Review: Chroma Squad17 Jun 2017 1
Review: Chroma Squad
Released 18 May 2017
As a child growing up in the 90s, it was impossible to not be swept in the craze that was Power Rangers. The flashy moves, the colour outfits, and the utterly mental enemy designs – it was all ramped up to eleven and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Chroma Squad uses Power Rangers as its source material to the point it proudly displays this in its opening title screen, which doesn’t come as a surprise when you look at the outfits and overall tone. What I was not prepared for, though, was the meta-narrative the story is focused around.
Instead of taking place within a fictional setting, the game takes place behind the scenes. The opening moments involve the Chroma Squad dealing with an overbearing director as they try to shoot a scene. The squad realises they could do a better job of it themselves and set off to find an old warehouse they can use to film their own show.
From here the game goes back and forth between reality and fiction, sometimes midway through a battle when the boss teleports in at the wrong moment. At times it feels a little unfocused, and the humour is a bit on the nose, but the effort for taking this approach is noted. What is effective is the comradery between the squad both when in character and when plotting their next scene. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve ever watched Power Rangers, but it captures that tone and gosh darn it just feels all so positive!
From the tutorial you end up in the main menu of the game where you have a wealth of options. You can purchase equipment and upgrade your studio, which in return gives you a higher audience retention rate at the end of each episode - the bigger the audience you have the more money you make. There’s a ton of clothing and equipment to purchase for the purpose of raising the stats of your characters; these items in return can be recycled as you buy better equipment and then turned into other items/equipment to use. The issue here lies with the lack of difficulty and that the upgrades purchased never feel like they have much effect. The only real notable effect in action is the amount of money you make from each scene.
Behold Studios goes for a turn-based approach to the action, with movement channeled through a grid system. Selecting a character will bring up a grid of squares you can move to. During your turn you can move twice; the first time, if you can reach an enemy, you are free to attack. If you can’t reach an enemy, you can either proceed to move wherever else for your second turn, or you can press the TEAMWORK icon. Using this icon turns that member of the squad into a launching pad of sorts – meaning your other members can propel themselves further across the screen to reach an enemy. It adds a tactical element to the combat, as you try and decide which members of your team are best suited to play offensive and defensive, while also making sure you don’t leave one member on their own for a potential ambush. Though the combat overall feels repetitive after a couple of hours in, I still appreciate the emphasis on teamwork, and the bond you develop with each character as you learn the weaknesses and strengths and how best to apply them. The added mechanic which adds interest is the audience rating: completing set objectives and using teamwork will give your audience rating a boost through at the scene, while squad members ‘fainting’ will decrease viewership. The higher the viewership, the more money you make!
In keeping within the theme of its source material, boss fights end with a giant mecha battle that - while enjoyable in concept – are ultimately lacking. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t a whole lot to them: you can either attack, slowly, with a chance you might miss and leave yourself prone, or you can tap the shield to take a little less damage. When being attacked a meter appears on the screen with the aim to tap when the cursor gets to the middle, the idea being the closer to the middle the less damage you take. Its over-simplification leaves the whole thing feeling lethargic, and not the thrilling crescendo to an epic battle.
You select your team at the start of the game, and can select from a pretty expansive list of characters. Each comes with their own unique stats and abilities, and you can choose their name and colour of their suit. It would have been nice if you could change skin tones, hair, etc. but if you want to make an all female squad and a robot – the option is there. You can also name the team, the studio, and their catch phrase when morphing into their suits. Sadly the game wouldn’t let me call my team the ‘Bastard Squad’.
Chroma Squad is a charming experience, albeit one with a lack of depth in its core mechanics. But it’s an experience that uses its source material smartly by crafting a gameplay setting that would still work under a different backdrop. While I don’t think it does any one particular thing to an exceptional manner (the writing is acceptable, the combat is fine but repetitive, graphically its nothing you haven’t seen before) it all comes together in a polished 6-8 hour game that pays tribute to Power Rangers and the Super Sentai series.