Nefarious is a new indie game from two person developer StarBlade. A side scrolling platformer; players take on the role of Crow, a super villain bent on kidnapping various princess’ from around the globe in a plot to rule the world. Be the bad guy and pound heroes into the ground with your giant robot in this reversal of roles game. Just be careful, being bad feels so good.
Nefarious came to PC last year and while it received mixed reviews, I was curious to see how a game where you play the villain translated to consoles. I love when games try something different. Nefarious is definitely unique, even if flawed. The various levels are all visually interesting and the story is very well written and hilarious at times. Crow reminded me of the star of Megamind, where Will Ferrell voiced a cheesy super villian who has a change of heart. Over the course of Nefarious, Crow as a character really comes to life and we see that villain doesn’t always mean “evil”.
Gameplay in Nefarious is obviously inspired by the Mega Man series. Combat is simple at first, with a standard melee attack and eventually Crow can fire grenades using the right analog stick to aim. With various upgrades these grenades can be altered to your playstyle. They are also useful as a way to gain a higher jump. As Crow kidnaps the various princess, they each will give him special abilities as he literally carries them away over his shoulder. One lets him throw axes as she beats on him, another will let him jump higher and so on. Collecting coins, or “lucre” as they call it, lets Crow purchase upgrades like health and more attacks.
While some of these upgrades and gameplay mechanics are interesting, I did find some issues with hitboxes and controls not being as responsive as they should be and it got a little frustrating in later levels. I think my favorite gameplay aspect of Nefarious has to be the humorous use of other gameplay styles. For example, one particular fight is done in an old JRPG style and of course Crow is the screen filling baddie taking on the three “heroes” in a fun turn based setup.
Graphically Nefarious is very retro in many ways, reminding me of the Mega Man games of the PS1 era. I was also very impressed with the unique graphical aspects to some levels. The undersea level in particular looks very cool. When mocking a particular game the graphics will change to mimic it more. Music in Nefarious is very catchy and fits the game well. I found many of the tunes getting stuck in my head.
The story and writing in Nefarious are the highlight of the whole game. The humorous way Crow interacts and some of the conversations, particularly between he and his lead hench Becky, are priceless. As the game progresses you get to know more about each princess and Crow himself. It has some surprising amount of heart and I would love to see more done with these characters and the setting. I would totally play a more modern version with lampoons of more current games. If the guys at StarBlade go for a sequel hopefully more time and money can be invested for a bigger game because as fun as a side scrolling retro game is, many players will pass due to the antiquated look of Nefarious.
Levels can be repeated in Nefarious to gain more lucre and build up Crow, but otherwise there isn’t a whole lot of replay value. At an MSRP of $14.99 do not expect a long play time. At about four hours though Nefarious does provide a good time and should be checked out by fans of side scrollers and unique indie games. I am kind of surprised a second player option wasn’t added. They could of given Becky to player two and increased the fun!
Overall Nefarious is a solid indie with some really creative and unique aspects. If the platforming gameplay was just little more responsive I could of seen it being one of the better indies of the year. While over too quickly, the humorous story and writing should keep older gamers laughing at the various references, especially playing the villain role in the boss fights. Any side-scrolling platformer fan should enjoy Nefarious. Everyone else should respect it for it’s bucking the system and doing something different. In a world full of games with cheesy heroes, try Nefarious and find out how good it feels to be bad.