Unleashed: Out Now (XBLA)
Developer: Canalside Studios
Players: 1-4 (Offline), 2-4 (Online)
Price: 800 points (£6 .80)
Yo-Ho Kablammo is not a good game, but that’s not entirely its fault. It certainly has its share of issues, but discussing the pros and cons of a multiplayer game with an anemic community seems like a futile exercise. Alas, this is a review, and such things must be discussed. But before we go on, know that Yo-Ho Kablammo’s online component is nearly dead on arrival.
Kablammo was the 2007 runner-up for Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play. competition, which rewards Xbox Live Indie developers with a contract deal to upgrade to an XBLA release. The winner, the spectacular Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, set expectations for what indie games could become. It’s this precedent that makes Yo-Ho Kablammo’s release all the more questionable, as its level of quality and polish still seems more at home on the Indie Games channel.
The issues crop up almost immediately – a glitchy tutorial has your AI opponent wandering off the map, leaving you to wander aimlessly until either you quit or kill yourself. From there, the single-player mode seems to continually insist that you’re not online and that leaderboard data won’t be recorded. Not the best start, especially for a game that has supposedly gone through Microsoft’s rigorous certification process.
Yo-Ho Kablammo is a pirate-ship combat game in which you fight from an overhead perspective, aligning your starboard and port sides towards enemies to unleash a stream of cannon fire. Using the left stick to move your ship and the triggers to fire, the control scheme couldn’t be simpler. That is, until you put it into practice. From an overhead perspective, your ship’s sides are constantly realigning – this leaves you pressing the wrong trigger and firing from the wrong side all too often. This isn’t something that’s easy to get used to either, even after hours of playtime you’ll still screw it up occasionally.
These confusing combat controls aren’t so bad online, where everyone is screwing up, but single-player is a different story. The AI isn’t exactly a crackshot, but they’ll still hit you more often than not. This becomes especially frustrating in the later levels, where two or three AI opponents gang up on you. Even if you kill two of them, the third one will inevitably take you down and collect all the dropped gold, scoring from you as well as their own dead teammates.
That kind of maddening gameplay isn’t worth the heart problems and broken controllers it’ll likely cause. This leaves you with the game’s multiplayer, which can be played locally or online. The one shining beacon of hope for Yo-Ho Kablammo is that it’s actually a decent multiplayer game. A variety of modes spice things up for an experience reminiscent of classic party games like Bomberman. But unless you play locally, this turns out to be yet another slap in the face from a game that seems insistent on causing you harm.
Yo-Ho Kablammo’s true fate was sealed within its first week, where players could spend upwards of 20-30 minutes searching for a match. Occasionally you’d get lucky and find another player, but daring to wait for a third or fourth player is a great way to lose the first guy and return to square one. And even then, one-on-one matches manage to stir up a bit of lag, and aren’t very fun to begin with.
If you can get some friends together who are willing to look past the head-spinning controls, Yo-Ho Kablammo could be downright exciting. It has all the makings for close matches, comebacks, and moments that will have a group laughing and screaming all at once. Then again, any number of party games offer an identical experience without all the other terribly painful baggage.