This isn't an easy review to write. I want to just say upfront that I have the utmost respect for independent developers, who are often small teams of only a few guys or gals who are making their dreams come true. Indie developers don't have the resources or manpower to accomplish what the bigger companies can; sometimes, it's easier to let some minor problems slide. Regardless, most indie developers, especially on the PlayStation 4, have delivered games that are bug free, feature complete and well thought out, regardless of what each gamer's personal opinion may be about said game. Today, that changes with Basement Crawl, which is sadly the PlayStation 4's first truly bad game. I cannot find one redeeming quality about this game. There is not one thing in this game that enables me to recommend this game to you, the reader, for a purchase, and it's the first time that has ever happened.
Where Do I Begin?
Basement Crawl had an identity crisis from the very beginning. I remember one of the first PSN trailers for the game showing a grandmother talking to her granddaughter about the horrors of the outside world; it was spooky and creepy but ultimately did nothing to convey just what exactly this game was. That's never a good sign, when a trailer leaves you wondering what a game is and why we, the viewers, should care. It's tough to even call something like that a teaser trailer since it ultimately teased nothing.
It was eventually revealed that the game was a Bomberman clone, and that spooky trailer I mentioned above? That's all the story you'll get with the game. What's the purpose of the game outside of blowing up other creepy enemies? Who knows. Bloober Team didn't bother to explain it so I'm not bothering to care.
But really, does this game even need a story? Surely, it could have just stood on its own two legs as “creepy Bomberman clone,” thrown out the story altogether and no one would have cared. Even today, Bomberman is an amazing party game to play with both friends and online, and no one I know really played it for the single player. Basement Crawl could have easily filed that niche. Hell, “creepy Bomberman clone” was enough of a description to get my old roommate, who spent hours with me playing Bomberman in our old apartment, to get excited.
But then you fire up the game and it goes so wrong, so fast.
I Hope You Have Friends... Or Enemies
Basement Crawl has only two modes: Local Play and Online Play. Neither mode features AI bots, and there is no practice mode. Essentially, there is no single player mode to be found here. The game features a two page in-game help manual which provides no help whatsoever. It throws around words like stamina, traps, summoning shield, and “extra abilities” but doesn't take the time to explain what any of them do. If you've got no one to play with locally, the only way you're going to learn how to play the game is to just jump into the online mode and figure it out as you go along. That's never fun. It was apparent in my first few online games that the majority of players are confused and have no idea what to do as deaths severely outnumber the kills for 90% of the players in a match.
How Does It Play?
I'll sum up the game in one word: confusing. Notice a trend?
Let's start at the beginning with the general concept, since most of our readers will have no idea what this game is even about. If you've played Bomberman, you'll know what to expect here. You select a character, enter an arena, set traps (bombs) in an attempt to blow up other players and use your defensive abilities like kicking bombs and using your shield to avoid the bombs your enemy sets up for you. Upgrades scattered around the field let you set more traps or increase the radius of your explosions. It's a simple genre, but as Bomberman has shown us throughout the year, it's a blast in multiplayer. The only good thing I can say about Basement Crawl is that the genre itself is fun even if this game is not. Bloober Team could have picked a worse game and genre to pattern their game after.
Basement Crawl supports up to eight players, but only features four character models, each with one specific advantage like increased speed. The lack of character models wouldn't be so bad except the game doesn't differentiate between the same character model on two or more different players. If everyone picks the psychotic teddy bear, everyone will look the same. Good luck figuring out which character you are before someone kills you.
After a death, you spawn in a random location, and the game's sprites are so tiny on the playing field that trying to figure out which sprite is yours by the small blue square under it is difficult, especially when the action gets frantic.
Which is another thing to note: these maps are way too small to support eight players. There is no strategy with eight players, as the action is just far too chaotic to figure out what the hell is going on before you die. When you die, you lose half of all your upgrades, so you're cannon fodder for the player who has a ton of upgrades. Your basic bombs are so weak that it's almost impossible for you to make a comeback on someone who is fully powered up.
Due to how chaotic the action is and how tiny and muddled the sprites are, I can't tell you what any of the power-ups actually do and nowhere in the game does it actually tell you which powerup does what. Nothing in the game is rendered with any sort of detail, to be honest. The strange angled view of the game does it no favors, and while the DualShock 4's touch pad is used to rotate the battlefield, no viewing angle works good.
Even playing one-on-one against one other person, the game just comes across as boring, and lacks the competitive flare of Bomberman. It just has no spark.
A Lack Of... Everything
Basement Crawl features only two modes: Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. It only features three different map types with four variations of each map. These maps are boring, far too dark and in an odd twist, not one of them takes place in an actual basement. It brings back that haunting question: What did the intro have to do with the actual game? Why is the game even called Basement Crawl?
The music just kind of exists, similar to elevator music, and the sound effects are bland. You'd expect the sound of exploding bombs to have some oomph to them, but expecting anything from Basement Crawl is too much to ask for. Even the trophies are boring, awarding trophies for simply playing the game. When the trophy for finishing ten online multiplayer games is “rare” according to the system, you know something is off especially since matches take three minutes tops. At any given time, there is maybe 50 - 100 people playing this game, and that's on a system that has sold over 5 million copies. While this game lacks a lot now, the one thing it's going to lack in the future is players, especially since its already struggling now.
As alluded to earlier, the game just feels... generic. It's generic horror, the sort of stuff you see on movies released direct-to-video that never have a personality of their own, which is sort of fitting for this game. For character selection, you've got a killer clown, an evil teddy bear with a knife, a crash test dummy in a wheelchair (what?) and some kind of fat woman with a cloth over her head. Yea, I don't get it either. Is the game making some joke that obese women are terrifying? What is the crash test dummy supposed to represent and how does it tie into horror at all? An argument could be made that the clown and teddy bear are kids toys, and that these toys are the toys of the little girl from the intro, but it doesn't explain the last two characters. I've put more thought into this than Bloober Team I think.
For stages, you've got an evil circus, an abandoned factory and... some kind of evil restaurant. It looks Asian. I don't get it. It makes about as much sense as anything else in this game does.
Multiplayer has ranks but they unlock nothing, so they are pointless except to give you a reason to grind for trophies and to show off your prowess in the game. You only gain ranks when you come in first place, so ranks are a symbol of how good you are, but again nothing in this game is explained at all so this is guesswork on my part.
Nothing in this game feels very original, from the gameplay to the design. It's lacking all around, and feels like a bunch of random elements from other games were thrown in a blender. Try doing that with food, and you'll likely get something disgusting. The same result happens here.
Glitches, Bugs and Crashes, Oh My!
When the developer sent over the review copy, they let me know that they were having issues with the netcode in the game. While I was appreciative of the warning, “issues” doesn't even begin to cover the multitude of problems this game faces. Prepare to see the “You Cannot Connect To The Current Session” screen multiple times, along with the “Waiting” screen thrown in a few times for good measure. In fact, you'll probably see those two messages more than you'll see the actual game. After a match is over, the game automatically boots everyone back to the main menu, so once you do finally connect to a game you're kicked back out to the main menu in the few minutes it takes for the game to be over.
The game locked up on me multiple times during the “Waiting...” screen and was only resolved by closing the entire game and booting it back up. One particularly fun glitch is when the level loaded but didn't load any of the characters, so everyone just sat there staring at the time limit slowly ticking down on an empty playfield. Fun!
That's not the best part, though, as the game actually awarded me the trophy for not dying at all after the “match” was complete. I wondered why over 30% of players had that trophy; it's because this glitch is just that commo, not because almost a quarter of the player are Basement Crawl phenoms.
Expect nearly every game you play to feature some sort of odd glitch. Games will finish the second everyone joins, kicking everyone back out to the menu so you can try your luck again. On one game, I joined just in time to see the end of game results screen where everyone had a whopping zero kills and zero deaths. On another, only two players were active: one couldn't move because of the lag, so the other player just kept killing him while nobody else could spawn. On one of the last games I tried, the lag was so bad that it took a full five seconds for the bombs to set after pressing the button.
Basement Crawl is like a roulette wheel when it comes to joining a game except even when you “win” and finally get to a join a game, you still somehow lose. It's like the game has somehow gained sentience and is trying everything in it's power to get you not to play it.
While we joke about the issues the game is facing, what isn't funny is that this game is multiplayer only and at the time of writing, the multiplayer flat out doesn't work which means you're spending $10 on essentially nothing. Battlefield 4 had its single player to fall back on when the multiplayer was broken, but in Basement Crawl you're pretty much left without anything unless you always have friends willing to play this game.
Bloober Games Responds
Bloober Games has responded to the fan outcry for the game with an open letter, in part promising to fix the multiplayer issues, add in single player modes and add new multiplayer modes. It states that these multiplayer issues weren't found during testing, only appearing when the game went public. We won't cut and paste the whole letter here, as it's quite large, but if (or when) the game receives these updates, PS4 Experts will revisit this review.
After playing ten minutes of Basement Crawl, I felt like I had seen all the game had to offer. Which is good, because after those ten minutes of actually playing, the game didn't let me connect to a match for the next two hours.
I received this game from the developer and somehow, I still feel ripped off. I shudder to think what must be going through the mind of someone who actually paid hard earned money for this. Sony has championed the indie cause to gamers and this game sets the cause back about ten years.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I have nothing but respect for independent developers but goodwill can only go so far. For a game that Sony has hyped up on the PlayStation Store since the console's launch, it's a shame that it turned out so very, very bad. Indies already have an uphill battle in the minds of PS4 owners and this game isn't going to help that mindset.
As a Bomberman clone, it doesn't capture the feel of the genre or the game it's attempting to clone. So much of Basement Crawl draws inspiration for Bomberman that it feels ridiculous that they still ended up so far off the mark. For a horror-themed game, it's horror elements are generic at best. As a game period, it just doesn't work. We can't recommend this game to anyone in the current state that it's in.
However, I did think of one more upside to this game: it's graphic style reminded me of Loaded, and Loaded was awesome. Let's get a PlayStation 4 game out of that; surely, it will be better than Basement Crawl.
Final Score: 1/10
A copy of this game was provided to PS4 Experts by Bloober Team for review purposes.
Article by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 2/28/2014