Banzai Escape is the first and only title by developer XenoAisam, and it is not hard to see why they haven’t made another one after this. Banzai Escape is of the quality where you can tell that there was genuine effort into making something good, but also can tell that it kinda sucks. I’m usually hesitant to go into full angry reviewer shtick when reviewing small indie games because I know fully well that if I ever start developing games, then my first game is probably going to be shit. This is one of the key reasons why I have been hesitant to become a game dev in the first place.
As a gamer, I WANT for devs to keep making games and to improve upon their old ones. Hurling insults at the developers and making overly long drawn out hypothetical scenarios of things I’d allegedly rather do than play their games is not going to push them to get better. It takes a lot for a game to pass that threshold and piss me off, and that rage is limited for games like Ghostie Quest, Vickinachi, Insincere, Cube Master: Light Adventure, and a dozen other games you’ve never heard of and will forget about after you are done reading this piece.
Banzai Escape is not bad enough for me to go quite that far, but it is still pretty fucking bad. The key reason that Banzai Escape doesn’t make it into quite that level of badness is because there were things I liked about the game, and it could have been good if it had more polish. I liked how there were cute anime girls because I’m a big flaming dyke, and I thought the music was fucking badass. As is typical with these types of games, I’d recommend the soundtrack over the game itself. That’s about it as far as positives go.
While I do like the character designs, I have some criticisms for the art directions itself. The graphics consist mostly of texture-less objects and surfaces and the character expressions are stilted and off. The main character Rokiahi looks like Ruby from RWBY if she had all the emotion sucked out of her, yet her voice sounds upbeat and and makes me think of Hyperdimension Neptunia’s Compa. And then there is the main villain Betas who I am convinced was designed as a female character but they decided to make him male because they couldn’t find another woman to provide voice overs.
The story is basically boring generic fluff that no one is going to care about or be interested, and it makes you wonder why it is even there in the first place. The only plot is that Rokiahi is infiltrating a building to track down Betas for… some reason. I didn’t finish the game cause it was so poorly designed, but I know enough to say that this story isn’t any good. I got half way through the game and don’t know who any of these characters are or why we need to track down Betas or whatever the fuck PASCAL is, and thus there is not motivation to be invested in the story. 8-bit action games with little more than excuse plots literally handled this better.
And there is also the subject of the voice acting which is Chaos Wars levels of terrible. If you look at the game’s trailer, you will notice that none of the voice acting is featured. That’s most likely because they knew their voice overs would make the game look infinitely worse. There is zero emotion put into these lines and it makes every single cutscene drag exponentially. It doesn’t help that a lot of the writing is awkward and stilted with lines like “everything in the buildings database were wiped out.” Seriously, this was a VOICED LINE!!!
The game itself is a rails shooter that I did have some fun with for the first few levels, despite the fact that I noticed quite a few flaws in design. The first being that there are enemies that one hit kill you with knives if they get close enough, and you are given so little time to react that no player will avoid getting killed the first time they run into them. You also see enemies that hold large shields in front of them that, in any other game, you would simply wait for them to peak their head out of. Instead the solution is to pour your bullets into the shields which will cause them to temporarily drop it, then shoot them while they are down. This becomes annoying because you will often times need to reload after you fired enough shots into the shield to make them drop it, which means you won’t have enough time to get the kill and you need to pour even more bullets into them.
The game got really bad starting with the fourth level where you can only damage the boss with a specific type of gun. In any other game, it would just mean equipping this gun then going hog wild. In Banzai Escape though, you need to buy additional weapons as you go along and more are unlocked at the end of each stage. Before you start a level, you have the option to equip a certain type of gun and to buy ammo for that gun as well. The problem is that you get money by playing through previous stages again, and that means grinding.
What is even more absurd is the fact that A: you always have to have your standard pea shooter as one of the two guns you take into a level, and B: you always start with the more powerful weapon, which means you will have no way to swap to the weaker weapon at will and can only swap out if you run out of ammo for the stronger weapon. Considering that normal enemies can be killed by the wimpy level 1 gun but bosses at the end of the level will require the stronger gun, this means that you can run out of ammo for the stronger weapon and be unable to complete level 4 and likely beyond. And it also means more grinding of course.
Game devs, can I have a talk with you about RPG elements? It is not that I don’t like RPGs, but rather that they don’t work in EVERY game. Banzai Escape would have been a much more fun game if it was a standard arcade shooter, but adding this unnecessary grinding only makes the game more tedious and pads it out.
The straw that broke the very gay camel’s back was level five. Early on, there was a mini-game one needed to play to proceed through the level. It involved holding down the left click and dragging the mouse in a specific direction to avoid security beams. The problem is that the mouse controls are unresponsive and will often fuck you over even when you clearly performed the action the game wanted you to. This might have worked better in the mobile port but It was enough for me to give up on this game.
There really isn’t much to say about Banzai Escape, it’s just bad. I can recommend the soundtrack but not much else about this game will be appealing. While it would be nice to see XenoAisam step their game up and create a good game, that seems unlikely since it has been over three years since this game’s release.
This review was originally posted to my Patreon on May 13th of 2019 for patron only viewing. You can read my reviews one week before they are posted on Guardian Acorn if you pledge $1.00 or more to my Patreon account. New reviews are are posted every Monday. You can also follow this blog if you would like to be kept up to date on my stuff, or you could follow me on any of my social media pages (listed at the bottom of the page) and could stop by The Guardian Acorn Discord chat if you would like to talk to me and my homies.