Sometimes, as a reviewer, you come across a game that makes you want to write ten times your word limit. A game that makes you want to shout from the rooftops about how beautiful, flawless, and ingenious it is; that makes you swear that you will stop at nothing until it rests safely in the Steam library of everyone you know. And then sometimes, you get a game like Orangeblood.
In every piece of pre-release media (and my own preconceptions), Orangeblood looked like an edgy, quirky, gorgeous game with a sharp vibe and endless possibilities. In the store page images, it looked clear and radiated a distinct 90’s style beauty. In reality, tragically, it’s nothing short of a hot mess.
Coming across like an educational video game made by boomers for an audience of woke teens, Orangeblood exhibits the kind of cringe-inducing language that would leave a millenial Tommy Wiseau wondering what the hell was going on. Words like “lit,” “dope,” “whack,” “crib,” and “thot” are thrown around with reckless abandon, sticking together in some kind of congealed alphabet soup that occasionally makes enough sense to ridicule constructively. Ignoring the spelling mistakes and grammatical slaughter for a moment (although they are in no short supply), the game reeks of tragic thesaurus-grabbing – like trying to emulate the cool crowd and stay relevant in your first week on Earth.
This was all entertainingly terrible, and could have been part of the charm… had I not felt deceived the entire time. Trading Standards need to swoop in and save the day, because the finished product in no way represents the advertised goods. What I want to know is: how? How did a game that looked so enticing end up being virtually unplayable? Should you decide to be brave and open up the settings menu, turning on the extra visual effects, you can – and this is not an exaggeration – barely make out what is on your screen.
Leaving the settings alone for a moment and playing the game fresh yields similarly unpleasant results. Although the background map shows some similarity to the art that was advertised, it is overlayed by excessively loud colour filters and aggressive, blurry vignettes. Sometimes speech bubbles are obscured by this effect; other times, speech bubbles are obscured by other speech bubbles. It is honestly a lottery of which vile graphical element will win out at any given time.
‘Okay Miri,’ I hear you cry, ‘you’ve talked about the style enough – when do we get to hear about the substance?’ Well, have no fear. Orangeblood serves up an unrelenting palate of mediocrity and disappointment in this respect as well.
Combat takes its frame of reference from a practically geriatric style of JRPG – underdeveloped and basic in style, your only options are essentially: hit or run. Your enemies may come in a variety of styles – melee, armed with long-range weaponry, etc. – but they all do the same damn thing.
A thug with a rifle shot me from a distance in one move, and I thought “fair enough,” but then when a knife-wielding dude managed to KO me from the same distance and in the same number of moves I thought something was definitely amiss. The variation is a con. Your weapons may be randomised, but they are all ineffectual and dull to use.
For a party-building game, you usually want to inject some unique dynamics into your characters’ personalities. Orangeblood has done this, it’s just a shame the personalities range from “whiny pseudo-tough street kid” to “whiny pseudo-tough street kid with pink hair.” I’ve had pink hair myself long enough to know its not a defining personality trait. The dialogue is almost physically painful to read, and exceptionally easy to accidentally skip given the complete absence of any kind of tangible UI.
Honestly, from my screenshots, it probably seems at least meme-worthy, but it isn’t. Aside from its myriad of other failings, Orangeblood is dry, dull, and difficult to traverse. There is very little joy in trying to understand the convoluted story, and the only redeeming feature of the whole game comes in the form of your party sprites, which are adorable, but sadly hardly ever properly visible.
I came to Orangeblood almost determined to like it. It had everything, seemingly. Gorgeous 90’s inspired art design, the promise of a funky soundtrack, JRPG style but in a more modern setting… I was so ready to fall in love. It’s only two weeks into 2020 and I’m going back to being jaded and miserable and its this game’s fault.
[Reviewed on PC]