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Cruel Bands Career review for Nintendo Switch, PC


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Platform: PC
Publisher: indienova
Developer: Wang Heran and Yang Zhongjue
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

I’ve played a lot of niche games, but Cruel Bands Career might just be the niche-iest.

First off, there’s its visual aesthetic. I mean…just look at it. I’m not sure how to describe it as anything other than hideous — though obviously, art is subjective, and I’m sure there are plenty of people whose stomachs aren’t turned by the game’s harsh visual identity. And even if I dislike it immensely, I have no problem calling it unique — it looks like some terrifying mashup of Cuphead crossed with a grotesque Japanese cartoon.

And for anyone who isn’t turned off by Cruel Bands Career’s art style, there’s the gameplay, which is so brutal it makes the game’s visuals look positively tame.

This may sound overly harsh, but it’s nothing compared to how harsh the game is. In Cruel Bands Career, the whole point is to get beaten up. You’re in control of a trio, and the entire game consists of seemingly endless waves of fans walking in a straight line at your band, and just pummeling them. Your strategy isn’t built around defending, but rather seeing how you can balance the punishment evenly enough so that none of your musicians dies and the show ends.

Cruel Bands Career is so harsh that even the power-ups — mainly female groupies in tight, ill-fitting clothing, suggesting the game’s ugliness goes way deeper than its gameplay and visuals — don’t really do you much good. You can rotate your band around so that the groupies give one of your musicians a health boost, but the other two will take health hits because of jealousy. (And again, it’s not lost on me that it feels like there’s a healthy dose of misogyny on top of everything else that’s messed up here.) Even there, the point is to minimize damage, rather than actually getting ahead.

But, I mean, what else would you expect from a game that has “cruel” right in its name? Cruel Bands Career is a harsh game is all kinds of ways, and you should only check it out if you’re in the mood for a bit of masochism.

indienova provided us with a Cruel Bands Career Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-