Final Exam is a PS3 game developed by Mighty Rocket Studio that was published by Focus Home Interactive. The game released on Nov. 5 and looks to provide a serious beat down to the side-scrolling genre. Fast-paced action mixed with a clever sense of humor allow for a fun combination and great activity to enjoy with friends or solo, as beating off strange creatures has never been more exciting. Even the tutorial adds a fair bit of fun and introduces Final Exam in a very easy to grasp fashion and works hard to get the player right into the action.
High-School reunion gets overrun by mutant freaks and only four close friends (of varying cliques) can team up to stop them. Thus is the plot of Final Exam. A tongue-in-cheek homage to classic horror movie plots/games, Final Exam adds humor to classic tropes like saving the survivors (one of whom is an overweight child that needs to be lured onto the rescue bus with candy) and holding out until the getaway vehicle can be fixed (with a mechanic bearing a striking resemblance to the famed Brooklynite Mario). These clever bits of story linked in with the general objective of escaping the mutant monstrosities add flavor to the 2.5D side-scroller and keeps the action exciting and fresh. The background of the four playable characters (respectively Nerd, Jock, Alternative Chick and Gang-banger) also adds a nice touch of variety to the player’s journey, and while they ultimately control the same, their special abilities (and maximum stat capability) keep them unique and give Final Exam a fair amount of replayability.
As noted previously, the characters all have a very different approach. The nerd is better with explosives, while the gang-banger is better with guns. The logic being the nerd is a tech-geek and the gang-banger… well he’s a street hoodlum. This bit of plot adds to the gameplay by giving out stats that really suit the characters of Final Exam and in turn keeps the action interesting. The controls for each character remain the same, only the special-ability activation buttons result in different actions based on the chosen character. Movement and interaction will take a bit of time to fully get the hang of, but don’t hinder the flow of gameplay, which is a big deal as enemies will come at the player fast and hard. The diverse levels and enemy variety will also serve to keep Final Exam fresh as the game slowly weans the player onto new enemy types throughout the levels. From subway to sewer to carnival, the levels will keep the player interested while maintaining a solid through-line as they are able to see obvious travel progression of the protagonists without jumps in time. Also the simple notion of collectibles throughout the levels (which give bonus points to the more explore-friendly players which can be used to upgrade their characters) adds a great deal of fun in replaying levels and trying to find a balance mid-level of simply surviving while also exploring the level itself. All of the above combined with varying gameplay styles (escort missions, defend points and even a mounted vehicle section) and mini-game style boss fights (as well as other challenges) give enough variety for any player to find something to love.
2.5D is something of an anomaly as it’s a way to give the beauty of 3D gaming, while maintaining the gameplay of 2D side-scrollers, and Final Exam toes that line beautifully. The backgrounds are nothing short of amazing with levels of a great scale that give the player plenty to explore and appreciate. Character models are diverse enough to recognize easily, and the same can be said of enemies, which helps a great deal with tons of enemies swarming the screen at a steady pace. The distinction of enemies in Final Exam is especially appreciated as some enemies simply charge you, others use ranged attacks (or even fly) and will require a different approach which requires quick thinking and even quicker enemy recognition. Another helpful point in enemy recognition is sound; the enemies have a variety of sound effects that will also help to identify them quicker. This combined with the howl of the enemies as they approach, or the digging noise as they pop up from the ground only serve to enhance gameplay as Final Exam is meant to be fast-paced, and serves that idea up with a well-made identification system via visual/audio. The eerie sounds of the many infested areas as well as the distinctive weapon sounds will quiet the orchestra of adrenaline-pumping action as the player explores the levels of Final Exam.
What makes a good thing better? More of it. Final Exam takes what would simply be a good game and makes it great with the addition of multiplayer. Enemies become harder and seem to have experienced a sudden population growth as more players are added to the mix. While a lot of the game becomes more challenging via the increased enemy difficulty, others become easier (such as pushing a cart, one player can push while the other defends) and this keeps the spice of death that much more exciting. Final Exam does multiplayer right by greatly changing the dynamics of the game with the addition of more players as any great game’s multiplayer should play as almost a whole new game in and of itself. The only real complaint regarding the game comes in the lack of HUD for your fellows. Holding down select will reveal their HP and score, but in the heat of battle it would be a nice addition to simply see the other player’s health and other info. Also there is no way to give other players items, so a more greedy player could take the various health items for themselves, but also have to face the horde’s wrath alone.
A fast-paced and fun game, Final Exam delivers on multiple levels and has a high level of replayability on top of hours of fun. Great gameplay mechanics, mixed with a variety of challenges, from item collecting, to NPC protecting (minus the annoyance of having them die every five minutes) offers up a great amount of fun for players of all genres. While the HUD could use a bit of fine tuning, and a few color palettes blend on occasion, all-in-all Final Exam is fresh as a newborn with a comedic element that shines throughout the experience. For only $9.99 (friends not included) Final Exam is definitely worth the investment.