kickinthehead's Dead Space Ignition (PlayStation Network (PS3)) review

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How much do you really want the extra suit?

Dead Space Ignition is a $5 downloadable game that gives a little bit of story covering events that occur before Dead Space 2. The benefits of the game are the brief  story and also the ability to unlock the “Hacker Suit” for use in Dead Space 2.

The story follows Franco and Sarah who are two people working on The Sprawl. Franco is a technician and Sarah is the one using the guns. The story is told via comic book style cutscenes which are crudely animated by making characters blink, shrug shoulders, raise eyebrows, and glide across the background. The effect is similar to Infamous’ cutscenes, but looks more cheesy. The animators pretty much did the best they could do given their task. 

   What did the job application mean about
   What did the job application mean about "hacking while under duress?"

Voice acting is pretty decent with the exception of when things start to get tense. During these scenes there’s a big disconnect to the horror of what’s going on and how they’re reacting. Clearly the voice actors weren’t given the opportunity to see the drawings they were giving voice to. The story has a few intersections when you choose which path you’re going to follow, and depending on the path you choose, you get one of four different endings. Either way you’ll unlock the hacker suit.

So how are the minigames? The first is “Trace Route” which is a racing game where you control a little bead of light and your goal is to reach the end before your enemies. There are a number of static and moving obstacles in your way which will slow you down and one with temporarily reverse your control directions. There are also speed pads that give you a small boost. Later on there are different enemies that do stuff like explode, bump into you and otherwise hinder your progress. 

 Laser Sperm
 Laser Sperm

Your only tools are a limited number of three items. The first is a speed boost, the second is a “firewall” which you can use to slow down your enemies and the third you can use to change your enemy’s controls (but logically why would a computer have a problem with this?). At first you start with only a speed boost, but during certain points in the game your suit is upgraded which gives you more of each item.

This game actually got easier as it went on. The first two I had to do several times in order to beat, but by the end, the increased complexity of the obstacles proved to be just as difficult to navigate for enemies as myself. Add on an increasing number of items and I finished all the latter puzzles in only one try.

The second game is “Hardware Crack” which is a puzzle game where you direct different colored laser beams into their targets. At first you have only a limited number of mirrors, but later on you get splitters which give you lasers going in three more directions and the last item lets you remove obstacles on the field. The second Hardware Crack puzzle confused the heck out of me because I didn’t realize that targets could only be hit from one direction (later I realized there were arrows indicating where to hit them from, duh) so that took a lot longer than it should have. On the field there are also moving mirrors which you can use. 

 Critical thinking is the key to succ- oh wait.
 Critical thinking is the key to succ- oh wait.

I liked this puzzle the most because it reminded me of puzzle games kind of like Professor Layton. Once I got the hang of it, the more difficult puzzles were satisfying to solve. I just wish the instructions had been a bit clearer up front.

The third is “System Overload” which is the least interesting of the minigames. Conceptually it seems interesting as a kind of reverse tower defense game. You have to get your units to the other side of the hexagonal field by using different hacking units to circumvent the system’s defenses. You start off with some units that slow down or deactivate turrets, and another unit which will attack and destroy them. The third is a fish-looking decoy unit which slips past turrets, but get stopped by radar towers. Lastly you get a unit which will turn enemy towers against each other. 

 Why yes, I do enjoy spamming my triangle an X buttons!
 Why yes, I do enjoy spamming my triangle an X buttons!

I didn’t know what I was doing most of the time during this game and pretty much alternately managed to finish each puzzle by alternately spamming buttons. By the end when you have more offensive potential it really becomes about just spamming the two units. You also have the ability to remove one or two “weak points” on the map, but there’s little strategic thinking involved in choosing which to remove. I’m sure these games can be beat with more skill than I exhibited, but the game certainly doesn’t force you to.

My first playthrough took two hours most of which was probably put into the second Hardware Crack game. After you beat the game and have a fully upgraded suit it’s easy to breeze past the other story paths because you have more items which eliminates the need to think critically especially in Hardware Crack. If you want to get all the achievements you'll have to play through the other story paths too, but if you just want to see the other cutscenes, the game gives you the option to unlock them all after beating it.   

 Uh Oh.
 Uh Oh.
So is it worth the $5? I guess it depends on how much you care about knowing all the story of Dead Space. After playing it I don’t feel like I’d be missing much had I not. We’ll only know how valuable the Hacker Suit is once the full game actually comes out. I think a better job could’ve been done on making these minigames more fun. Trace Route is okay, but very easy in the latter half, Hardware Crack is fun for puzzle game enthusiasts and System Overload is pretty worthless in terms of challenge or strategy. If you don’t care about getting the extra suit, I think this game is pretty easy to skip without feeling like you’re really missing out on much.     
Oh, and there's an EXTREMELY lame Portal reference that feels like a very desperate attempt at humor. 
Update: For playing Dead Space Ignition in Dead Space 2 you get access to special rooms which are basically ammo rooms to replenish weapon supplies. The hacker suit is actually a good but not game-breaking suit that you can get early on in the game. It has 15% armor and 15 inventory slots which is better than you have access to for at least a couple hours into the game. Also, like its name implies it lets you hack panels faster, but that mechanic is fairly inconsequential. The only bad thing about the suit is that it's pretty ridiculous when you're exposed to the harshness of space without consequence despite the fact that the suit is quite obviously not air tight (most of the back of your head is open to the air) 

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