Breathedge review for Xbox One, PS4, Switch

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I don?t think I?ve ever had my feelings towards a game whiplash as quickly as they did with Breathedge. Within five minutes of starting it, I felt hooked. Within ten minutes, I already was sick of it.

You may think I?m exaggerating, but that?s honestly the full amount of time it takes for Breathedge to show players what it is and what to expect.

The first of it, obviously, is good. You find out that your character is simply trying to see off his dead grandfather?s ashes when his spaceship explodes and he?s left trying to survive. Despite that grim scenario, however, the game delivers non-stop sight gags, pop culture references, and fourth-wall-breaking jokes, starting with digs by the developers at themselves over how long they took to pick a font for the title sequence. Literally the first choice you have to make in the game is whether the robot torturing you should be allowed to smoke, which is presented to you as choosing between censorship (since smoking apparently offends the developers) and non-stop satire — and it?s pretty obvious which one the game wants you to pick. The jokes may not always land, but it?s still nice to see a game that doesn?t take itself too seriously.

Mind you, that joke-y tone doesn?t exactly lend itself to a survival game. Breathedge certainly tries its best to sugarcoat some pretty morbid stuff, but the contrast can be a bit much sometimes.

But that?s not what turned me off Breathedge so quickly. Rather, what?s off-putting is that beneath the winking and grinning, this is a pretty slow-moving — some may even say boring — game with a painfully dull gameplay loop. You have a little pod to start, and you constantly have to journey out into space to find small items like wires and metal to help you craft gradually bigger items, many of which have zero durability and breath very easily. Consequently, you spend all your time going back and forth and back and forth, watching your oxygen and health levels as you search for the tiniest bits of scrap that can help you, which you then use to create items that only last a few uses. Notwithstanding the fact that the game tries to cover this up with its usual winking humour (one of your first missions is called ?Create some sort of crap imposed by the developers?), it doesn?t hide the fact that it?s still the same old thing you?ll find in plenty of other survival games. Nudging you in the ribs about it doesn?t make it any more interesting.

And that, ultimately, is what makes Breathedge feel so disappointing. It shows itself to be so willing to skewer a genre that?s ripe for it, but then it falls into the same traps and pitfalls that you?d expect in any other survival game. If you?re a fan of the genre anyway, that may not matter, and you may appreciate a bit of humour added on to the usual, but if you?re hoping that Breathedge might be a breath of fresh air, look elsewhere.

HypeTrain Digital provided us with a Breathedge Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: C+