Party of Sin by Crankshaft Games is a side-scrolling platforming (described as a puzzle-platformer) game set within the battle between Heaven and Hell. You play as the anthropomorphic personifications of the 7 Deadly Sins: Wrath, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed and Pride who have been very naughty sins indeed and have thus been punished by imprisonment in the depths of Hell. The game revolves around the escape from Hell and subsequent roaming around the depths of the Underworld, even making your way all the way to Heaven. Meanwhile the forces of Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, are duking it out around you and you have to go into the midst of the war in order to show them who is really boss. ‘Cause it ain’t Mr. Floaty-Beardy-Robe Guy I tell you that right now!
I find that this review is actually fairly difficult to write and not because of writers block or anything sensible like that (no, in fact due to the impending exams I find that I am actively searching for other things to waste my time on like writing reviews on the internet). No I struggle because of something I said in the very first sentence of this review, and no it’s not my continued disbelief in the existence of heaven and hell (okay I’ll try focus now). See it’s just ONE word that’s causing issue here: “platforming”. Admittedly with “side-scrolling” also causing an arched eyebrow. Side-scrolling platformers have been around since before I was born (literally) with Super Mario writing the book on it, and then extending the book into a Song of Ice and Fire-esque billion part epic. As the genre has been around for so long it is starting to become incredibly difficult for anything new or exciting to break onto the scene. “Oh you made a pixel-sprite game in which you jump around and shoot fire at colourful enemies? You must be so original!” That’s not to say these games will be bad, it’s just that they won’t stand out in any way and will blend into the background like so much chewing gum on a pavement.
To make a successful platformer these days, even if it isn’t side-scrolling, you need some sort of unique and or interesting hook to draw people in. Case in point The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom was an absolutely fantastic platformer due to it’s use of an intriguing and unique gameplay mechanic and an excellent hand-drawn art-style.
Anyway, Party of Sin’s unique mechanic is that you play as all 7 of the Deadly Sins at once and can actively switch between them quickly and efficiently through the use of the keys surrounding the traditional WASD. The Sins share health between them and each has two abilities: a basic melee attack and the special ability of that particular sin. Wrath has a charge ability, Envy shoots a green laser beam from her eyes, Sloth has a powerful slow ability, Pride can massively increase the standard jump length, Gluttony can swallow things whole, Lust has a charm ability and Greed has a grappling hook .
As you might expect each ability can be used in combat and is also used for the various puzzles in game. For example it might be necessary to use Lust to use her charm ability to activate certain platforms which can only be stood on after being charmed (shall we assume it’s something like the wall getting a hard-on after the pretty girl bats her eyelashes?) this can allow you to switch to Gluttony and quickly swallow a nearby box to jump up the platforms and place the box on a button. Envy can activate torches, Wrath can charge buttons, Greed can grapple around certain areas and Sloth can slow down environmental objects (including the slowing down of the effect of gravity). Thinking about it the difference in abilities does lead to some interesting and reasonably tricky puzzles which is a bit of a bonus for the game.
Now my experience with platformers is fairly limited but to me this is indeed a unique gameplay mechanic, I’ve never seen it before although I wouldn’t be too surprised if something similar had already been done. So that’s one box ticked on “Being a good platformer”.
The graphics style of the game isn’t really too special. It looks quite good I will say, and it doesn’t use pixel sprites, with a wide variety of detailed locations, enemies and bosses. Honestly though while it’s quite good it isn’t particularly special and it doesn’t really stand out in my mind. In fact, having played through only the first two acts so far which are all set in Hell all I can really remember is a lot of lava and a lot of red.
The combat can be quite punchy, if always repetitive, at times with large numbers of demons or angels or both descending on you at once and you having to switch between the various Sins to deal with various situations. That said a number of the Sins do feel a little pointless when it comes down to fighting. Lust and Envy especially I barely ever use in combat as their special abilities feel quite underpowered. I only ever used Pride if I was feeling bored with using Wrath and Sloth and Greed only have a few moments where they really shone (when you are vastly outnumbered and when there were a massive amount of flying enemies respectively). I also feel I would like some sort of indication as to whether some of the Sins were squishier than the others and whether they did more damage. For example, I always used Wrath or Pride to attack enemies because they were big and looked like they could soak up damage whereas all the female Sins and Greed looked like they would take a lot more. Whether or not this was all in my head though, I genuinely do not know.
One of the mechanics which still bothers me is that instead of facing whichever direction you were last running in your character always faces towards the mouse. While this does allow you to aim a lot better through the use of pointing and clicking, it also leads to some frustrating moments as your character runs backwards because you keep forgetting to make him look in the right direction. While it might just have been me, I feel that this is a mechanic which wasn’t all that great.
There is a plot to the game, a plot which is so thin and unremarkable that I had a lot of trouble remembering what I said at the start. It’s another standard issue with platformers that with very little character development and interaction it seems, in my experience, impossible to really have anything that could be termed a “story”.
There is a multiplayer mode which I have not tried, which maybe is doing the game a disservice because on the website it does describe it as a multiplayer game. I just couldn’t really face the prospect of dealing with other people and so I didn’t try it. The website describes it as a cooperative game so I would imagine it would involve the four players each playing as a different Sin (and perhaps unable to switch to one being used by another player) to work together to solve puzzles and get through the game. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if there was also a lot of strife between the players (for one thing the in-game hints suggest that Gluttony can eat other players!).
As for length, it took me about 3 or so hours to get to the 20% completion mark suggesting a total of in-between 10 and 15 hours which, for the price tag of £15 from the website seems fairly acceptable. Almost bang on the money really.
Honestly I feel that my own opinions have very much jaded this article. I am not normally a fan of platformers so it does take something rather special to make me sit up and take notice and I want you to keep that in mind as you consider everything I’ve written here. I’ve tried to be objective but in the end my own opinions will always come to the fore and as someone who doesn’t normally enjoy platformers, me reviewing a platformer is shooting it in the foot right out of the gate.
What I will say is that it seems a fairly well rounded and well designed game. The Sins work together quite well, the graphics, animations and combat are all fluid and quite nice to look at and can make for some fun time playing and the puzzles are actually quite well thought out. For all of this though, I just think it’s a boring game. It’s nothing special or overly unique. It doesn’t feel exciting or tense and it just is always the same. So no, while if you enjoy platformers you may enjoy Party of Sin, I can’t give it a recommendation.