Ready, aim, diagnose.
Infecting the immune system of the PlayStation Network last week was iFun4All’s Die! Die! Die!. Hailed as the ‘first medical defence game’ for the PlayStation Vita, the Polish developer’s indie title is a straightforward, concise take on a genre which is, quite frankly, almost unfounded on handhelds. That is until now, at least. For within iFun4All’s 2D surgical simulator, players are tasked with protecting the human body from a bevy of malicious bacteria; microbes with the sole intention of travelling across the 2D plane in order to wreak havoc on the body’s natural defences. Your move, doctor.
With a loaded syringe at your disposal, your assignment is simple: to blast every virus before it reaches the left-hand side of the screen. Allow too many germs to pass said needle and you fail. This uncomplicated mechanic acts as the Die! Die! Die! raison d’être, which duly transforms the Vita’s 5-inch screen into a cellular battlefield; one that takes you through the brain, heart and intestines of an ailing patient. This three-pronged approach encompasses 84 levels divided equally into the three aforementioned stages and is, roughly speaking, a seven hour excursion in total.
The quest duly begins in the ‘Veins Campaign’ stage, and it isn’t until you complete ten of the area’s 28 levels that you’re able to progress towards the next bodily setting – namely ‘Intestine Assault’ and, following that, the ultimate ‘Brain Wars’ locale. Aiding in your defence are the in-game power-ups, which are skewed across the environment and enabled via the console’s touch screen. From White Cell Airstrikes to Global Freezing, the items add a much-needed layer of engagement to the gameplay. In saying that, Die! Die! Die! still feels overly skeletal in terms of variety; and this lack of diversity becomes more apparent as you progress through the game’s mission structure.
Upon completing a level, players will be bestowed with a medical award to certify their achievement. Adopting the archetypal gold, silver and bronze award system, this feedback method illustrates your accomplishments in a clear, if at times insubstantial manner. A shortcoming that is largely due to the inconsequential nature of the campaign’s score system.
For instance, during any given mission, your main goal is to either overcome the target kill count, survive for an extended period of time or hone your focus on a particular enemy. During these surgical skirmishes, players will gather a bounty of points based on their performance, but the fact that these points don’t leverage the outcome of your progression means that any additional effort beyond simply completing the level is almost redundant. It’s purely shoot, clear, and move onto the next area.
In terms of mechanics, the game merges elements from shooting titles such as Puzzle Bobble with a tower defence sensibility; only in Die! Die! Die!, the proverbial tower just so happens to be a sickly human in need of treatment. It’s an easy to grasp design for a game, but, as you wean your way through the patient’s immune system, this undemanding caveat also dilutes the entertainment value available in iFun4All’s medical defence property.
You see, the gameplay experience is a fun, breezy time sink that descends into arduous button mashing, or screen-tapping, much sooner than one would hope. The layout of the game is effectively stifled by its own framework. For example, while the new stages usher players into a fresh environment – or more precisely, a new section of the human anatomy – the variation in level design is minimal at best. As a result, once you complete over a dozen levels it becomes a case of been there, done that, worn the biological t-shirt.
The enemy roster also feels somewhat uninspired, too. The cholesterol and bacteria vary only in their ability to move quickly across the screen and it isn’t until Brain Wars – the third and final stage of the game – that the villainous assortment began to serve a purpose; a purpose that is directly paralleled with your medical arsenal. For these levels, each oncoming foe will have only one specific weakness which induces a chaotic feel to the experience, particularly when you need to fast-swap between the different weapons available. In saying that, after ploughing through 60+ near identical levels, this much needed change in pace is too little, too late.
As a result of this uninteresting layout, the game’s accessibility is practically its saving grace. During my playthrough, my younger cousin was drawn to the colourful visuals and “funny-looking monsters,” and the fact that he was able to pick up Die! Die! Die! and grasp the control system immediately is a testimony to the game’s user-friendly design – although the same can’t be said about the awkward menu interface. Still, frustration infects fun as quickly as the eponymous bacteria and each time I began a new level I was hoping for some element of variety – such as the addition of a boss fight. Nevertheless, the game stuck to its progressively repetitive formula.
Outside of the main campaign, Die! Die! Die! offers players the opportunity to partake in Survivor Mode – a supplementary game mode that is akin to the ‘horde mode’ trope. Still, this feels like a recycled version of the game’s campaign and unless you become hooked on your contribution to the leaderboard, Survivor Mode grows stale sooner rather than later.
The online component is vastly outdated, too. Without the ability to connect to the PlayStation Network, the ‘HotSeat’ multiplayer can only be played with friends using the same Vita system. Simply rack up a score and pass it to your companion for them to try and outmatch. The result is a wafer-thin element of competitive play that fails to add any notable point of interest.
While iFun4All have implemented trophy support to coincide with the game’s extensive reward system; itself spanning 52 accolades, Die! Die! Die!’s core mechanic ultimately lacks the depth, and indeed substance, to warrant a second playthrough.
This review is based on the PS Vita title, which was provided to us.
The crippling lack of level variety hampers iFun4All’s 2D surgeon sim. As such, Die! Die! Die! needs a double dosage of excitement, stat.