Review: Until I Have You

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Do you know why “idea guys” are so useless in the game industry? It’s because the concept for a game is just the beginning of the long road to greatness. A great game is made from mechanics and content that build off of the concept into experiences that challenge and enthrall the player. Wormwood Studios absolutely proved they could do that with Primordia, but their showing in Until I Have You suggests that their talents for design may not extend past point-and-click adventures. As much as I might want to enjoy an emotional cyberpunk noir action thriller, frustrating platforming and awful enemies make that nearly impossible.

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Your hero is the classic assassin with a heart of gold, a brutal killer who wants out of the game and sees his beloved wife snatched up as revenge for his insolence. Instead of giving in like no protagonist ever did, he finds himself an exoskeleton that makes him even deadlier than he was to begin with. Armed with his newfound metal bones, a baseball bat, and a little pea-shooter of a gun, he’s on a mission to kill his way up the chain until he finally wrenches his woman from the hands of his masters. But there’s a lot of blood to spill along the way, and if that doesn’t take its toll on him then the strange side effects of the exoskeleton might.

Until I Have You is absolutely steeped in navel-gazing noir, the kind where every neon light reminds him of the sparkle in her eye and every portrait on the wall ignites a simmering rage in his soul. It’s the kind of overwrought drama that’s hilarious unless played straight, and here it’s played woefully straight with some amateur voice acting to give the awkward brooding some life. It gets harder to cope with when you find yourself battling cyber samurai cosplayers unironically, and even moreso when your character grumbles about cuts deeper than any samurai sword. You’re either going to be chuckling and shaking your head at the cutscenes, or skipping them outright to get back to the action.

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Then again, you might not find yourself so eager to get back to the action. Until I Have You is split into twelve stages, each containing about half a dozen scenes. These scenes are the actual levels of the game, short platforming challenges that last less than a minute when executed correctly. Most of the time they’re simply a matter of going all the way to the right, leaping bottomless pits and clubbing enemies to death along the way. Your murderdude can get a real head of steam going, and will need to when the platforms get scarce enough that you’re making leaps of faith off the side of the screen. And that’s just a warm-up for when you have to time those jumps to speeding trains or security guards that can kill you in one hit with their seemingly random attacks.

There’s nothing wrong with a good challenge platformer but this one is way too stiff and unforgiving to make your progress gratifying. Your basic attacks are a bat swung in a tiny, canned arc and a pistol that glows like a child’s toy when you fire it. Movement is slippery, and while your jump is functional just running into the side of a platform can glitch it out. You simply won’t ever feel like you’re properly equipped for the challenges you face, and that goes double for the awful, awful boss fights. Each has an extremely obvious pattern that you’re still going to die to because the controls won’t do what you want them to or the hitboxes decide that standing slightly behind the cyber-samurai is deserving of death off a forward-lunging swing.

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I approached Until I Have You with plenty of optimism, eager to see what the folks behind Primordia could do with an intense cyberpunk setting. But it all feels so wasted, even the grim neon city that feels relegated to backdrops and curious vistas I would rather hear about than my character’s constant lamentations. The mechanics simply aren’t there to keep the action engaging, even as they add cool-sounding stuff like time dilation and a hysteria meter. I toughed my way through four stages of frustrating platforming and infuriating bosses and it only got worse, not better. Maybe if you’ve tired of better platformers you can try tackling this one, but you’re going to have to run through a lot before I can believe this is the best that’s left.

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