GUEST REVIEW – CHROMA SQUAD

ChromaDR

Behold Studios | PC | Available Now

GUEST REVIEW WRITTEN BY: Conor Roy Rochon

Chroma Squad is what you’d get if Earthbound and XCOM had a baby, then raised her on an exclusive media diet of old Power Rangers reruns.

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The Ultra Agents: Anna White, DJ Sonar, Jesse Gear, Vicky Marlene, and, um, the yellow one.

I didn’t know anything about Chroma Squad, the latest Kickstarter game from Behold  Studios,  so I decided to shell out $16 and see what the fuss was about. A Sentai tactics RPG? I love tactics games, and I’d like to know what Sentai is. Why the heck not?

I’m not sure I managed to scratch that tactics itch (which has been festering since Enemy Within) and I’m more confused about the Sentai genre than ever, but after spending more than 15 hours with Chroma Squad I walked away with a goofy smile on my face that lingered for a couple days. Money well spent.

Chroma Squad is a game about running a Five-Man Band in colour-coded outfits who battle evil with kung-fu, love, and giant robots. Or maybe it’s a game about running a successful TV studio. Or maybe it’s both. Either way, if you can’t get your party to work as a team the earth will be overrun by wacky, genocidal monsters—which the television executives assure you will be bad for your ratings.

When we Work Together…

The core gameplay is turn-based tactics battles. Your squad has five member each with their own special abilities based on their role. You equip them with weapons and armor—which you craft from bits of cardboard and plasticine dropped by defeated foes—and you guide them as they punch their way through legions of grayscale minions and fanciful, multi-coloured bosses.

 ChromaP3
Spoiler Warning: At least one of those bosses is a giant walking set of teeth.

What sets this game apart is teamwork actions. Each of your Sentai can end their turn early, strike a pose, and get ready to help out their allies. Other squad mates can use these teamworking heroes as launchpads to perform acrobatic maneuvers and increase the distance of their move. Attacking an enemy within range of a team working hero will cause them to help out and deal bonus damage. Battles become largely about balancing teamwork actions with special abilities to make sure your heavy hitters are hitting every round.

Each combat scene also comes with a set of instructions from the director which act as bonus objectives. These are things like “hit the boss every round”, “perform 6 team attacks”, “keep your leader standing”, etc. While these objectives are simple, they give you reasons to keep your squad moving around, which keeps things from ever getting too stale.

…Despite our Flaws…

This is a game where you can shoot a giant bicep-pigeon with a rainbow laser, so I found I was able to look past a lot of the issues I came across. That said, all the fun I had with Chroma Squad also comes with a handful of complaints.

I wish it was harder. I think things out, but I’m no tactics vet. I started my playthrough on the hardest available difficulty expecting to get stomped, but I breezed through the first couple seasons of my TV show with no troubles at all, and by the final season my squad had so many healing abilities that battles started to feel like a grind rather than challenging—though the final few bosses are suitably epic.

Ditto for the Kaiju battles. Teaming up into giant-robot mode has some cool mechanics behind it (you play a game of chicken with the combo counter—each strike makes you more likely to miss but make turn-ending special abilities stronger) but it didn’t take long to work out a pattern of punch-punch-punch-GIANT LASER that won every fight. Add to that the fact that sometimes these skyscraper beatdowns are inexplicably laggy and you can see why the Kaiju battles look cool at first and quickly become a chore.

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This is the GIANT LASER part.

I also ran into a handful of game ending bugs. Members of my squad would sometimes move onto enemies like they weren’t even there, only to get punched in the face by the untargetable fiends. And animations would sometimes cancel out other actions leaving combatants wobbling around endlessly in their fighting stances. The upshot is that Behold has easy to use bug reporting implemented in the game and hopefully they will get these issues sorted out soon.

…Our Love Will Prevail over Evil.

If you think my headings are covered in gooey cheese you should see the writing in-game. I enjoyed every minute of over-the-top cornball dialogue, try-hard inspirational character arcs, and puppy-stomping villains with no motivation—because EVIL!

Chroma Squad knows exactly what it is. A light game with a lot of heart. I don’t make the Earthbound comparison lightly. So much of this game reminds me of that SNES landmark, from the bright and cheery pixel art, to the plot pushes aside things like consistency in favor of charming nonsense. Chroma Squad is just fun, and it wants you to have fun.

It’s a good time to be playing indie games my friends. I feel like we are getting hit with the first big wave of games supported through crowdfunding and early access, and I couldn’t be more excited about what we’ll get next. Go play Chroma Squad. If nothing else, I guarantee it will make you smile.

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