Review: 50 Pinch Barrage!!

50 Pinch Barrage!! comes from Mobile & Game Studio, founded by Masanobu Endō of Xevious fame. With that kind of classic pedigree, 50 Pinch Barrage!! has a lot to live up to. It’s a simple project, one of arcade fundamentals and charming graphics, but 50 Pinch Barrage!! on 3DS is competing with some heavyweights in the platformer scene, and I’m not just talking about Nintendo’s own Mario. With modern classics like Shovel Knight stealing the spotlight, can a simple little indie venture like this take center stage?

50 Pinch Barrage!! is a collective of 50 stages. The objective of the game is straightforward; dodge the various traps and dangers to reach the end of a stage. Then it’s on to the next one. Your moveset is extremely basic, sticking to the tried-and-true running, jumping, crouching, and crawling. However, using faster movements or movements that require a lot of strength like climbing vines will drain your stamina, shown by beads of sweat from your character. If you overexert yourself, you’ll drop from that ledge or you’ll stop in your tracks to catch your breath. This requires you to pace yourself throughout these levels, and while that’s an interesting mechanic, it drags the game’s momentum down to a stop-and-go nightmare. This game wants you to be fast, but thanks to a one-hit-and-you’re-dead design philosophy and the restrictive stamina feature, you’re constantly forced to take your time and plan.

But planning requires sacrifice. Hundreds of failures of sacrifice, actually. 50 Pinch Barrage!! is the poster child of trial-and-error gameplay. It is near impossible to finish a stage first-try, all due to hazards appearing from nowhere and various one-chance situations. The level design is interesting, but thanks to an erratic pacing, you feel at odds with the shift from an Indiana Jones-style boulder dash to a tenuous climb atop ledges. The game is exhausting to play; you’ll routinely die for some awkward, or even outright cryptic reason, but even then, that’s not why 50 Pinch Barrage!! is such a mess.

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It’s the controls. Earlier, I mentioned that 50 Pinch Barrage!! wants you to work quickly, outrunning hazards on the spot. The stamina function is already intrusive for this game’s design, but the controls are where everything goes sour. Your character has an awkward sense of speed; instead of stopping on a dime, he slides a little, meaning you often need to compensate for his slowdown. His jump is incredibly stiff, giving you limited control over where you land. Landing too sharply causes your character to freeze in place. His crouch and how he climbs ledges are delayed by brief animations, almost in a Prince of Persia fashion. Actually, this is more like an archaic NES/Super NES game like Lester the Unlikely, which has purposely convoluted movement mechanics and more complex animations instead. And don’t get me started on the terrible swimming controls, some of the worst underwater controls I’ve ever experienced in a video game. As you can guess, 50 Pinch Barrage!! doesn’t control well. It’s too stiff and clunky for a game that intends for the player to work fast and think on their feet, leaving trial-and-error level memorization as the only worthwhile tactic when navigating the lone 50 levels, and even then it’s frustrating.

For what it’s worth, though, 50 Pinch Barrage!! is at least creative in its level design. Harkening back to Pitfall on the Atari 2600, you’ll be crossing gator-filled ponds, swinging on vines, and leaping over gaps. Later stages introduce caves with toxic goo, falling rocks, and even mine carts. Though the archaic controls and frustrating collision detection are obnoxious, the levels themselves have a nice bit of variety. While I would’ve liked a few more kinds of stages when it comes to themes, the game uses the different settings creatively. Sound, on the other hand, is minimalist, but is ruined by your character’s agonizing death cries. In a game when you’re dying repeatedly, it should be a crime to make your character’s death gurgle so irritating to listen to. 50 Pinch Barrage!! is a simple-looking game, and overall, while it could’ve used a bit more creative spark, it does the job okay enough.

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Closing Comments:

50 Pinch Barrage!! is a frustrating platformer whose stiff control and trial-and-error gameplay ruin whatever simple novelty it holds. The controls are cumbersome and don’t fit in with the game’s demand to keep the player moving. Levels never accommodate for the awkward control and nearly all fifty stages to have at least some bit of frustration to them. It’s a nightmare in pacing, all topped off with agonizing sound design. The levels do use the Pitfall-esque aesthetic well enough, however, and the graphic design in general is charming. At $2.99, some brief moments of fun might be found in 50 Pinch Barrage!!, but its unpolished gameplay can’t be ignored. 50 Pinch Barrage!! is a textbook example of archaic design and control; even at a budget price, this isn’t worth your hard-earned cash.