weapon. These range from a slow-but-powerful cannon to a rapid-fire laser blaster.
During the adventure, the player is taunted by the voice of an evil computer and there are hidden areas that have audio logs from previous lab rats (almost always accompanied by the corpse of the person who left the log). As with all too many indie games, the voice work ranges from awful to just barely adequate. This is no GLaDOS or Andrew Ryan talking to the player, instead it’s obviously delivered by someone with little or no acting experience.
Luckily, the voicework only makes up a small component of the sound design, in general players will be listening to a rock soundtrack that’s full of energy and a perfect companion for killing robots.
Even though it seems targeted at hardcore shooter fans, Sick Brick is very easy. While this certainly makes it accessible to people who don’t care for shooters, it’s still not going to offer much of a challenge for players with shooting experience. Ammo is plentiful, as are health power-ups. The enemies are slow and, even though they come in groups, are easily mowed down by the player’s superior firepower.
There isn’t much variety in tactics either. Most enemy types just move in and fire away, leaving the player to blast back until everything is dead. There is a cover system of sorts, in that many rooms have transparent barriers that the player can hide behind, then pop out once the enemy ceases fire. These barriers can be worn down, so players who want to use this style of play will need to move from one piece of cover to the next as they break down. In general, simple circle strafing gets the job done and often the simple strategy of “Run straight ahead while firing your machine gun” is viable.
Another problem is the short length; most players should be able to complete Sick Brick in under three hours, although that time will be well-spent on this exciting game. It’s clear that the designer Mladen Bosnjak knows what shooter fans want, and he’s hit all of the buttons needed for a great game.
Review summary Pros:
Classic shooter gameplay, fun tank levels
Short and easy