Review: Twin Sector

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Millennia ago, before the advent of Steam Greenlight or even user reviews, it was rare to find a title on the platform that was just outright bad. There was a small selection of underwhelming titles to be had, though, and Twin Sector could always be found circling the drain of that particular tub. I never knew why or even what it was really about, other than being a first-person puzzle game akin to Portal. A small part of me held out hope that it was just misunderstood or interestingly flawed (I foolishly hold this hope for all of Steam’s Weeklong Deal underclass). Now that I’ve spent some time with it I understand exactly why it has the reputation it does, and why I can tell you to stay the hell away from it.

Twin Sector casts you as Ashley Simms, a lumpy Poser vixen that just happens to be cool and good at everything, from professional sports to saving orphans. The six and a half minute cutscene the game opens with has her being fawned over by some future space military before being shipped off to cryosleep in a station orbiting Earth to wait out the end of global warming or whatever other MAN-MADE disaster boned the planet. She awakens face-first on the floor, suffering from plot amnesia that the station’s gormless AI is happy to selectively fill her in on. The place is falling apart and she just happens to be up and about, so get ready to flip a lot of switches in inexplicable positions.

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“Gormless”, by the way, is an adjective that describes something “lacking intelligence” and also happens to be the perfect descriptor of this game. Twin Sector is ostensibly a puzzle game, equipping you with glowy space gloves that can push or pull things at a distance and expecting you to negotiate puzzle rooms with them. In practice this means three things: Force-jumping up to high ledges, cushioning long falls so falling damage doesn’t kill you, and hucking barrels and garbage balls at switches. None of the halls or chambers of Twin Sector present much challenge in sussing out WHAT you have to do or HOW you have to do it, only in getting your stupid gloves to do what you HAVE to do. Puzzles tend to be little more than finding the hatch or pipe or switch you need to get to to proceed, sometimes requiring boxes to block deadly lasers or explosive barrels to break doors with.

I really cannot overstate how dull and unengaging every aspect of Twin Sector is but by God I’m going to try. Every single one of the game’s 17 levels is comprised entirely of featureless concrete or featureless metal, with the occasional pipe or fluorescent light to give any sense of immersion. Rooms make absolutely no sense as actual places, with elevator buttons stuck to 20-foot ceilings and computer consoles on ledges with no perceptible access. Your AI assistant guides you through these depthless halls like he’s directing a kindergartner, devoid of any sort of identifiable personality. Ashley is no better, giving vacant responses to simple commands and facts. Your movement is slow, your powers are finicky, and the physics are going to be working against you for most of the game.

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There is no compelling reason to subject yourself to the vapid puzzles on display here. There’s no compelling story to follow, no impressive designs to behold, no environments to marvel at, and no great puzzles to tax your brain. The only thing you’ll get more of as you progress is frustration as the puzzles introduce more and more ways to kill you for not doing exactly what you have to do. It’s all the more frustrating when the answers are apparent and the execution is what, well, executes you, and that’s the case for almost every challenge. Twin Sector has certainly earned its reputation, managing to fail every possible test of quality that a fully-realized game can fail.

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