Review – Soda Crisis

When I got my new computer last year, there were a lot of thoughts that went into my purchase. The first was that my previous computer was well over eight years old, had a video card that was nine years old, and was also the primary power draw of my household. It became important to get a new PC that was more efficient, with better graphics and a smaller size to boot. I knew that I wasn’t going to be breaking records or mining Crypto, so it made sense to invest in something that could pull some weight without breaking the bank. After I got my new computer, I marveled at the smaller form factor, quieter fans, and incredible speed with the solid state drive. This, I thought, is the future. I quickly installed some freebies from the Epic Game Store to test out, AAA titles like Nioh, Arkham Knight, and Control. All ran reasonably well, and I was pleased. I felt confident- secure. I wasn’t the biggest fish in the PC gaming pond, but I could swim well. And here comes Soda Crisis to make me feel like I’m drowning.

Soda Crisis is a side scrolling “kinetic” action game that’s meant to drive players to achieve split second timing and fast reflex responses. You play some dude from a lab, who is being experimented on in exchange for a can of soda. It’s implied this is some kind of dystopian future where people are either addicted to soda or it’s the sole form of currency, or something like that. Anyways, your handlers don’t like you anymore after a single simulation, so you take it upon yourself to execute them and make an escape. Over the next few hours, you have to shoot, jump, dodge, run, and slash your way through room after room of traps and foes. Choose the upgrades carefully to help customize your escape, as you find and equip different weapons and modifiers to change your approach. Which will be the right mixture to get you to freedom? Only you can make the choices which will bring you to the new world.

Soda Crisis Forklift

The forklift escape is genuinely a fun experience.

With Soda Crisis, the idea is that you’re constantly moving and trying to stay aloof in order to stay alive. Enemies will come at you from all directions eventually, though earlier waves are very straightforward and almost docile. Each room has an objective, which is usually “kill everything here” in order to make the exit door open. You start out with a simple gun, although over time you’ll find modules and better guns to improve your survival rate.

For example, early modules allow for rapid fire or three bullet bursts, increase your health, and improve the damage from your gun. You’ll also discover a friendly robot who can equip modules as well, and he’ll assist you as both a weapon and a shield. Once you get your grappling hook and melee weapon, you’ll often not need the guns as your energy sword does substantially more damage, and the grappling hook is just damn cool.

On paper, and especially in some of the videos that I’ve seen online, Soda Crisis is a very cool and fulfilling experience. You can change your approach however you’d like, but the idea of the run and gun is a classic one, and it seems that Team Soda wants to push that concept to the limit. When you look at the settings, you’ll notice that the minimum framerate offered is 60fps, going all the way up to “unlimited,” evoking the idea that this game will be a fluid ballet of bullets and blood.

Indeed, when the game comes together and wants to work well, it can be extremely satisfying to see how fast everything flows and explodes. One of the first games that I thought of when I saw the screenshots was Katana Zero, a truly masterful execution of kinetic gameplay, marrying strategy with violence. Naturally, I knew this was going to be different, but I think I expected Soda Crisis to hold the same level of excitement, especially given that the game is a whopping fifteen gigabytes to install and has the benefit of being developed three full years after Katana Zero hit the scene.

Soda Crisis Invader Zim GIR

If this isn’t some kind of Invader Zim nod, I’ll eat my hat.

Instead, what you get is a bit of a convoluted mess in terms of execution. On the one hand, I have to take part of that on the chin, which I’ll do now. My computer is clearly not as powerful as I thought it was, or at least not as powerful as Bilibili (the publisher) expected it to be. Even the cutscenes were janky and stuttering, which did not fill me with confidence for the gameplay aspect.

The first levels are all set in a simulation world which functions as a tutorial for all things Soda Crisis, so you see maximum gameplay right up top, and it depressed me. I immediately had to tone down graphics, framerate, and shaders in order for the game to run smoothly, and even that was suspect at best. Instead of this beautiful symposium of colors and death, I got something that looked quite last generation, like maybe a game that would release exclusively on the Xbox Storefront and eventually get a release elsewhere. It’s not great, but I also recognize that isn’t the fault of the game, just the limitations of my hardware.

When you wrap your head around that, you’re now left with the game itself, and Soda Crisis fluctuates between being the game that it promises and being a game that’s something totally different. When you’re trapped in moments where time is against you (the early laser sweeping level comes to mind), you can get a real taste for what Team Soda expected. You need to dodge, shoot, run, and jump as fast as you can while actively being pursued by a death laser. It’s frantic, and it works well to get the player on board with what needs to be done.

I died multiple times trying to clear the level, and I felt satisfied when it was finally finished, like I’d actually accomplished something. When a game can make you feel like you’ve been doing more than swearing at your controller for the last eight minutes because your thumbs are getting slower like the rest of your aging body, it’s doing something right. These are the high points of Soda Crisis: the game delivering the formula that it promised.

Soda Crisis Picking Off Grunts

Slowly picking off some grunt with my gun, because I guess I should use it sometimes.

On the other hand, many of the stages seem to do the exact opposite of this. While you might think everything is speed and mayhem, quite a bit of it is simply jumping and sliding down walls, shooting while avoiding being shot. Far from a futuristic, cyberpunk-y bloodbath, I was suddenly in an old-school NES game, crammed in the corner of Mega Man 4 because I wasn’t ready to get off the ladder and I thought I could shoot something before disengaging. It took the wind out of the sails of the overall atmosphere, and I wondered what the hell I was doing. Once I invested more in melee, it changed direction a bit, now becoming bursts of speed with longer periods of waiting. Pause, consider where things are, jump up and slash them to death, then pause again. There are too many stages where the gameplay becomes less “go go go” and more “let’s give it a moment, don’t rush.”

With Soda Crisis, it’s clear they want to reach a streaming audience and fanbase, especially with included ideas like “Easy Mode” and “Time Attack”. They realize that this game will land best with people who want to push themselves and those who like to see the pushing. Yet, for the vast majority who play this title on the PC, it’s sort of a wash in terms of enjoyment. Yes, the good levels were good, and I didn’t mind that the story was so threadbare (evil corporations, don’t drink the soda, break free, etc.), but I was still left in moments of serious inadequacy.

If you’re playing a game that’s more indie than big time, you want to feel connected in a positive way. In that same vein, if you’re playing a title that suddenly makes you question whether you should buy a five hundred dollar video card, not because you like the game but because you think you’re the problem, then something’s coming across wrong. I know my computer is capable of fantastic delivery: I just lost my goddamn mind over Rogue Legacy 2, and here I am again, hating PC gaming because input lag and screen tearing makes me feel like I’m inferior. 


Chaos looks best when you can actually see it.

With a forgettable soundtrack and decent, if somewhat generic, graphics, Soda Crisis feels as middle of the road as you can get without it being inherently bad. I can see what they were going for, and I get glimpses of success, but that’s all it is: just glimpses. The input lag from controllers, the fidelity going to hell, and the pretty mundane nature of it all just left me very nonplussed about the entire game. I probably wouldn’t recommend it simply because people who can run it well are going to play bigger games, and people who might like it would need to have serious rigs to play it successfully. Be sure to temper expectations before diving in: you don’t want to be left holding the bag while the game runs off without you.


Graphics: 6.0

Reasonably pretty to look at, but ultimately a bit generic, like if Stealth Bastards were more extravagant.

Gameplay: 5.5

Good versatility in equipment and modules doesn’t mean as much if you’re just doing the same thing over and over.

Sound: 5.0

There was plenty of explosions and gunfire noises, but the music was an incredibly forgettable thrumming.

Fun Factor: 4.0

If you put down the controller and sincerely don’t want to pick it back up, I feel like that’s on the game and not the player.

Final Verdict: 5.0

Soda Crisis is available now on PC.

Reviewed on AMD Ryzen 5 3400GE, 16GB Ram.

A copy of Soda Crisis was provided by the publisher.