Review – Writhe

A few days ago, I heard about this upcoming Switch game called Writhe, and was immediately intrigued due to a few factors. First of all, it’s an exclusive first-person shooter for the system and I can’t remember a single other FPS released that way. Most importantly, however, I loved its launch trailer. The game looked sleek and really fast-paced, running at a sexy 60fps, something not exactly common to see on indie games on the system. I wanted to give this game a try, but sadly, it ended up disappointing me.

Writhe

It’s like Turok meets Quake meets Strafe meets Starship Troopers.

Writhe is a game set in 1970’s Thailand, during a mutant worm outbreak. Your task to is to fight as many as you can until you eventually die. There is no way to actually beat the game, this is an endurance test. Keep shooting the damn things inside small arenas until they inevitably corner you or hit you enough times from behind. This usually doesn’t last too long either, as you don’t have a big health bar and very rarely will you be able to find a health upgrade inside a level.

And… that’s it. Writhe is very brief and devoid of content. There is no multiplayer, just the chance to upload your score to an online leaderboard. There are only three maps available and even though they are thematically varied, they’re small and occasionally poorly designed. There’s not a lot of room for you to breath or run away from an onslaught of mutant worms and you’re most likely going to be attacked from behind at any point. It’s almost like the game purposefully spawns enemies where you can’t see them. You do have a shotgun and an automatic rifle with unlimited ammo, but they’re not powerful enough to deal with stronger worm variants with ease.

Writhe

I love me a good retro-styled low poly game, but this isn’t clicking.

Content-wise, Writhe disappoints. It’s basically a full game that offers less than some other endurance modes like Call of Duty‘s Zombies or Doom Eternal‘s Slayer Gates. That by itself wouldn’t exactly be a deal-breaker if the core gameplay loop was way more enjoyable than what it actually ended up being. Besides the lack of content and overall sense of unfairness that oozes from each of this game’s worm-shaped pores, there’s also another major issue: Writhe is just not very well polished.

That trailer running at a silky smooth 60fps? We didn’t get that in the final product. It’s not a terrible framerate by any means, but its pacing is a bit off-putting. The frame count drops whenever things get a bit too crowded onscreen, be it enemies or particles. Considering the fact that the game is all about trying to kill as many gigantic worms as possible before dying half a minute later, you can already imagine that these drops happen more often than they should.

The game itself features retro-styled graphics, reminding me a bit of Devolver Digital’s Strafe, but less charming, with less visual variety, and some ugly enemy designs. The UI and field of view don’t do the visuals any favors, either. It’s, by and large, a tiresome and uninteresting game to look at, even though we are talking about mowing down countless mutant worms with laser weapons. At the very least, the soundtrack is quite good. Sure, high-octane electronic music isn’t exactly the most fitting soundtrack for a game set in 1970’s Thailand, but hey, I’ll take it. It could have been a lot worse.

When the screen is smeared with his reddish hue, it means you’re getting hit. If you’re getting hit, you’re going to die pretty soon.

All in all, it’s a shame that Writhe is severely lacking in content, but that’s not its main issue. It’s not fun to play, and it’s ugly to look at. Its gameplay is clunky and borderline unfair at times. Not to mention the noticeable technical issues that hinder its performance. This might possibly be the first exclusive FPS to the Switch, but I don’t see the reason to pick it up in its current state… even if the soundtrack is actually quite good…

 

Graphics: 5.5

It features a retro-infused low-poly art style, but it lacks charm. Enemy designs are lackluster and the game feels visually repetitive due to how little content is included in here. Also, there’s the issue regarding the unreliable framerate.

Gameplay: 6.0

Very simplistic FPS controls hampered by a wonky field of view, the aforementioned performance issues, and a nonsensical difficulty curve.

Sound: 7.0

Even though fast-paced electronic music doesn’t fit at all with the game’s setting, I ended up enjoying the tunes played in each stage.

Fun Factor: 5.0

There’s not a lot of content in Writhe and the little available in here isn’t exactly fun or replayable. This is something most games would add as an extra mode, not as the full (and very brief) experience. The poor framerate also disappointed me.

Final Verdict: 5.5

Writhe is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Writhe was provided by the publisher.