SXPD Hands-On Preview

What happens when you cross a seasoned game director, an homage to an old 8-bit game, and a futuristic comic book? Apparently you get SXPD, the new project of veteran game developer David Perry (of Earthworm Jim fame) and Little Chicken Game Company. 

Perry worked pro bono on the project that is being published by OneBigGame, a company that calls themselves “the world’s first and only non-profit publisher of videogames.” According to their website, “OneBigGame aims to raise funds to help solve problems afflicting children around the world. The nature of these problems can be diverse, but the kind of projects OBG supports will always revolve around a structural improvement in children’s lives, expanding their opportunities in life.”

So you can feel good that your gaming money has gone to a just cause, but how good is the game itself? Well, I’ve played the soft launch version, and the developer claims they will be adding new features, including new modes and a more elaborate tutorial. But what I have played is a very solid title with a good story and exciting gameplay, as well as a cool noir-style presentation.

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The  story of SXPD is told through comic book pages, drawn by famed graphic novel artist and writer Duke Mighten (Batman, Judge Dredd, Afro Samurai). The style is reminiscent of the Sin City comics or the Nintendo Wii game Mad World. Everything is in stark black and white, with little bits of color here and there, giving the world a gritty look that fits the mood of the story perfectly.

SXPD also manages to create a seamless transition from comic book pages to gameplay, as the same visual style of the comic pages is used in the action portions of the game. The effect really manages to keep you engaged in the story and makes you feel like you are actively taking part in it.

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Without spoiling any specifics, the story itself has a definite Judge Dredd feel to it, but it doesn’t feel like a copy of that series at all. Split up into six chapters, it takes place in a future version of the United States, where your character is a cop in a new privately owned state called New Royale. You have to fight a secret group in posession of a weapon of mass destruction, and recover it at all costs. The story does a good job of setting up the action scenes and giving you a reason to care what happens in them.

The action scenes all take place on your bike, where you race through various environments in a first-person view, dodging obstacles or chasing down and shooting bad guys. This is the part of the game that was inspired by the old 8-bit ZX Spectrum game 3D Deathchase. These portions of the game can be rather difficult, and can take several retries to finish them, so be warned. However, they’re as fun as they are hard, and you really feel like a badass when you’re dodging in and out of various structures while gunning down your adversaries.

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Right now you can download the game from the Canadian app store, and the developers expect a world-wide launch in about four weeks. This is only the first episode of SXPD, so do not expect a complete story in this app. The developer has stated that more episodes will be made if this one does well enough. I hope it does, because I would love to see this series continue.