Hardcore titles have a niche audience that loves sadomasochistic gaming. Many genres have dipped their toes into this shark-filled pool, but platformers consistently produce rage-inducing experiences. Alexio is my latest controller smashing review that had me hating life, biting my lip, and generally regretting becoming a reviewer.
Developed by Duck Team and published by ChiliDog Interactive, this is a brutally difficult retro platforming game. You must venture through a dated and colourful world full of obstacles and enemies. Furthermore, you will collect power-ups, grab coins, visit a shop, and leap over untold amounts of spikes. It treads no new ground, but it retains some charming retro mechanics and aesthetics.
Alexio is cute, but looks can be deceiving.
Top marks to the developers for creating an uber-cute title that lulls you into a false sense of security. Subsequently, you control a fluffy duck called Alex, who makes you feel warm inside. However, SPOILER ALERT… this feeling quickly dissipates, as you soon despise Alex for the fluffy asshat that he truly is!
Alexio has a stupendously stupid story that demands little Alex undertakes a dangerous journey. He has turned six and his dad drops the bombshell that he must find his monobrow if he is to become a ‘true drake’. Undoubtedly, this is the most exciting thing ever to happen to a young duck and Alex jumps at the opportunity. Sadly, this immature fool fails to realise the dangers ahead as he must venture through meadows, lakes, mountains, woods and more en route to an ancient temple.
One-hit kills, mostly!
I’m very hesitant when playing anything that has a one-hit kill philosophy. I have neither the patience nor the desire to die repeatedly while edging closer to the finish line. However, many gamers love this challenge, and Alexio will be an attractive prospect. You begin every level with limited lives and some basic powers. Alex can jump, lay down, and fall through platforms. If he touches spikes, gets hit by projectiles or any enemies, he will die instantly. Furthermore, matters are made worse, as checkpoints are sporadically placed on every stage. Death returns you to the last save point, and if you fail, you must start the level again.
The developers have upped the old-school factor by introducing a password system in lieu of a save file. Therefore, you must hunt for the four-letter word on each level in order to continue from that point! This main seem a bit annoying, or downright absurd, but I loved this long-forgotten mechanic. Subsequently, I applaud Duck team’s audacious nature and their nod to retro gaming.
Luckily, though, there is a small light at the end of this extremely long and dark tunnel. Power-ups are found throughout each stage and these offer some protection. You will have the ability to shoot, hover, double jump, and more. Thankfully, these new abilities unlock areas of the map and allow you to take more than one hit. This was a small mercy and helped to make a tough game just a little easier.
Alexio is old-school and vibrant.
I love a good pixelated title, and graphics rarely bother me these days. Yet, I still want variety and clarity between enemies and the landscape. Sadly, Duck team didn’t get this quite right, and Alexio suffers because of this mistake. Enemies blur into the background thanks to the limited colour palette. This is made worse still as many of your foes hide underground, or behind blocks and trees. This made a tough game unbearably difficult and will be a game-breaker for many players.
If you can overcome these shortcomings, you’ll love the vibrant worlds and variety of landscapes. Exploring each of the different areas was interesting, even if it was rage-inducing and brutally unfair along the way.
The cute factor is enhanced by the deceptively upbeat audio. The chirpy soundtrack and annoying sound effects never stop, and this makes you angrier still. Your eyes and ears tell you that you should be relaxed and happy, but the gameplay doesn’t play ball. It’s a bizarre mix that matches the era and theme perfectly while making you enraged.
Difficult gameplay isn’t a new idea, nor should it put you off entirely. However, there is an expectation that the controls won’t make the action harder still. Sadly, Alexio has got its control system horribly wrong, and this detracts from the other great elements. Moreover, it’s not responsive, and this causes you to die repeatedly. Therefore, when a game is as hard as this one is, I expect it to play like a well-oiled machine. Sadly, though, this is clunky and hard to master.
If you love this genre, then you will aspire to complete every ball-breaking level. Yet, I can see that costing you many controllers and a considerable amount of time. Luckily, there is some replay value and its difficulty adds to the longevity. Consequently, it’s good value for money, if not a little torturous.
Alexio won’t appeal to all.
Duck team has done a wonderful job of creating a challenging and cute to look at title. Yet, the shortcomings with the controls undermine much of its potential. If this element was improved, you’d have a game that is tough but fair! But, in its current format, it’s a step too far and will appeal to a very niche market. I enjoyed it, even though it kicked my behind many times, so, I recommend you to buy it here! Can you find Alex’s monobrow, or will the game defeat you?