PC/Mac/Linux
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Game Info:

Isbarah
Developed by: Leikir Studio
Published by: Neko Entertainment
Released: February 25, 2015
Available on: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
Genre: Platform / shooter
Number of players: 1
Price: $13.99

Thank you, Leikir Studio, for sending us this game to review!

It's always interesting when game developers attempt to mash together different genres. Sometimes it's not successful, and sometimes it spins the games in a completely new direction. Isbarah is one of those mash-ups – Leikir Studios has combined the standard 2D platformer with a variant of the shooter known as “bullet h*ll.” The results are surprisingly effective!

And hard. Very, very hard. As in “I was unable to complete the first chapter of the game” hard! However, it's not because of any cheap shots done by the opponents. This game is definitely a test of reflexes and observation skills, and more often than not, your character will take damage – or die – because of a mistimed jump or simply running out of room to dodge.

In Isbarah, you control Iria, the “daughter of God.” Every level is a boss fight against an other-worldly power, which seems to have a problem with the world, or your father, or something. There is a story of sorts, but I wasn't able to get far into the game, so I can't be certain as to what happens. The story seems secondary to the action, though.

Isbarah
Highlights:

Strong Points: Colorful graphics; interesting blend of genres; challenging
Weak Points: Very, very hard; controls take some getting used to
Moral Warnings: You play as the “daughter of God”; scary or demonic-looking opponents; minor language issues

 

Each level typically consists of three stages, with the possibility of a maze navigation segment beforehand, used primarily to introduce new game mechanics. The first stage involves activating railguns to blast the enemy. There are three railguns, and the character needs to stay within range of each one until it fires. Once all three railguns have fired, the battle flows to the second phase. The player needs to keep Iria within range of a glowing circle while dodging huge swarms of bullets from the opponent. Once this phase is completed, the third phase begins – finally a chance to counter-attack! The player only has a couple of seconds to hit the opponent while it is stunned. This can be the only way to regenerate hearts. The player has three hearts, and loses one for each point of damage. If the player loses all three hearts, they can use one continue to resume play. Losing all three hearts a second time results in a game over.

In addition to moving and jumping, Iria has additional powers. She can perform an accelerated dash maneuver, she can slow down time for a few seconds, or she can create barriers to block bullets or stand upon. Each power only lasts for a few moments and takes a few seconds to recharge. But even at the earliest stages, the player needs to have precise control in order to overcome the different challenges. Each boss moves and attacks in specific patterns, so it simply takes a few playthroughs to memorize how the bosses act. Avoiding them and their attacks is another question.

The controls are a bit tricky and take some getting used to. The player needs to use both the keyboard and the mouse. This game would work well with a controller, but controllers aren't supported. The mouse is used to place barriers and determine where to dash, so it's entirely possible that a game controller simply isn't capable of handling the kind of precision some of these moves require. I can't help but wonder if it would have been a nice option to try, though.

Iria will die many, many times, but the player will learn a bit more each time. The game takes patience, observation skills, and keen reflexes to succeed, and each success is immensely satisfying. And the deaths are justified, since they can be avoided if only you paid a bit more attention or timed the jump better.

Isbarah
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 76%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 7.5/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The graphics are reminiscent of comic books like “Dr. Strange,” with bizarre, surreal landscapes, and enemies that seem to be bristling with spikes, covered in flames, bearing skulls, or all three. Unlike your typical comic, the few women in the game do not sport excessive cleavage or skimpy outfits, at least. The soundtrack consists of rock music, but is largely forgettable – or not noticeable, since so much concentration will be made in trying to survive.

I did have a few odd incidents while starting the game. For some reason, the game would freeze up on a black screen, and I had to force quit the application. I think it might have actually been a conflict with Skype, but I haven't run more tests to confirm. It's possible that there could have been something wonky with the port to the Mac OS, too. But by making sure that Skype (as well as a few other programs) had been shut down first, the game started all right. It takes a while to load, but it does start eventually.

There are some moral considerations to the game. Although the game isn't terribly gruesome, many of the opponents feature skulls or bones. The three difficulty stages are “Normal,” “Hard” and “7th H*ll,” so there are a few minor language issues as well. The premise of the game can be the most bothersome aspect. As previously mentioned, you play the daughter of “God,” described as the creator of the universe. The first level, which serves as a tutorial, consists of a battle with God. It's implied that God – and actually a good portion of the characters in the game – are actually advanced humans. Either that or “designless” creatures that exist in a realm that God didn't design and have somehow leaked their way into this universe. Although the premise of the game isn't explicitly opposed to Judeo-Christian beliefs, it certainly doesn't conform to them, either. 

In conclusion, the game is a formidable platformer that will challenge your gaming skills. It isn't really for the casual gamer, but those who appreciate a difficult boss fight will find considerable enjoyment from this game. Whether or not the game is appropriate for the Christian mindset is another question, though. I wouldn't really recommend this game for children, though – partially due to the difficulty, but also because of the nightmarish appearance of many of the enemies.

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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