Like your time

Wasted

HIGH Taking out an S.O.B. Purifier

LOW Losing everything because I took the wrong fork at the start of a level.

WTF This is the grossest take on Richard Nixon ever, right?


I genuinely thought I would like Wasted. A comedy first-person shooter mocking Fallout seemed like a worthy project, and the cel-shaded look was inviting, if not particularly distinctive. Within a few minutes I realized I had made a mistake. Wasted was tuned almost precisely to make me hate it, which I promptly did.

As a comedy work, Wasted is a low-grade riff on Fallout’s lore and aesthetics replacing the ‘50s motif with the ‘80s. The relic of the old world unexpectedly used as currency, for instance, is toilet paper. Most of the joke names for guns and items fall similarly flat, and the riff on the ‘80s comes across as mostly a series of references (K cars! Valley girls! Val Kilmer!) rather than actual satire. The references are curiously scattershot, too. There’s a character lampooning ’70s figures Nixon and Kissinger, and an attempt to clown about fanny packs (which really peaked in the ‘90s), yet the game never delivers on an ideal setup for a cocaine joke.

Wasted doesn’t offer much joy as a shooter either. All the guns have lousy accuracy (don’t bother trying to play with a controller) and the hit detection seems questionable. Guns also sometimes refuse to fire on command. These problems are compounded when the player is suffering attacks—extremely powerful knockback from bullet impacts can essentially stagger-lock a player to death, and can also make combat extremely disorienting as enemies and the player bounce around the level like ping-pong balls. The player can also be disoriented by the smoke and damage numbers that pop up when he’s hit, an effect that sometimes obscures the screen entirely.

Sneaking past enemies doesn’t work all that well either, since hiding in shadows seem to be useless—enemies that looked in my general direction always saw me. Adding insult to injury, successfully sneaking past a group of enemies frequently turns out to be a mixed blessing. Even at quite a distance, firing a weapon or even walking normally will summon a roomful of previously-avoided foes to attack from the rear.

Crummy weapons, awkward shooting and mediocre stealth would be manageable in a game with forgiving saves and careful encounter design, but Wasted doesn’t have anything remotely like that. It’s a roguelite with permanent death (only items stored at a “home base” persist between characters) and procedural level design in which rooms from a palette are strung together to create each floor of its dungeons.

Wasted doesn’t have enough styles to make the dungeons stay interesting. They all have the same overall structure (3 floors of evacuation, 3 floors of dorms, 3 floors of generators) composed of essentially the same rooms. Enemies and cosmetic features differ, but not enough to relieve the grating sense of monotony. The random placement of foes in those rooms produced sloppy, repetitive fights only occasionally spiced up when enemy types that were aggressive towards each other spawned together.

The only way to exit a dungeon, other than defeating its boss or reaching the boss chamber, is to drink a bottle of mutagenic alcohol. This gives that character a “hangover”, which is a permanent status effect. These range from incredibly useful abilities like regenerating health, to dangerous handicaps like reduced accuracy. Some of them also alter the character’s core abilities, and aside from equipment bonuses, drinking one is the only way for a character to become better at shooting or stealth, because Wasted has no traditional leveling system.

While these drinks can be found randomly throughout a dungeon, the main place to find them is at the end of each three-level group. Unfortunately, many alcohols cannot be consumed more than once, and Wasted doesn’t ensure that the drinks have hangovers the player hasn’t already used. Therefore, on several occasions I couldn’t leave a dungeon when I wanted to because I’d already had the available offerings.

Apart from the design error of not being able to leave a dungeon, the game’s progression is woefully miscalibrated.

The first dungeon is absurdly difficult because it initially furnishes only inaccurate and underpowered weapons, offers almost nothing but negative hangovers in its upper six levels, and also features the toughest non-boss enemies in the game. By the time I’d built up a character and inventory adequate to get all the way through this dungeon, the rest became trivial. While I grabbed a few additional weapons here and there, I made almost no significant changes to my successful loadout and never felt endangered or even challenged for the rest of the game.

The exceptions to that statement came in levels that forked at the start. Wasted’s dungeons tend to be highly branched and poorly networked. If a path diverges, the two forks will almost never reconnect. However, each level only has one exit. Thus, making the wrong choice at the start of a level may leave a player trapped. After the second time this happened, I discovered a save-scumming technique, but in its absence I would have found the repeated instances of this scenario infuriating.

I did not like anything about Wasted. Neither its humor nor its gameplay are adequate to support the irritation of mastering the first dungeon or the tedium of blasting through the subsequent four. I spent many hours beating this game out of sheer spite and didn’t enjoy a single minute of it. Reader, do not repeat my error. Rating: 2 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Mr. Podunkian and published by Adult Swim Games. It is currently available on PC via Steam. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a home-built Windows X PC equipped with an Intel i7 processor, 8 GB RAM, and a single Radeon R9 270X graphics card. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: As of press time this game has not been rated by the ESRB. Although the game is fairly cartoony, there is a substantial amount of gore as enemies’ heads (or all of their extremities) regularly explode (constantly if certain powers are unlocked). The game obviously features a great deal of alcohol use and alcohol references, though there are no real depictions of drunkenness. There’s also a substantial quantity of toilet humor. I would probably rate it T.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Subtitles are available for most dialogue. While not absolutely essential, sound cues provide a great deal of important information, particularly alerting the player to deadly enemies and other hazards. I would expect the game to be much more difficult for hard-of-hearing gamers.

Remappable Controls: Most controls can be remapped. Both mouse + keyboard and controllers can be used, though I strongly recommend using mouse aim because of the low accuracy of the guns.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. Distinguishing between red and green door markings in the world and on the map is occasionally important.

Sparky Clarkson

Sparky Clarkson

Sparky Clarkson grew up in the hot lands of Alabama, where he was regularly mooned by a cast iron statue. He played his first games on a Texas Instruments 99/4A computer, although he was not an early adopter. He eventually left Alpiner behind, cultivating a love of games that grew along with the processing power of the home computer. Eventually, however, the PC upgrade cycle exhausted him, and by the time he received his doctorate from the University of North Carolina he had retreated almost entirely to console gaming.

Currently Sparky works as a scientist in Rhode Island, and works gaming in between experiments and literature reviews. As a writer, he hopes to develop a critical voice that contributes to a more sophisticated and interesting culture of discourse about games. He is still waiting for a console port of Betrayal at Krondor.
Sparky Clarkson

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