Oh, another retro-chique first-person shooter on the market? Not exactly surprising at this point. What sets This Strange Realm Of Mine – developed and published by Doomster Entertainment – apart from the rest of the shooters out there is its attempt to be a deep, meaningful and wholesome experience outside of merely shooting baddies. Unfortunately, i t just doesn’t hit the mark on either of these fronts.
First thing you should know is that you died. Game over. Better off next time. You suck. OK, in all seriousness, you end up inside a cosy little tavern, home to a friendly chap called Ulrich. Think of him as your spirit guide. He’ll open up portals to different realms and dimensions for you to explore, where you’ll fight nasty monsters and chat with people along the way.
Thing is, there’s more of an emphasis on the storytelling rather than the combat, which is pretty barebones as it is. There aren’t many guns to use, and the melee weapons are about as hard-hitting as a swing to the face from a child armed with a rubber chicken. Enemies tend to flock toward you on-sight, so fighting them off is just grating. Normally, strafing or moving backwards while attacking would be recommended in a game like this, but your character moves at an unbearably slow rate.
You’ll come across a fair few characters along your journey. Their personalities are pretty samey. Everyone is keen on spouting pages of pseudo-philosophy about the afterlife, the existence of God, anxiety, and the like. None of it is particularly enjoyable to read or thought-provoking. Pretty much anyone can string together large, complex questions about existence, but that doesn’t make it any deeper. The intermission screens even feature extracts of bland poetry that look like they were originally transcribed from a teenager’s notebook.
In between shooting bad guys down a series of linear corridors (their simplistic, linear design make them a slog to get through), and endearing the lengthy discussions about nothing important, the game does try to mix things up during very brief intervals. While they don’t drag out for long, most of them aren’t enough to leave an impression. At one point, you’ll be flying a spaceship from a 2D-perspective, as well as chopping trees and shooting oversized grapes out of the air to turn them into wine. Sadly, none of these really sweeten the pot; they feel like undercooked and shallow inclusions.
At least there are a few nuggets of fun in this one. It’s pretty good at creating an otherworldly atmosphere, as seen by some of the spooky levels that you’ll come across. The final missions, while void of a legitimate boss fight, are very trippy with some creative visual effects. Riding down the raft while dodging planks of wood and creepy hands proved to be the most tolerable vehicle segment, and is actually fairly challenging.
This Strange Realm Of Mine is an ambitious attempt at trying to be many things at once. Alas, it succeeds in very few areas. Its subpar shooting, pretentious commentary, and predominantly bland level design are insults to injury for it. Considering it’s priced at around a tenner, paying that for only a few hours of gameplay with little replayability. As creative as the game is, choosing a mindless sprite-based shooter over it would be a no-brainer.
Review code donated by developers.