Imagine being tossed in the midst of a civil war. And the two warring factions are two different rulers of hell. Though you could just join one side to overpower the other, you decide to hit the road and carve out your own path to end this. You’ve had enough time to think about all the bad you’ve caused over the past century, now it’s time to clean things up and do some good in the world.
When I first booted up Johnny Graves, I had a strange feeling of seeing this type of character before. This was because Johnny Graves reminded me a lot of the DC Comics universe character, John Constantine. Both characters had connections to heaven and hell, mystical powers, and carried enough firepower to cleanse the land of whatever got in their way. Was this a bad thing? Not necessarily. There’s a saying that goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And Johnny pays tribute to Constantine in a moderate fashion.
Johnny(not Constantine) begins the game talking to his contact, a woman named Ivy, in discussing what needs to be done to take down the competition going for the throne in Hell. The war that began in hell spread to Earth, having humans caught in the crossfire and it didn’t get better. As Johnny, you are tasked to reach the grave of the first Satan, to right all the wrongs that have happened. That involves taking down both armies of monsters, both fighting for each warring side.
The core game play of this game revolves around a 3rd person action system. It does have RPG elements, but only to level up your proficiency in combat, as well as additional magic abilities to dispose of enemies quicker. In addition to that, Johnny also has the ability to teleport briefly, which is a nice change up in combat.
Entering the first area of the game, I began in an urban environment. It was some kind of underground tunnel system and eventually I was lead to a train platform to fight against the first semi-boss. I’ll give props to the developers for giving tiny details to the game, such as the businesses tucked away on the side. I fought my way past a bunch of rabid dogs, until eventually they upgraded to the spiders that spit fireballs at me, as mentioned earlier. From there, I winded my way through the tunnels, collecting power ups and briefly talking to Ivy, whom was giving me tips on my next area I should explore or more insight on the enemies I faced.
The monsters that Johnny takes down aren’t surprising, but still refreshing. In the time that I played through the first couple of areas, I encountered zombies, a giant spider creature that shot flames at me, rabid dogs, and an annoying semi-boss named D’aniyel, who happens to be your brother that is standing in your way. His powers include summoning dogs,blasting you with energy bolts, and teleporting.
As I mentioned earlier, as you progress throughout the game, Johnny will go after power ups scattered about the area. Each of these levels up your reloading time, damage dealt to enemies, distance or recharge time of teleportation, and leveling up your magic that you are able to learn. The teleportation element in this game was surprising to me because I didn’t believe Johnny really needed that power to dispose of his enemies, but I suppose it is a nice bonus to have anyways.
Combat revolves around your basic 6 shooter pistol and support of magic spells. The six-shooter can be upgraded by power ups left behind by enemies. Each power up ranges from the reload time of pistol, attack power, ricochet factor of bullets, and range of how far you can hit each foe of yours. The augments to the pistol are straightforward, but something makes me long for it to be more intricate, possibly adding in other factors explored in other rogue-lite games, such as elemental ammo or a spread fire shot.
The second part of combat is split into 2 different parts. The first part is your offensive magic spells, which range from energy blasts, grenades, and the occasional area of effect attack. As referenced earlier, the last part that ties into your offensive spells is the teleportation.
I will admit, teleportation was a nice curve ball thrown into this game. I would have just thought Johnny had the standard set of skills of magic, but teleportation is handy. It allows the game to keep combat fresh, dodging enemies spitting fireballs at you. There is something satisfying in the idea of dodging an enemy chasing you, popping up behind them, attacking them with a magic spell, then as soon as that sequence ends, your magic meter is recharged and you teleport out. It also gives you a chance to correct the camera’s focus on Johnny when you get clipped into a wall and an enemy is still attacking you. The camera was a minor flaw of the game, but that will be detailed later in the review.
Johnny’s health regenerates as he takes damage. He has four bars of health, but each of them slowly regains health, just as long as the enemy doesn’t extend the damage into the other bar. As power ups are plentiful, as long as you go straight for the nearest health power up, Johnny should be back in the fight in no time.
Another thing I’ll point out is how much the game has grown since its initial start. The game version I was playing was the final version by the developers, and they’ve added in an intro tutorial level, watercolor influenced cut scenes in the opening narrative, and additional levels into the main story. They’ve also worked on tweaks to make the game run as smoothly as possible, such as eliminating Johnny getting stuck in a place or enemies respawning correctly.
As much as I enjoyed this game, there were some things that I believe held this game back. The first thing that was a downgrade to this game was there was no mini map or way point system in the game. Because I was already familiar of the action-RPG genre, I quickly adapted to the controls and explored my way around to get into the mode of combat and jumping over obstacles. To someone completely foreign to this genre of video games, however, would be lost and possibly frustrated the game doesn’t offer more guidance in where to go. I had to spend about 15 minutes exploring each area I could until I figured out more enemies were spawning in the direction the game wanted me to go.
Another trope that prevents Johnny from its class of fantasy Gothic rogue-lite family is the camera system. The camera felt finicky, taking me out of the immersion of fighting monsters.If I was engaged in combat with some dogs, it didn’t help that the camera only showed my character caught on the wall at a weird angle, now allowing me to see what enemy I was fighting. This would result in me dying and having to reload again.
Johnny Graves was a flawed but entertaining game. If you can adjust to the erratic camera controls and difficulty understanding the combat, it is a good way to kill time on a lost weekend. I’d recommend picking this game up during a seasonal sale or at the cost of one quarter pounder at McDonald’s, you can pick this game up for a lost weekend of fun.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.