Driven Out is a Retro 16 bit action game developed by No Pest Productions. It releases October 18th on Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard Xbox One console.
Driven Out is a simple game. You traverse the 2D world in a side-scrolling fashion and kill things with your sword. You can perform a high, low and middle block as well as a high, low and middle attack. Time your block just right and you perform a parry. However, the game’s concept is one of brutal difficulty and pattern recognition. You can only take three hits before going down and you can’t regain your health.
When you die you respawn just after the last boss or at your witchcraft contraption. A device you can place down a limited number of times between bosses. Prepare to die a lot; Driven Out is unforgiving, there are no short cuts, special items or alternative strategies. To progress, you hone your reflexes and learn each enemy’s animation patterns, or you don’t progress.
Driven Out has a very retro 16-bit graphical design. The presentation is crisp and easy on the eyes. Its design isn’t so much a limitation, as a feature because the various sprites and environments are very well done and a joy to look at. Retro doesn’t always mean ugly and Driven Out is a prime example of it.
The animations are smooth and expertly crafted. Especially for the enemy sprites, of which there is a huge variety. The sound is solid. The clanks and dings of weapons striking one another sound satisfying as do the enemy and ambient effects. The music is nothing special but its not bad either.
Driven Out Gameplay
The gameplay is incredibly straight forward. You encounter enemies, block, parry, and strike until you die or you win. There is a large variety of enemies and they will challenge your approach in different ways. Learning the animation patterns to each enemy type and tackling them over and over again is the key to victory. You are going to die a lot.
Some enemies are straight forward, a knight might do a high swing and pause for you to hit them. While others get more complex. Some launch combo moves that must be blocked in quick succession. Others have a kind of stamina you have to wear down by defending before you can land a blow.
The enemy variety stays fresh and keeps you on your toes. The moment you master one, you have to learn a whole new foe to continue forward. It is incredibly satisfying to be stuck on an enemy and have that “Aha” moment and beat them. You can place a checkpoint called a witchcraft contraption a couple of times per boss fight. If you die you can respawn at it instead of just after the last boss. Timing the placement of these checkpoints can save you a lot of headaches, but can also make your life worse if you place them in a bad spot.
I love challenging games. However, Driven Outs structure is so strict I don’t feel like I’m getting better, even when I succeed. The attack patterns are so precise and require so much focus, it nearly becomes a rhythm game rather than an action game. Okay, this baddie swings up, down, up middle and strike. Oh, it has a second animation that goes, middle, middle up.
You are technically improving, of course, your timing and memory are skills after all. It just doesn’t feel all that engaging. The boss fights can turn things up, but boil down to the same thing. Each new sprite is less a new enemy and more of a new pattern to memorize. That can be fun, but you really have to enjoy that sort of gameplay. There is no progression, items or anything else in Driven Out. The game you played five minutes in, will be the same game you play five hours in, just with new enemy sprites.
Driven Out isn’t a bad game and it certainly has a niche audience out there. I almost feel like it can be placed in the same category as Getting Over It with Bennet Foddy. It is a game that’s going to frustrate you and push you to become better at one thing. That one thing in Driven Out is timing.
The retro graphics look great and the animations are superb. But I don’t feel like there is enough “game” there for the price of admission. If you really enjoy timing or pattern memorization, the 2D action game coating could be a nice change of pace. Otherwise, try out the demo on Steam if you can or pick it up on sale.
A copy of the game was provided to Gideon’s Gaming for the purposes of review by No Pest Productions.
Enjoy challenging side scrolling games? Check out my review of Chrono Ghost!
- Beautiful 16-bit graphical design
- Great Animations
- Succeeding can feel satisfying
- One trick pony, very little gameplay variety
- The combat boils down to timing on a scale that makes it more of a rhythm game than an action game
- Not much content for the price.