You know those block pushing puzzles in every Zelda game, mostly in the ice dungeons, when you push a block and it slides until it stops by making contact with another block or wall? Cyber Protocol is essential 100 levels of this block pushing puzzle mechanic only amplified with traps, hazards, collectables, and a bright neon visual theme.
Playing as hacker trying to repair an android, the player will need to navigate, or hack in this case, computer boards and electric circuitry by guiding a square through a maze using only the four main directions. Once you send the box in a direction, it will continue in that direction until it comes in contact with something. While the ultimate goal is to reach the end of each stage, players are optionally tasked with snagging all the collectables and finishing in the shortest amount of time. It is these optional objectives that keep the game from growing too stale and maintain a sense of competition thanks to online leaderboards.
When it comes down to it, Cyber Protocol is really a limited one-trick pony as the player is ultimately doing the same thing repeatedly throughout the entire campaign. The difficulty starts simple enough but will quickly ramp up by the middle of the first world. These later stages not only require dozens of quick reaction based inputs, the player often needs to time button presses with extreme accuracy. Fail, and it is back to the beginning to do it all again so memorization and trial-and-error are key factors to success. While perfectionist and completionists will get a kick out of this mentality demanding level of gameplay, I personally found it frustrating and annoying. Playing through a two minute level, snagging every collectable along the way, only to die a couple of button taps away isn’t exactly my best idea of fun. Also, the player can only progress to the next stage in sequential order. So if one stage is giving you trouble, there is no option to skip it and continue without grinding through. The only major incentive on completing a stage is being granted access to the next stage and a higher rank on the leaderboard if performed well. With no unlockables or added incentive, it takes determination to push to the end as the player isn’t given much reason to continue and play with quality.
Even though each stage is composed of little more than neon lines, this $10 Switch eShop download has higher production values than expected. The opening cutscene, although it can make you dizzy with all the quick cuts, contains quality, and the included music player is unnecessary be welcomed. There is a multiplayer mode for up to 4 players but they just reuse the single player levels in a race to the finish. This means players who played through the campaign will have a massive advantage over newcomers here in the arcade mode. Also, for a game that only uses the four main directions, it is weird not being able to use the d-pad when using a Pro Controller – the d-pad simply is unresponsive leaving players to use the analog stick or face buttons. The neon visuals also depict what people in the early 80s thought the future was going to look like, down to storing data on 3.5 discs but yet having advanced androids and VR.
If you enjoy playing games to perfection and have the ability to retain a high level of tenacity, then this eShop exclusive is the game to play. However, if you get frustrated easily, there are other puzzlers on the eShop that should prove more entertaining.
Not As Good As: figuring out that one Zelda block pushing puzzle in the ice cave
Also Try: Far Cry: Blood Dragon
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