Console game development takes time, but action-platformer The Kore Game: Outvasion From Inner Earth has taken more than most. In the works for nearly a decade and having passed through the hands of three publishers and three developers, it has the potential to be absurdly polished or a colossal dud. While the actual result isn’t exactly the interactive equivalent of the Hope Diamond, it is filled with enough bizarre humor and creative level design to easily avoid Dudsville.
The game starts with a world that’s part Oddworld, part Psychonauts and part Nightmare Before Christmas. The world is threatened by the evil Krank Brothers. This googly-eyed trio hails from inside the Earth’s core and has dug its way to the surface to conquer humanity. Standing in the Krank Brothers’ way is the Kore Gang – a spunky young girl, a fearless schoolboy and a talented pooch. These three heroes – Pixie, Madboy and Rex – take turns controlling the Kore suit, an ability-enhancing mech designed by the eccentric Dr. Samuelson, using it to prevent the Kranks’ “outvasion.”
More than story or character, the Kore suit is the game’s true foundation. Not only does it dictate what each character can do, it’s the clear basis for every level in the game. When Pixie’s driving, you can grapple and double jump. When Madboy’s behind the wheel you can fight, activate buttons and throw things. When Rex has control, you can eavesdrop, follow a scent trail, pick locks (!) and run super-fast. This triadic system has been well thought out and throughout the game you’re constantly swapping amongst the three. It also takes great advantage of the game’s quirky levels, which are chock-full of bounce pads, moving platforms and swinging robot arms.
The Kore Gang has much to be proud of (though the musical numbers are questionable). However, a few key design flaws prevent it from reaching its full potential. For one thing, the story’s conveyed in a disjointed way and becomes something of a muddle. There’s a resistance faction from Inner Earth, but who they are and what they’re doing is never quite clear. For another, there’s the control scheme which is passable but for a hover move that requires you to constantly whirl the Wii remote; whoever put this move at the center of a boss fight wanted to punish gamers. Finally, the camera controls are enough to make a grown man cry. Often, the camera seems bent on assuming the worst possible angle, forcing you to use a clunky manual camera which more often than not, does nothing but make the camera spin in nausea-inducing circles.
Despite these issues, The Kore Gang as a whole is a fun, worthwhile experience. While flawed, it offers some truly interesting gameplay mechanics and thanks to an eccentric approach to design, actually manages to surprise. As action-platformers go, it’s not exactly top of the heap, but it’s sure to entertain if you’re in the mood for something off the beaten path.