Is Twisted Arrow a Good Game?
This question has been rolling around in my head for over a week now. There are many things to consider when reviewing a game. I always try to maintain the perspective of what the developer set out to achieve. It’s never fair, or indeed helpful, to compare apples to oranges; Minecraft is a terrible story-driven adventure and Uncharted is a terrible open-world sandbox. But, you have probably played both and your experience of both will affect your view of other games. Then, there is value for money to consider. With all this in mind let’s break down what Twisted Arrow does well, and what it does … not so well.
Twisted Arrow … Done Right
Twisted arrow is not a wave shooter and in a market, over saturated with wave shooters this is a big plus. It’s not quite a free locomotion game, but rather a ‘node’ style teleporter. The nodes are all cleverly placed where you would expect them to be. If you see some cover or a high vantage point then chances are you can teleport there. In fact, at no point did I attempt to port somewhere that was not allowed and this is something not all games get right. You can jump between buildings, on top of ruined cars and in some levels even climb from street level up to the top of skyscrapers.
As the name suggests, your weapon is a bow and arrow. In a game where you get attacked by assault rifle wielding goons this seems like a deliberate design choice to stand out from the crowd. It’s all the better for that choice. Bows make more interesting use of motion control and we have all played plenty of VR shooters. This is a high-tech future-bow with super-powered arrows and a built in force-shield. The different arrows are all great fun and uniquely useful. Splash damage freeze arrows, proximity mines, ‘split’ arrows that hit multiple targets and home in for long range kills and good old fashioned explosives.
There is a decent sized campaign spanning 6 huge levels. The first two levels are populated by your basic goons, but in later levels zombies, mechs, helicopters and giant bosses ramp up the fun quite a bit. There are spotlights to avoid, transmitters to hack, power generators to explode and hostages to release. There are always multiple paths to approach from and the variety of objectives is a welcome change from the all-too-common “Kill 50 of X” or “Get 10 heatshots” found in many VR games. You can also dodge projectiles which, combined with free teleporting and intense action-driven levels means you will really work up a sweat while having fun.
The Not So Good
For everything right about Twisted Arrow there seems to be an equal amount of wrong. Let’s start with the graphics. There are mobile games that put it to shame. It’s art design also seems rather confusing. All the scenery and military stuff is in a basic drab realistic style but the fire and explosion effects are cell-shaded and cartoonish. In addition, the bow, while cool and futuristic, seems out of place with everything else in the game. It’s quite jarring when you’re shooting a shiny sci-fi bow at a flat rusted spotlight and the resulting explosion looks like a comic book drawing.
The music is flat and boring and much of the sound is barely passable. The noise your guy makes when shot is like something out of Wolfenstein 3D and the effect of an arrow hitting a helicopter seems to be completely missing. I can’t say I enjoyed the helicopter fights much at all, they just sort of float around unrealistically and it’s very difficult to hit the weak spots with anything other than homing arrows. When you do manage to take it down, it doesn’t fall from the sky in an epic explosion as much as it just blinks out of existence.
There are also elements of the gameplay I found rather frustrating. All the arrows and abilities are available from the get go, there is not progression or collection at all. Special arrows can be used based on a recharging bar, with each type of arrow costing a different amount of charge. This might add a nice layer of tactics and speed up the gameplay, but it also means that attacks all use the same ammunition. So, when things start going downhill and you run out of ammo, you run out of all types of ammo at the same time and everything just falls apart. Universal ammo was a bad design choice in Deus Ex: Invisible War and it’s a bad design choice here.
There is also the issue of selecting arrows which is done by moving the joystick or trackpad. When teleporting, time is slowed down so you have a chance to think but not so when selecting arrows. In practice, this makes selecting arrows a stressful juggling act as you hold up the shield with your left hand while looking at your right. It’s practically impossible to block bullets when your attention is elsewhere and the game was not long enough for me to memorize the arrow selection.
So, is Twisted Arrow a good game? Well, it’s not broken or terribly bad in any particular way, which is more than you can say for many steam games. It’s not another damned wave shooter nor is it another super-short experience. It has a simple premise and does a decent job of it. The motion control is used well and the gameplay is fun and engaging. At the end of the day, it only costs $20. That being said, if you can overlook some, honestly, pretty bad graphics and flat design elements then you have a decent-sized game with fun tactical gameplay. It may not be the best VR archery game but it will get you some exercise much like Holopoint.
Final Score 6/10: As mediocre as it is competent.
- Not a wave shooter
- Solid gameplay
- Decent length
- Very basic graphics
- Feels cheap
- Some frustrating elements