Making a one screen battler game that works well is a tricky business. You’ll need game mechanics that are easy to pick up but offer a decent amount of depth to get gamers invested to become great at the game. Manic Archers gets the first part right but then runs into a lot of technical problems that utterly put me off the experience.
4 players can play locally (or online using Steam Remote Play) but AI can fill in slots if you want them to be included. You run around looping single screens firing your limited arrow supply to kill your friends and opponents. This can be a free for all or in teams of two. Winning can be either down to being the last archer standing or by getting the most kills within the time limit. Thinking top down Towerfall and you have the vibes Manic Archers is going for.
Play is fast and frantic. Your arrows cover a lot of ground and you have to collect what your fire as well as you only usually have four or five arrows at a time. Being able to jump and dash means you can evade a lot of incoming attacks too. To add more chaos, powerups are strewn everywhere. You are never further than a few steps away from one and they are often more viable than the arrows themselves. They are all aggressive powerups launching new attacks and can often take out a few players at once. If anything, they are often overpowered. Matches can be over in a matter of seconds.
All of this chaos would work quite nicely if it wasn’t for a couple of very fundamental problems.
The first is that the controls are broken. Using a controller with an analogue stick is impossible as the game cannot cope with any stick that isn’t perfectly centred. Manic Archers assumes deadzone doesn’t exist and so your character gets stuck running in a direction, often one you don’t want to go in. Every player I played with experienced this so we switched to the xBox d-pad and this improved things but again the stick would decide to take over. We also experienced out characters just endlessly moving forward even when we didn’t press anything – sometimes when using the keyboard as a controller. It frankly broke the game.
If this was fixed, the next issue we had was that the game freezes. A lot. It seems to be tied to loading assets for powerups and when several are pulled in quickly, the game stutters, freezes, misses inputs and fails. This is made all the more obvious with the flashing colours that evoke a retro arcade feel getting stuck loudly on screen rather than being a quick flash. This in turn makes following your character quite tricky as well as the game moves so quickly, then chugs, then recovers, then chugs. With 4 players, it gets messy on screen.
Fundamentally Manic Archers has a decent enough idea although its been done before many times. It fundamentally seems to be somewhat broken though and as such I cannot recommend it in its current state. If you want to wrestle with the controls, there is some fun to be had but since keyboard controls aren’t even supported (officially anyway) – it feels like a muted point. A shame.
Review copy provided by developer.
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