Cid the Dummy Review
When we first heard about CID the Dummy, we immediately hearkened back to Incredible Crash Test Dummies for the SNES. Remember that one? It was a side-scrolling action/platformer with the unique twist that your character – a crash test dummy – would lose parts of himself if he became damaged. Get nailed enough and you’d soon be hopping along on one leg with no arms. It wasn’t a great game, but it was good for a laugh and we hoped to get another laugh with Oxygen Interactive’s latest. Unfortunately, CID the Dummy falls well short of its intended goal, primarily due to a loose and unreliable control mechanic, bland and uninspired level design, less than mediocre visuals and voice acting, and a tired storyline. There’s very little reason to play this one all the way through to the end, as you’ll either get bored or frustrated within the first few hours. We just can’t figure out how a PS2 game that comes out in 2009 looks and plays as badly as the low-end titles that came out seven and eight years ago.
Really, the graphics are downright terrible. While we’re well aware that our eyes may be more used to the newer generation of software, we still review PS2 games all the time, and we make the appropriate allowances. But no matter how many allowances we make, CID the Dummy is still loaded with jagged edges, blurry backdrops, and badly drawn characters that could almost exist within a PS1 production. The environments are repetitive and rarely interesting, the effects have no flash or luster, and there are only rare instances of decent design. As we said in the introduction, this is one of the worst-looking PS2 games we’ve seen in quite some time, and maybe that’s because the title began its life on the PSP. But regardless of the reason, it’s just painful on the eyes. Perhaps one saving grace is that the framerate doesn’t seem to stutter too badly, even during instances of relatively fast action, and there aren’t any crucial glitches or hang-ups (clipping, collision detection issues, etc.). But that’s about the best that can be said for these disappointing visuals.
The sound isn’t much better, as the below-average voice acting and generic effects really hamper the production. The voice of the professor is so unbelievably atrocious that we finally had to start skipping the cut-scenes, although we admit that whoever voiced CID isn’t too bad. The effects for combat don’t even match the actions on screen; when you execute a single punch, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Worse yet, none of the sound seems to fit with the action: since when does something called a “bazooka” fire rubber bullets and sound like a water gun? And why does every punch landed sound exactly the same? And why does the soundtrack, which really is quite catchy at first, end up giving you a headache? The only sound that’s even remotely satisfying is the comical thud CID makes when he smashes into a wall after Super Running, but other than that, nothing about the sound enhances your enjoyment of the game. Now, that’s a significant problem, because as the gameplay fails in just about ever respect, we really needed something to keep us playing; something to praise in our review. But it just wasn’t to be.
On the surface, there’s plenty of potential: CID can jump, wall jump on switches, clamber up on ledges, Super Run, stealth sneak, sidle along walls, and attack with either his fists or his trusty bazooka. This is a well-rounded character that should let the player experiment with a variety of options when facing any given obstacle, but the developers immediately eliminate that appealing possibility by giving you only one way to approach most gameplay sections. For instance, you won’t really use stealth much to avoid attention; you’re required to use it to avoid security cameras, or you won’t be able to open the door. Furthermore, when the controls simply don’t work very well, you quickly lose interest in all of CID’s so-called capabilities. There isn’t anything too challenging about the game but because the combat is basically broken, you’ll still die more often than you should. There’s nothing worse than being forced to retry a section when the previous failure really wasn’t your fault.
See, CID can punch but he can’t block or dodge. This means he’s often left wide open for seemingly unavoidable attacks, and his reach is abysmal to begin with. The developers tried to make things more interesting by telling you about the unique attributes for each enemy (strength, speed, the best way to attack them, etc.), but it doesn’t really matter. It’s often a much better idea to use the bazooka but that only serves to make the melee attacking even more useless, and we’ve only addressed the combat thus far. Even the basic mechanics are screwy. When jumping, it’s as if CID hits his head on an invisible ceiling at the top of the jump, and it’s often difficult to determine his exact position. The camera usually sits too low and as it’s fixed, you can’t make the proper amends. On top of which, because a lot of the game is side-to-side, although not 2D, that view causes problems: “oh, the door is close to the front of the screen, so CID needs to be there, too.” When you have to Super Run to make it through one of those fast-closing doors, you often don’t know exactly where you need to be.
And finally, there just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the game’s overall design. You run around, turning on generators, avoiding deadly traps that will end your quest in the blink of an eye, and battle a slew of enemies that always seem to have the upper hand. Oh, and let’s not forget that you’ll also battle the controls and mediocre camera, so at no point can you just relax and enjoy the gameplay. It just feels as if you’re always running around in circles, performing meaningless tasks and hoping against hope that something even remotely interesting might eventually occur. The story, which is supposed to be amusing, is only annoying and poorly written, and we seriously doubt that even children will get a kick out of it. All you do is hit switches, fly off a few springs, bash through a few walls, struggle through some irritating encounters, and at some point, you completely forget that you’re on a quest to save the professor’s kidnapped daughter. On the other hand, maybe you don’t forget…maybe you just don’t care anymore. It’ll take all of ten minutes for you to realize that this game needed a few more months in development.
CID the Dummy could’ve been charming, comical and at least semi-entertaining, but instead, it’s boring, bland and very unfun. The mechanics are poorly implemented, the technicals are borderline abysmal, and at no point will you say to yourself, “hey, I’d like to keep playing.” Nah, you’ll say exactly the opposite.
7/30/2009 Ben Dutka