An interesting, original game plagued by repetitive design and frustrating gameplay
"D/Generation" contains many ingredients needed to make a great game. It is almost a genre-defining game - an isometric puzzle-solving arcade action with a story. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Add to this some really cool gameplay gimmicks (such as the optional rescuing of people trapped in Genoq building - each rescued person brings you an extra life!), great suspense and atmopshere (you are not a hero, but just a simple delivery boy who finds himself involved in a mystery far beyond what he has suspected), and you'll have an idea about the high creativity behind the game.
Similar to System Shock
(or is "System Shock" similar to "D/Generation", since it was released much later?), you start in a place where something terrible has happened (and is still happening now), you have no idea about what's going on, the whole area is full of hostile creatures, and you have to assume the role of a hero so unsuitable to you. This concept always works well, and keeps the player in suspense, while he is trying to figure out what the hell is happening here. You gain information by talking to the people you manage to rescue, and by checking out computer terminals scattered all over the place. You start your adventure on the 80th floor of Genoq building, and work your way up to the 90th floor - although it doesn't sound much, it is in fact a long
way to go...
Gameplay is based on two genres: puzzle-solving and arcade action. The structure of the game is essentially that of a puzzle game. The first couple of floors serve as an introduction to main puzzle elements, and the more you progress, the more complicated the combinations of those elements become. For example, you begin in a simple room where you just have to push a switch to turn off a security mechanism. The next room presents a slightly more complicated system of switches, where you have to think what to do first and what next. Gradually, the game introduces to you its whole arsenal of switches, traps, security mechanisms, hostile devices, etc.
The arcade portion is as tricky as in platform games, although you can't jump here. Figure out a pattern of electricity on the floor to pass through it safely, kill off sly blue hopping things, avoid the attention of security mechanisms, and so on. Later in the game, you'll have some grenades to inflict serious damage, explosives, protective shields, and other stuff.
The isometric perspective is not just a matter of design: it is an integral part of the gameplay. The whole game world is diagonally built, and many puzzle require, so to say, "diagonal thinking". Often you'll have to trigger a switch by standing in another roo and firing at it; but since the view is often blocked by furniture or other things, you'll have to make your laser shots bounce off a wall.
The graphics are excellent, with many details, and the animation of enemy movements is fantastic. The game also has a very nice intro. Sound effects are all in place, although the steps of the hero sound a bit strange.
But the true significance of "D/Generation" lies in the fact it took two of the most modest genres - arcade and puzzle - and made out of them an atmospheric, story-driven experience. It will be remembered as one of the most unusual and original games of all times.
Unfortunately, "D/Generation" suffers from repetitive design, and this flaw is so serious that it almost ruins the whole game. As much as the idea of a puzzle game with a story was great, "D/Generation" is still a puzzle game. There is not enough variety in levels: they look all the same - the upper floors are just more complicated variations of the lower ones. The more you progress into the game, the harder the puzzles become - but they don't become any different. They are still of the same "flip the switch" kind - only in the beginning you just had to flip one or two switches, while on higher floors you'll have to deal with more and more complex constructions, requiring you to act with extreme precision, where one false step results in a catastrophe. But if it were just a puzzle game, it would still be a pleasant affair. The problem is, the arcade portion of the game is very tough for a sub-genre: you'll have to concentrate on clearing rooms full of enemies before you can actually start thinking about how to access that damn switch which is blocked by three other switches which are inaccessible because that security mechanism is turning around every time the red bouncing thing hits the switch which I can't access because I don't have the security key which lies behind an inaccessible laser field which I have to penetrate by firing at a switch which is on the other side... and so on, and so on. The result is constant dying. You'll die a lot in this game. A lot, a lot, a lot. And each time you run out of your measly 5 lives (and this will probably happen only too often, although you do get extra lives for rescuing people) you'll have to restart the whole floor. The game's saving system belongs to the most terrible ones I've ever encountered: no matter where you save, if you restore the game, you'll start at the very beginning of the floor. And the floors are very
large, with several large room complexes in each... The isometric perpective makes the whole thing even more frustrating, because you can't even run in a direct line, and crossing simple obstacles such as moving lasers becomes a nightmare. But as I said, the main problem here is the repetitive nature of the puzzles and of level design. The floors look too similar, without any personality, and the things you have to do on them are all the same. Just think of action/puzzle-solving games like Another World
, where each level was a universe of its own, and where each puzzle was unlike the one you faced before...
The Bottom Line
Its concept, its main creative ideas, and many of its gameplay issues would have made "D/Generation" a masterpiece of the same caliber as Another World
, if it only hadn't been so repetitive and so frustrating. As such, "D/Generation" stands as a very interesting game that unfortunately doesn't quite have what it takes to be a real classic. Nevertheless, I highly recommend trying it. Maybe you have more patience than me and will be able to enjoy it more.