Dead Space: Ignition is a downloadable prequel to Dead Space 2, taking place right before the events of that game and showing what happens to the spaceship that protagonist Isaac Clark is sent to investigate. This prequel is created purely for the story, and is almost an interactive comic with a “choose your own adventure” style of storytelling. It’s a shame that the actual game is full of tedium and frustration.
Let’s start with the presentation, which is, at best, pretty poor. The comic-book style looks awful, and the “animation” does not look proper at all. Sure, it’s a motion comic, but the terrible look of the characters does not work well with how everything moves. The voice acting is equally as bad, with cringe-inducing performances that really take you out of the “horror” experience. The story itself is decent, but the “branching paths” don’t offer anything new or interesting from one another.
The gameplay is a collection of three hacking minigames, none of which are at all compelling or well-designed. They feel more like chores than anything else. If I were an actual engineer on this ship and playing these minigames (or performing these hacks) was my job, I probably would have quit after the first day.
The first minigame is “Trace Route,” which has you guiding an electrical signal through a fast moving obstacle course. It’s almost like a race as you try to get to the end before the other signals do. You have access to power-ups as well, some that speed you up and others that slow down your “opponents,” but most of them are never worth using. The game itself controls rather sluggishly; you never feel like you have precise control, which leads to plenty of frustration, especially considering how fast it all moves.
“System Override” is the second minigame, and it is the worst of the three. It’s not at all challenging or fun to play. Think of it as a reverse tower defense game, as you are sending out viruses to destroy the protective anti-viruses and get them from one end of the grid to the other. You have four different “unit” types, but there is absolutely no strategy involved. I found myself spamming two very specific units until I won, and I usually did without much trouble.
The final, and best, minigame is “Hardware Crack.” This one is definitely the most traditional of the three and feels like an actual puzzle. You have two (sometimes three) different colored lasers and you redirect these various lasers into their respective exit points before the time runs out. It can be challenging, but like the other two, it’s pretty dull and never actually gets that interesting. Once you get to the later puzzles, you just stop caring altogether.
This downloadable prequel is only $5, but even that price is too high. You get some unlockables for Dead Space 2, including a new suit for Isaac, after you finish the game, but they are just not worth the frustration. Even if you are the world’s biggest Dead Space fan, it’s hard to recommend this poorly-designed mess of a game.
Pros: Decent story
Cons: Awful presentation; none of the mini-games are compelling, only frustrating or boring