Made by a small group of Swedish people going by the name of Freshly Squeezed and published by the good folks at Soedesco, Defunct recieved several nominations at the 2014 Swedish Game Awards, including the Game of the Year award, that it actually went on and won. Furthermore, it was even nominated for Best Student Project at the Unity Awards of the same year.
Set on a post-human Earth, Defunct tells the story about a little unicycle robot on board a massive recycling aircraft, having some technical difficulties, that it then goes to find spare parts for. During its quest, it is accidentally thrown out with the trash, and must now brave the surface in an attempt to catch up and get back home. Aww.
During the whole game, whether I was in a lush jungle or a baren junkyard, I couldn’t help feeling some slight Wall*E vibes. Something about a cute robot lost in a post-apocalyptic world I guess.
As previously stated, you control a one-wheeled robot, whose gimmick is gravitization. You have a light on your back, flashing either red, orange, or green. When red, it means you are going uphill; orange means you are on a plain surface; and green means you are going downhill. Your default speed when holding down the A button is abysmal, so what you want to do is to build up momentum by riding the hills on your way and using you gravitization by pushing ZR when your light flashes green, in order to pick up speed.
You also have a trajectory whenever you are airborn, that not only shows you where you are gonna land, but its colour, like your backlight, also indicates whether your speed will in- or decrease upon landing, if you hold down the gravity button.
You also have a jump button with B, that if used wisely in synch with ledges, can give you some serious distance and air time, a magnetism ability with X that I unfortunately found quite under utilized, and later you are introduced to these energy jars that you can pick up to fuel a temporary speed meter. These don’t always get you very far on their own, but if used in conjunction with speed orbs that are lying around, and usually come in convenient line-ups, you can get some serious speed.
You also have no lives, as there are no enemies in the game. Your only company being other robots rolling around on their own errands. So the only way you can die is by falling into deep water, and should that happen you just respawn at a checkpoint of which there are plenty of scattered about. You don’t even need to come in direct contact with these to activate them, just being in their vicinity is enough, and should you feel the need, you can call yourself back to the nearest one by simply pressing -.
I’m on the Hiiiiiighway!!!
While some stages are just a straight forward trek, others are open sandboxes where you need to scour the land for switches that all need to be pressed in order to process, where with some of them you will need to get a little acobatic and truly master everything you have learned.
While these sections are nice breathers where you also get to take in just how pretty this game can be, the highway sections in between are where I personally think the game truly, truly shines. While the game does feature a stage select, all the stages are connected, and in between some of the open sandbox sections, are long stretches of road that you need to traverse. These are littered with energy jars and speed orbs, making sure that you keep a brisk pace as long as you know how to steer. You will also find that these highways feature multiple pathways, often giving you the choice between the high road and the low road, IF you are skilled enough to stay on track… which I wasn’t.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the quiet sandbox stages, but nothing beat the rush of adrenaline you felt when the game really picked up speed!
Nuts & Bolts
During your travels, if you look hard enough, you will come across golden bolts that unlock new skins for your robot and… stunts? The latter are funny little extras, but they don’t seem to be there for anything but spectacle, again a bit of a waste in my opinion. But I guess the bolts themselves are a fun little collectable to extend what is otherwise an actually really short game – beatable in just about 2 hours.
The audio in Defunct is quite nice and fits every level really well. Although upon pressing start, I initially thought the music had glitched out, I soon found that each level had a very fitting and soothing soundtrack that only added to the relaxing atmosphere. On the contrary, the music also really picks up during the speed sections, giving you even more of an incent to go faster, faster, and faster!!
Visuals & Performance
This is very much a budget title with a very limited team to back it up, but for that the game still looks quite nice. Many textures have this charming blocky feel to them, and especially in the forest areas during daytime, the game looks absolutely gorgeous!
The performance on the other hand. Oh boy… For the most part the game ran smoothly, don’t get me wrong. But it did crash on me on one occassion early on, even in an area that didn’t have particularly much activity at all, and numerous times during my playtime, especially during platforming, the game would have some very heavy stutters. I don’t know how the game performs on Steam, but for a 4 year old game, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect optimization issues like this to be gone. They became rarer the further I got into the game though, and during the speed sections they were pretty much absent.
Something that surprised me a bit, was how ridiculously many language options the game had! With even Danish being one of them. Games rarely have my own mothertongue available, even if they are made here, so I couldn’t help but try and switch to it just to see how all the stage names suddenly got Danish names that for some reason reminded me of my time as a kid playing A Bug’s Life on PC. Okay, I’ll give ya that, Defunct, you got me right in the nostalgia.
At $15/£12 I think the price is a little high for what you get, especially with all of the early performance issues, the useless extras, and most of all, the game’s very short length. But at a sale I would recommend it, if you are up for a charming speedy platforming adventure that is a bit unusual and doesn’t involve a blue hedgehog for a change. We got a new speed freak in town, and he’s goin’ places!
Fun fast paced platformer
Needs better unlockables