Final Exam (2D Action Platforming Video Game Review)
When creators do attempt to use a comic horror style in their games, the results vary in many ways. Gameplay may be done in the style of action, platforming, RPG, Point-and-Click, or First Person Shooting. Even the look and tone can vary from the games of Suda 51, such as Lollipop Chainsaw, Shadows of the Damned, or Killer is Dead, to classic titles like Maniac Mansion or Grabbed by the Ghoulies. One of the cult classic comic horror games from the 16-bit era was Zombie Ate My Neighbors which showed the creator’s love of B-horror movies, silver age American comic art, and the sense of comedy that can come with the absurd, while not being overly concerned with the fear aspect of horror. This game would inspire other creators, and games such as Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia for the Xbox 360 would show the love of the old top down genres. A game that may have gained inspiration in style, but not gameplay, is Final Exam.
Final Exam follows four friends on their way to their old high school for a big party, however upon arriving in the small town of their alma mater they are met with mysterious creatures that begin to attack. The player is allowed to select from the four friends, Brutal Joe, Cassy, Nathan, and Sean, who each adhere to their respective stereotypes of jock, raver, geek, and militant. A player must navigate their selected character through the sidescrolling beat ‘em up levels defeating multiple enemies, collecting various objects, and completing varying challenges that depart from the regular gameplay style. Each character is able to use combination of a melee weapon, firearm, and grenade to battle their way to the creator of the aggressive creatures that are plaguing the town.
The tone and art style are very enjoyable, and while there are hints of inspiration from previously mention titles, there is also a healthy dose of influence from modern titles like Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. Melee combat is solid, with enough depth in the combo system to chain various moves together without becoming over complicated, and after a bit of time with the firearm mechanic, it too becomes a strong part of the arsenal. While the game is primarily a sidescrolling action game, there are moments were certain objectives in particular levels will create an environment for different game mechanics, such as a Galaga-like tower defense game, or a tank driving and destruction section. These short, but very entertaining, sections help break the monotony of the 2D beat’em up, which is greatly needed.
While the majority of the game moves smoothly, with each level providing a multitude of different backgrounds to fight on and each stage having new weapons that can be discovered, there are moments when the fighting becomes boring and overly repetitive. This problem stems from the lack of regular enemy designs. With only six regular enemy types which spawn in great numbers, there is nothing really new to look at in terms of what is being fought; which is unfortunate because of how much of the game is spent battling the regular monsters to achieve higher combos, for more points to buy new upgrades. The bosses at the end of each section are, thankfully, unique and have a good amount of variation over the six standard monsters.
Because of the problems listed above, this game will satisfy fans of games with its particular tone and look, as well as those looking for a solid 2D beat’em up. Due to the game being solid entry in the genre those with limited time should pass on this one, as it doesn’t add much to the genre compared to other titles. Personally, I hope that the developers continue to make games this style as this is a very good first attempt. Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and Steam, while this game may be a bit older, it is a good addition to the fan’s digital library.