Final Exam Review
Don’t test me, bro.
As far as spin-offs go, you can’t get much further from the source material than Final Exam. Mighty Rocket Studios, once known as Hydravision Entertainment, made a couple of survival horror games a few years ago that bore the cleverly capitalized title ObsCure. Fast Forward to 2012 when we hear they’re working on an arcade brawler that will also be called Obscure. Then, later that year the name would be changed to Final Exam in an effort to avoid confusion, and we’re assuming a legion of angry fans of the originals. Today, however we managed to get here, we finally got our hands Mighty Rocket’s latest.
Final Exam follows a theme similar to the old ObsCure games, in which a handful of high school stereotypes band together to fight off some sort of supernatural evil, but the similarities between the old games and this one end there. Survival horror is traded in for arcade style brawling and the creepy atmosphere is exchanged for cartoonish monsters that glow green in spots. It isn’t as if Mighty Rocket were trying to trick anyone, I’m just letting you know how different this game is from those of the series’ past.
If you’re a fan of brawlers, you’ll quickly see that Final Exam has some decent combat mechanics. Each character has a melee weapon as well as a gun and players can transition smoothly between hand to hand and ranged attacks without having to switch weapons. Pressing up while attacking will launch enemies into the air where they can be juggled or smashed down into the ground. Enemies, and a few other objects that may be lying around, can be picked up and tossed using the triggers and each character, of course, has a special attack.
The four playable characters are pretty stereo-typey with the roster including not only a jock and a nerd, but a boy and a girl as well. The nerd has glasses and the jock wears a football helmet so you don’t get confused. Each character has their own starting stats and special attack and players can earn points to upgrade each character as they progress through the levels.
Characters can also find better weapons which leads us to one of the game’s higher points. While most brawlers have pretty static, left to right, levels, Final Exam features larger stages that offer a bit of room for exploration. Your objectives will take you all over the map but there will still be a few nooks and crannies that are optional.
Unfortunately, Final Exam suffers from being not very interesting. The elements sound good on paper but the action doesn’t always make sense. Many of the areas of the game allow you to simply run by all of the enemies to complete your objectives. This makes the times you are forced to clear a room feel like roadblocks. Enemies that can be ignored in a game are going to be ignored unless there is any great incentive to deal with them.
I’ve even run into a couple of spots where the player had to perform some sort of action, like pushing an object, and the enemies weren’t able to hurt my character while I was performing this secondary action. They were trying to hurt me, they just weren’t able to, for whatever reason. This wasn’t always the case though, as the next set piece would come along and just when I thought I was safe, enemies would be all over me.
Final Exam’s handful of levels were clearly designed to be played through multiple times, in search of high scores and stat upgrades, but I didn’t have any real desire to repeat any of them. Once was more than enough.
Final Exam offers two player local co-op as well as four player online. Your progression carries over between the two, if you use the same character, so even if you have to start at the beginning with some friends, you’ll still be progressing. I did run into one issue where after joining a game the screen remained black, while I could hear the other players fighting, and stayed that way until I exited the game and found another. This issue seems to be transient, but concerning none the less.
Brawlers really have to go out of their way to distinguish themselves and Final Exam looked like it might have done all the right things at first. The combat mechanics felt good and the exploration elements showed promise but neither could overshadow the bland gameplay, uninteresting enemies, and lack of story. Here’s hoping we get a true new entry in the Obscure series at some point, because Final Exam barely achieves a passing grade.