Game developers constantly try to provide visceral and challenging experiences yet there's a fine line between that and frustration. 8DAYS features an interesting blend of gameplay mechanics but do they add up to fun?
8DAYS is played like most twin-stick shooters in that you run around avoiding projectiles with the left stick and aim with the right stick. Additionally, you tap a shoulder button to shoot and a couple others to reload and switch to your alternate weapon. As you play, you can pick up firearms that are dropped by enemies or conveniently found lying on the ground. Seeing as there are a variety of them such as machine guns, flamethrowers, and even melee weapons; equipping two capable pieces requires constant juggling due to the very limited ammunition. This also means that you'll want to make sure each bullet hits an opponent because if you run out of ammo then you're a sitting duck. You could always try to navigate through stages stealthily although some areas feature few structures to hide behind. Overall, the mix of shooting while conserving ammo and stealth is actually quite promising but does it remain enjoyable throughout the campaign?
Visually, 8DAYS is yet another retro-inspired indie with graphics reminiscent of an early 16-bit game. However, its subject matter is pretty heavy as you fight an evil corporation known as GOD (gold, oil, diamonds). The violence that unfolds throughout the adventure is hard to stomach such as when you accidentally murder local farmers and animals while exchanging gunfire with corporate soldiers. Unlike Hotline Miami which feels gritty and surreal, the bleak tone here contrasts with its visuals which look rather cute and cartoony.
The music in 8DAYS is probably its best feature due to its tension-filled rhythms and trippy beats. Therefore, it pains me to say that the soundtrack is ruined by a poorly implemented adaptive music aspect. For example, the music changes when you're spotted by an enemy. Instead of having the music intensify, it basically plays an alternate track that abruptly cuts in to the current music and cuts back out when the threat is gone. It sounds awkward but it does serve its purpose. Speaking of awkward, the goofy vocal effects when people scream or grunt makes 8DAYS feel even more cartoonish which again contrasts with its serious tone.
Back to the gameplay, 8DAYS is a very frustrating game. A basic example of this is that you can fall off the edge of some stages resulting in your immediate death which just feels cheap and unfair. As I've already touched upon, you can run out of ammo. However, you can also run low on health. In other words, if you trigger a checkpoint with no ammo remaining and only one bar of health left, you'll continue with that exact same amount. Once you learn that 8DAYS does this to you, you'll purposely commit suicide before reaching checkpoints if you got hit too many times or wasted too much ammo. That may sound silly and that's because it is.
Finally, bullets don't always go exactly where you're aiming. This would be okay if you didn't have limited ammo but missing constantly only to run out of bullets is nothing short of irritating. Also, enemy fire can be next to impossible to avoid as it seems to hit you even when you're running around in unpredictable patterns. In the end, luck plays far too much of a role for 8DAYS to be fun.
Before I wrap up this review, I should mention a couple of additional points. First, the boss fights are admittedly rather cool. Mastering them is quite tough but once you get their patterns down and finally beat them, it's very satisfying. Lastly, you can play cooperatively with another local player. However, doing so actually makes 8DAYS a lot more difficult because the camera is restricted. You pan the camera wherever you aim in single player but playing cooperatively ensures that both players can be seen so you'll frequently run into an off-screen foe without being the wiser. Basically, this makes co-op mode largely unplayable.
8DAYS may have a solid premise but the execution of its mechanics isn't well handled. I imagine that if the developers retooled all of its irritating elements, 8DAYS would be an easily recommendable title. As it is, I doubt anyone could thoroughly enjoy it.
- + Promising blend of stealth, twin-stick shooting, and ammo conservation
- + Some boss fights are pretty cool
- - Gameplay is monotonous, frustrating, and relies far too much on luck
- - Conflicting and awkward visuals and audio
- - Co-op has a very problematic camera