Game Reviews: Final Exam

Felipe Cabrera

Mighty Rocket Studio’s latest venture in the 2.5-D horror co-op beat ‘em up, “Final Exam,” is a fun distraction but a forgettable experience.

“Final Exam” follow four best friends on their way to a big high school reunion party, only to be stuck in a small town crawling with mutant/zombie creatures. Armed to the teeth with their archetypal ’80s high school personalities, these four friends must fight their way out and a quirky Goonies adventure ensues.

You and your friends can choose from four characters to beat the crap out of things with. Brutal Joe is what happens when high school jocks continue to represent their team long after they graduate. He is good at hitting people, hard. Casey is the cool chick, Nathan is the nerd with a scary interest in explosives and Sean is the guy who is good with guns.

Each character stands out in one of four stats (life, strength, precision and explosives), but they can be increased with character points, leaving the only real variation in their skill tree. If you have played video games for the last seven years, the three-style skill tree should be familiar to you: offensive, defensive and special. These offer the only real variation in combos.

The gameplay itself is quite enjoyable. It is a frenzy of chaining combos for that glorious high score on the leaderboards. You will get there by killing hordes of mutants by whacking them with an assortment of melee weapons found during levels, gunning them down and blowing them to high heaven with grenades.

There is a decent assortment of enemies, but it is nothing you have not seen in other games. The basic melee monster, dog creature, spitter, tank — the whole gang is here. The game is at its best during horde encounters when a message warns you by saying, “watch your ass” and enemies dog pile on you from every angle. Once you have gained enough points to activate more skills, you will be able to perform special moves after enough points to devastate a crowd of enemies. My favorite thus far is Saul’s whirlwind of bullets where he aims dual-wielded pistols in all directions.

Sections that have you look for alarms to open doors or backtrack for oil drums slows down the pace which is an absolute no-no for a beat ‘em. Backtracking is a video game sin, period. Yes, side scrollers like “Scott Pilgrim” and “Castle Crashers” have “objectives,” Those objectives, however, keeps you moving to the right of the screen into a fray of unfortunate enemies who should have stayed home with their families. “Final Exam” throws an enemy horde at you during these objectives, but sometimes they’re faint mobs when I want a blood bath. This is not “Metroid” or “Castlevania”; keep the game moving.

On a high note, “Final Exam” sports some great visuals. It pulls off cell-shading very well, bringing in a nice explosion of a green splash when mutants are killed. The cut scenes are presented like animated comic book frames that tell a decent story packed with references like a love letter to the horror film genre.

If you want to engage in some multiplayer mayhem, I recommend you bring a friend, at least on the PC version. The online lobby as of yet is still pretty unpopulated with players.

“Final Exam” gets an “F” for fun, because it is a fun distraction. The game play works and you might be inclined to try to reach the top of the leader board, but the game does not offer anything a side scroller has not done before. It will be something you and your buddies will play for a week before returning to “Castle Crashers” for another play through.