App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Full disclosure: I did not get very far when playing Escape from Chernobyl for this review. This isn’t for lack of trying, though. Rather, it’s because Atypical’s latest release—a sort of follow up to Radiation City—is riddled with so many problems that it’s painstakingly hard to make any progress in. Although it shows some signs of polish that weren’t present in Radiation City, Escape from Chernobyl is a mess of a game.
Escape and survive
Escape from Chernobyl is a first-person survival game that puts you at ground zero of the nuclear meltdown. Your first orders of business are to escape the plant and find out what happened to your partner Lauren, but doing so isn’t as easy as just waltzing around the plant and examining stuff. In addition to exploring the plant, you have to scrounge for supplies, avoid poisonous radiation, and defend yourself against irradiated zombies.
This should all seem pretty familiar if you’ve played survival games before, particularly Atypical’s previous survival games, Radiation Island and Radiation City. The main difference here though is that Escape from Chernobyl is a bit more streamlined. Most notably, the game starts with a pretty linear initial quest line (“escape from this power plant”) and does away with things like thirst and hunger in favor of just making players manage their radiation exposure and health bar.
Kill or be killed
In addition to downplaying the survival aspects of the previous games, Escape from Chernobyl also chooses to highlight its combat by thrusting you into showdowns with radiation zombies early and often. Combat was never a huge strong suit for these titles, and this continues to be true here.
Zombies will groan and shuffle to face you before charging full speed toward the screen, and you can take them down by hitting them a few times with a melee weapon or a gun. It’s not terribly complicated, but it doesn’t feel great either. Judging the swinging distance for melee combat is all trial and error and it’s always impossible to tell how much hitting you’ll need to do to a zombie before it goes down.
Heavily featuring mediocre combat is bad enough, but Escape from Chernobyl takes things a step further by having terrible traversal issues. The environments in this nuclear wasteland are filled with debris and fallen infrastructure, and both you and enemies get caught on it constantly. This results in a lot of situations where you get overloaded with radiation while trying to jump your way out of being stuck on a pipe or waiting and watching zombies as they try to rush you, but can’t because there’s some rocks on the ground in front of them.
Because of these issues, you’ll wind up dying or using the “Unstuck” button that’s tucked away in Escape from Chernobyl’s menu system a lot. There’s a generous auto-save feature in the game, so dying doesn’t feel like it has huge consequences, but when you’re dying all the time because the game doesn’t feel like it’s working, this doesn’t feel like much of a convenience.
The bottom line
You’d think that Atypical Games would get better at making survival games as they put them out, but Escape from Chernobyl is the weakest of the studio’s three releases. By highlighting a combat system that has never felt good and creating an environment that—while detailed—is full of stuff for you to get stuck on constantly, there’s almost never a point in Escape from Chernobyl where you feel like you aren’t fighting the game. If you want a quality survival game, get Don’t Starve or something. Don’t waste your time and money on Escape from Chernobyl.