Review: Chaos Domain

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It’s been over a year since I last played Chaos Domain, and I still remember it as possibly the worst platformer I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a lot since then, including terrible parody games and utterly incompetent ripoffs of concepts that were bad to begin with. No, there’s something singularly terrible about Chaos Domain, a game that sits uncomfortably between no-effort cash grabs and poorly-designed passion projects. It’s a game that tries to be an action platformer in such a lazy way that it almost comes of as cynical just by existing.

If you think I’m being too hard on Chaos Domain, know this: One hit kills you, levels can be up to five minutes long, and there are no checkpoints. I’m going to talk about plenty of other facets of the game, but if that’s not sounding the warning bells in your head then maybe you’ve never played a grossly mis-tuned game before. It’s a perfect storm of bullshit designed to waste your time as you get wasted by common enemies and forced to play entire levels over just because one part was designed to be too punishing. But don’t fret if you’re already put off by that little detail, because the rest of the game is almost as bad.

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Chaos Domain dumps you into the cyberboots of future Anubis, fighting hundreds of cyberdudes along wholly unremarkable cybercorridors. Levels have only two components, hallways of fixed height that only scroll in one direction, and shafts that you can platform up and down freely. Platforms mostly hold enemies that fire slow, creeping bullets and die in one hit, but can also be laden with health pickups (more like 1-ups), new guns, or point-granting ankhs. I will go ahead and tell you now that I have no idea what is up with the Egyptian theme, especially since it only extends to the player character and point items.

There are ten chapters, with three levels to a chapter. They take a few minutes to run through, assuming you are quick on the draw and don’t touch any of the numerous enemies, bullets, explosives, explosive barrels, electrified floors, or glitchy crushers littering the corridors. One touch of anything instantly kills you, respawning you in place a moment later and costing you one of your three lives. Lose all three and you start the whole level over. The problem here should be apparent (if it wasn’t before) because as early as the second chapter you’ll be fighting shooting dudes, running dudes, grenade dudes, and rocket launcher dudes all at once.

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Even if the graphics weren’t bland and strangely grainy, even if the weapons didn’t feel like Nerf guns, and even if there were some kind of story at all, Chaos Domain would still be too incompetently designed to stick with. The lowest bar you can set for a platformer is to have a reasonable sort of challenge, and instead of clearing that bar it smacks face-first into it and ends up in a coma. There’s simply no excuse for instant kills and no checkpoints and unavoidable deaths, and with the glut of platformers on Steam there’s no excuse for slogging through this garbage heap of a game.

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