DLC Quest

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DLC Quest
Xbox 360 and PC
Developed by Going Loud Studios
Released in 2011

I used to hang around a lot on forums and was particularly active around the time when gamers really began to rise against bad practice surrounding downloadable content (DLC). There were, and still are, a lot of ways in which DLC can be handled in ways that are really a middle finger to the consumer, so when a game came out called DLC Quest, I found myself wondering whether it would be a joke game or offer something actually fun to play. The answer, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle.

Money buys everything

In DLC Quest you play as a hero in the parody of an adventure game. The opening establishes that a bad guy captures a princess and thus you’ll have to go save her. Except the joke is that you can’t actually do anything, everything you’d expect a game like this to have is locked off until you purchase it from the DLC vendor. Jumping, sound-effects, actual animations, it’s all there in the game, you just have to buy it.

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Once you have the basics under your control the goal of the game becomes to explore the map and gather coins. You’ll run into new obstacles at every turn, each of which requires a different kind of DLC to overcome. This is the central flaw in the game’s design: it’s clear that it’s making fun of something, but the joke falls flat because it itself is not fun to play. The game offers you a generic, 8-bit map to explore with maybe fifteen minutes of content if you take your sweet time with it, and all you have to do is pick up coins and trade them in to get slightly further. It’s over in a few minutes and feels distinctly like somebody’s alpha version of an actual RPG where you just get a placeholder sprite bouncing around the map for a bit.

Comedy is supposed to substitute gameplay here and the jokes are both obvious and rarely funny. The parody is blatant with everything revolving around DLC, like tasking you with hitting X 10,000 times to get your sword or just walking back a few steps to buy it from the DLC vendor for 10 coins. It isn’t so hilarious you’ll find yourself laughing out loud, but moments like these gave me the early impression that DLC Quest might be unto something. Except a lot of the other jokes fall flat because there is no setup to any of it, yet as a seasoned gamer it’s obvious what lame joke they were attempting.

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For example, an NPC will just outright say something along the lines of: “I have nothing significant to say. I don’t even know why the developer put me here”. Yeah, I get it, characters in roleplaying games are often useless sods, but the game does that like three times. It’s embarrassing, like watching a stand-up comedian too oblivious to realize his act is getting zero reaction; I greeted every new gag in the game with a sigh, every obvious dig at silly game design or dumb industry practice, because there is comedic value in those things that you could tap into, but just going “Hey, how about those immersion-shattering pop-up windows huh! Remember horse armor?” doesn’t cut it.

The game works, for what it’s worth. Using the vendor is easy enough and the game conveniently puts a second one on the other side of the map to minimize the travel back and forth. A few jokes work and collecting coins is functional, but besides that I can’t say much else in its favor unless you are particularly into jokes about gaming controversies from 10 years ago.

Gameplay & Story score: 2/10

All the 8 bits are here

It’s a bit weird that a game poking fun at recent developments in gaming opted to go with an art-style reminiscent of a time when these issues didn’t exist. I suppose that’s the limit of being an indie game and I think this game came out before Unity became as widespread as it is. Nevertheless, DLC Quest looks okay for an 8-bit title, with fun designs for the characters and nice-looking menus and dialogue boxes.

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While it lingers on areas a tad too long, over time DLC Quest does show itself to have more to the world design than the simple grassland you start out in, but as far as 8-bit indie games go it’s not by any means remarkable. Likewise, the chiptune music provided by Ozzed sounds nice, yet feels a bit too generic and lacking in punch.

Presentation score: 5/10

Verdict

That review ended up kind of short, though I suppose that’s what happens when reviewing a game less than an hour long. At the beginning of indie month I praised Redshirt for being a parody that had the good sense to build an interesting and engaging game around its central joke. If the game isn’t any fun to play, then whatever comedic material you have won’t amuse players either because they are bored. Then again, if your jokes are as bad as they are here, then I suppose a boring game suits it just fine.

35/100

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