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Epic Loon Indie Game Review

Joe is an avid cinephile. His most prized possession is his collection of VHS tapes as he spends most of his days watching the same films over and over again. One day Joe’s VCR stops working so he purchases a VHS cleaner tape to fix the problems with his VCR. When he puts the VHS cleaner tape into his VCR he realizes that it is not a normal tape as it is infested with alien creatures determined to create as much mayhem as possible. You and up to three of your friends play as the aliens who are on a mission to destroy Joe’s film collection. Epic Loon may not be your typical platformer but it succeeds because of its compelling theme and surprisingly fun and original multiplayer platforming mechanics.

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Macrales Studio, Shibuya Productions, and Ukuza for the review copy of Epic Loon used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review.

When I saw the trailer for Epic Loon the first thing that grabbed my attention was the game’s premise and overall appearance. Being a big sci-fi fan, the premise of playing a party platforming game through recreations of classic sci-fi movies was hard not to immediately love. With most platformers using generic fantasy, adventure, or sci-fi themes it was truly refreshing to see a game actually come up with a truly unique premise. Currently Epic Loon features four different VHS tapes to play through which are recreations/spoofs of Alien, Godzilla, Jurassic Park, and Nosferatu. There is also a bonus fifth tape that you can unlock by beating the other four tapes in story mode which is basically a mishmash of random scenes of an “adult” nature. While I have not seen all of the original films, from the films that I have seen the game loosely follows the plots of the movies with the story diverging more and more as you continue to mess with the tapes. Fans of these films should enjoy how the game pays tribute while also making fun of the films that it is trying to emulate.

In addition to the premise, the other thing that initially drew me to Epic Loon was the game’s style. The game utilizes a black and white art style (even for the films that were filmed in color) and cartoony style graphics to recreate all of the films. For an indie game I have to say that I could not have expected much more from the game visually. While the game is never going to compare with the realism of AAA games, Epic Loon never really tries. The game uses its own unique style and it really makes the game shine. I have to say that I was actually quite impressed with the visuals. The style might not be for everyone but I think most people will really like it.

Heading into Epic Loon the gameplay was the one thing I was a little hesitant about. Watching the trailer for Epic Loon left me a little curious about what the actual gameplay was going to be. I originally thought Epic Loon’s gameplay was going to be your typical platformer, something like Super Meat Boy, with a multiplayer component added in. You would jump from platform to platform until you reached the end of the level. Epic Loon is not your typical platformer though. It has elements of your typical platformer but it is unlike any platformer that I can remember playing.

Basically the gameplay breaks down as follows. Each player controls one alien which has two moves. The first move is a little hop which barely lifts you off the ground. This is basically used to position your alien for its second move. For your second move you press a button which sticks your alien to the surface that it is currently on. The alien’s eye then rotates left and right and you press a button which launches the alien in the direction that the eye is pointing. You use these two moves to get your alien to a glowing line on the screen in order to finish the level. Once one of the players reach the line, the VHS tape hits rewind mode. All of the moving items on the screen move in reverse and the rest of the players have as much time in rewind mode as it took the first player to finish the level. After the rewind mode ends the game flips into fast forward mode where everything moves twice as fast. Everyone who dies during this mode will fail the level.

I have to admit that Epic Loon’s gameplay is not exactly what I was originally expecting. At first this kind of disappointed me as I was expecting a traditional platformer and the control scheme of flinging your alien across the screen was not something that I was used to. While the gameplay is quite simple, it takes some time to adjust to. After I got adjusted to the unique gameplay style though I really started to like it. I can see some traditional platformer fans not really caring for it but I have to give Epic Loon credit for trying something unique. While it shares some things in common with your traditional platformer, it is its own unique experience which is welcomed in a genre where most games just swap themes and slightly tweak gameplay mechanics. At first you might think the gameplay relies mostly on luck but as you play the game there is actually quite a bit of skill involved as you become better at aiming your shots. While the gameplay is not something that I would play for hours at a time, it actually becomes kind of addicting after a while.

What I liked the most about the gameplay was the fact that the game was built to be a multiplayer game (local play only). You technically can play the game by yourself but I wouldn’t recommend it. The game is best when players are competing against one another and you don’t really get the same feeling playing against the AI. At this time the AI is bad. The AI seems to just randomly jump around and only finishes levels when it randomly lucks into reaching the end. At times it is funny watching the AI as it does some really stupid things. The AI being bad is not that big of issue as it actually gives the human controlled players time to finish the level but it does mean that most of your actual competition will come from the other human players. Therefore you aren’t going to have a lot of challenge if you just face off against the AI. This is why I would recommend playing Epic Loon with as many human players as you can. The competitiveness between the players is what drives the game. Having more players around also makes the random stuff that happens from time to time even more enjoyable.

Epic Loon basically has two different modes that you can play. As I spent most of my time with the story mode I will start there. In the story mode you play through all of the levels of a particular VHS tape in order to see the entire story play out. All of the players play together at the same time and can either play cooperatively or competitively. The players can compete to see who completes the level first but other than bragging rights there is no reward for finishing first or finishing at all as only one player has to finish the level to move onto the next level. While I wish the story mode had some sort of scoring system, I still think I preferred it over the battle mode which I will explain shortly. I think the main reason that I preferred the story mode was because I liked seeing how the story progressed as you continued to mess things up.

The other mode in Epic Loon is the battle mode. Basically I see battle mode as the Mario Party mode for Epic Loon. Players compete in random levels from the chosen VHS tape. The first player to finish a level scores the most points while all other finishers score progressively fewer points. Whichever player has scored the most points at the end of the game wins. To make the Mario Party comparison more fitting, the game gives the players points at the end of the game for random “achievements”. I really liked the addition of the scoring in battle mode (outside of the random points at the end) as it gives the players a way to compare who did the best in the game.

There is one thing I don’t like about the battle mode though. Periodically throughout the game each player will be given a punishment that will affect them for a couple rounds. These punishments range from your alien randomly stopping in the air to the whole shooting mechanic being put in reverse. I don’t mind the idea of the players being occasionally sabotaged but I don’t think all of the sabotages are equal. For example having the shooting mechanics being in reverse makes it nearly impossible to finish a level until you get used to it. Getting stuck with this sabotage for a couple rounds could be the sole reason why a player ends up losing. If the sabotages were a little more balanced I think I would have liked them quite a bit but at their current levels I can’t say that I am a big fan of them.

While I enjoyed Epic Loon quite a bit, there are a few issues that I had with the game.

Probably the biggest issue that I had with the game is the fact that the game only has four main VHS tapes along with the additional tape you can unlock for battle mode. I will say that I was surprised by the length of each tape as each should take around an hour to complete the first time you play them. On subsequent plays they will take less time but each tape should still take thirty to sixty minutes to complete. While I would have preferred that they were longer (who doesn’t want more content after all), I really can’t complain about the number of levels present in each VHS tape. The problem is with only four VHS tapes you are only going to get around 4-5 hours before you will have to start replaying tapes. I can see replaying the tapes a couple times before they get repetitive but eventually you will get bored playing the same levels over and over again. I don’t know if the developers have any plans for DLC but I think Epic Loon would be perfect for DLC packs adding additional tapes to the game.

Now my next complaint is going to be bigger for some players more than others. While Epic Loon doesn’t officially have an ESRB rating, I think it would be rated M for language, violence and simulated sex (blurred out and only in one scene of Nosferatu and the extra tape). There is nothing inherently wrong with the game being for adult audiences but I think the game would have been better served targeting a teen/adult audience as outside of these things I actually think teens would really enjoy the game. I can’t say that I am a big fan of swearing but I wouldn’t have minded it if it weren’t for the narrator repeating the same lines over and over again. After a while it gets pretty annoying. If these issues don’t really bother you, this really isn’t even a problem. Basically I  just want to warn people that the game is gauged towards adults and I wouldn’t recommend playing the game with children that you wouldn’t let see a R rated movie.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Epic Loon. The game deserves a lot of credit for creating a truly unique and engaging experience. The premise of playing as aliens trying to destroy classic films is a great idea that is significantly different than anything else I have seen before. The game’s art style is also great. The gameplay was a little different than I expected and takes some time to adjust to. After you get used to it though it is surprisingly fun. The game works really well as a multiplayer game as well. The biggest complaint that I had with Epic Loon is that I wish the game had a few more VHS tapes because the levels will get a little repetitive after a while. If Epic Loon’s premise and gameplay intrigue you and you have some friends to play with I would highly recommend checking out Epic Loon.

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