"Scurge:Hive", video game mini-critic

This is intended to be a short critic of the game Scurge : Hive, NOT a review. I will look into interesting game mechanics and how they support the fast pace of the game.

There is two important mechanics at the heart of Scurge ; the first being the infection level and the decontamination chambers and the second being the “rock / paper / scissor” style weapons and enemies.

Infection, tension and portability
Scurge is often tense and always fast paced. The character is constantly being infected by a virus, making an “infection gauge” slowly rise up from 0 to 100%. When the infection is up to 100%, the character's health starts going down quickly and she eventually dies. To avoid this fate, the player must constantly be on the look-out for decontamination chambers which will heal the character to full health, drop the infection level back to 0% and automatically save the game.

Effects of the mechanic
This timed style of play considerably rises the tension of the game, forcing the player to act fast while he's navigating the environment and solving the puzzles and to be on the look-out for the next decontamination chamber at all time. The player must also be careful not to step into slime like tiles which will make the infection rise even quicker. This mechanic has two interesting effects on the gameplay: it quickens the pace of an already intense action game and assures that the game is often saved. It is also interesting to note that saving the game becomes virtually transparent as it is coupled with an important play mechanic.

A very quick game of rock, paper and scissors
There is three different categories of enemies in the game (energy, biological and mechanical) and for each category a special weapon is available that have extra effect on them. However, each of those special weapons also boosts the attack and speed of another category of creatures.
Here is a very crude graphic explaining the links between enemies and weapons.

Rock / paper / scissors mechanics are well known in video games but are still efficient in building strategic thinking. Here, however, the pace is too quick to build strong strategic thinking but instead enforce quick reactions and intense decision making into the action.

Where the game makes this interesting is in the controls related to it. The player can only use one of the weapons at any one time but he can efficiently switch between them in much less than half a second by holding the right shoulder button and moving the directional pad in the direction of the desired weapon.

Effects of the mechanic
Since each weapons is very efficient against one type of enemy but boosts another type, the choice of weapon is always crucial. Most of the time two different types of enemies are present at the same time and the player must choose his weapon accordingly. Will he dispatch the easy ones while risking to boost the other? Or will he choose the weapon that kills one type quickly and has no special effects on the other? In the latter stages of the game, often the three types of enemies are present at the same time in the larger rooms and asks for the player to quickly alternate between the weapons several times in a few seconds. Yet again, the pace is quickened and the tension is boosted up, here by coupling a classic mechanic with an efficient control scheme.

Scurge was intended to be a fast paced, intense action game. The tension is greatly risen through the use of timed play and efficient weapon controls. Being a portable game, it is also an advantage to be able to play for short sessions of time. The timed play mechanic supports this strenght by enforcing the player to save the game every couple of minutes while rendering the saving transparently integrated into the metaphor of the game. The player is thus always sure that he won't lose any considerable progress and is also free of interface-navigating. At the same time, the suspension of disbelief is strongly kept in place.

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