Edutainment is a tricky thing to get right and What’s The Matter? is a game that focuses rightly on entertainment over education. It is a twin stick shooter that is meant to help the player understand and learn about the Periodic Table of Elements. Niche? You bet! That’s why I was intrigued!
Twin Stick Shooting is a relaxing pleasure of my gaming life and What’s The Matter? gets the basics of this right. Your character finger snaps at rocks and aliens and the snap fires out like a gun to make them explode. You’ll find other elements floating around in space and you need to collect them. Doing so brings a voice over narration of the element you’ve collected and so you fight on. Eventually you’ll die though by being hit by rocks or alien fire and so any treasure you collected on that run can then buy upgrades to your weapons or equip passive abilities for the your next run. This roguelite element is great in some ways but it is for your next run only. Now, in theory having a stronger character means you should have a better run, get more treasure as you make it further and therefore buy more upgrades. This is largely true but as runs are randomly generated, its not always the case.
This is because every 10 elements collected will trigger a boss battle. This is when another hand drawn boss will fly in and some of them can be attacked, some need outrunning. These can end your run quickly if you stumble across a boss for the first time in a dense asteroid field and thus mean your next run will be far less powerful. I’d also say the way you choose the upgrades between runs is cute but annoying. You move a finger around a screen and press upgrade buttons on a device but its clunky, slow and imprecise. I’d rather just navigate a menu.
The collision detection is spot on, the graphics are stylised and fine and there’s a hint of retro TV comedy here and that’s all great. I have two main issues with the game though. Firstly, there are three levels to collect all the elements but there is very little difference between them. You’ll spend most of your time just shooting rocks to clear a path to your next element and that gets dull fast. The second is that the educational element is almost non existent. The only education that goes on is that when you die, you get some information about the last element you collected. There’s nothing else about the element, what it does, no way to revise the table or see it in its entirety. The actual educational element is so thin, it doesn’t really feel like education at all. That just means that What’s The Matter feels closer to a barmy plotline rather than an obscure mash up of ideas that could work. It wouldn’t take much to beef this area out and I hope the devs look into this as I like the idea but its just lacking detail at the moment.
This all means that What’s The Matter? is a simplistic twin stick shooter that gets the basics right but doesn’t deliver its unique selling point at all. That then makes it quite difficult to recommend from an edutainment standpoint so I feel like I have to judge it as a twin stick shooter alone. At its price point, other games blast this out into space unfortunately but I do like the idea and genre fans will enjoy its strange theme. Just don’t expect too much variety or long challenge.
Review copy provided by developer.
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