Release Date: June 27, 2010
ESRB Rating: Teen
Every so often, a game comes along that kicks your ass on normal, and you have to pick the dreaded “easy” choice and suck in your pride, because playing the first stage of a game and dying right away can only be fun for so long. Sin and Punishment is not one of those games. Sin and Punishment kicks your ass on “normal,” and then when you switch to “easy,” it kicks your ass again. It recalls the days of the original NES, when the games actually seemed angry at you for having the temerity to play them, and did everything they could to encourage you to stop.
Before I delve further into the game’s difficulty, though, I should establish exactly what kind of game it is. I think it’s technically considered a rail shooter, and it certainly looks like one at first glance: you move forward at a steady pace, you aim at stuff on the screen with the Wii remote, and enemies show up and have to be shot. But it plays more like a pure arcade shooter, where the screen is constantly filled with enemies and bullets and obstacles all of which are moving and all of which you have to dodge.
There’s some sort of story in this game, as conveyed through cut scenes with writing and voice acting reminiscent of nothing quite as much as a school play based on Evangelion fan fiction. Fortunately, the designers helpfully indicate the button you can press to skip these cut scenes whenever they appear, likely because they read the script.
Besides, the cut scenes just allow time for your pulse to go down, which is anathema to the way this game plays. It is very much about constant action. It is a game where when you stop playing, you will realize your hand hurts from how tightly you were clutching the controller. Still, despite its difficulty, it never feels unfair. Difficult games can be fun and rewarding, but only as long as you are learning from your mistakes, and the failure results from your play, not from ambiguous instructions or idiot artificial intelligence or shoddy controls. Sin and Punishment is perfectly transparent about what it wants you to do: shoot everything while dodging everything else, and the controls make this simple. The two characters have the same basic moves: a charge shot that you can use intermittently, a rapid shot you can use all the time, and a close combat attack that is mainly used to redirect certain projectiles back towards bosses. The only significant difference between the two characters is that when you use Isa, the androgynous 12-year-old boy, you fire wherever your cross hair is pointing, but when you use Kachi, the androgynous 12-year-old girl, you will automatically lock on to things when you move the cross-hair over them and fire at that target until it is dead. Which is sometimes helpful, but often becomes frustrating in situations where you have an invincible boss that you will accidentally lock onto instead of shooting his easily-killed mooks who are pelting you with bullets.
This isn’t the only problem, though. For a game that requires so much precision dodging, it’s often difficult to tell exactly what part of your character can be “hit,” which is understandably frustrating at times. Also, the two-player mode is only slightly more interesting than just watching a person play the game, as it gives you a second crosshair that can only fire the basic rapid shot, which is about as interesting as navigating the Wii’s menu.
Those are really minor things, though, compared to how the game delivers the sort of frantic action you rarely get these days. The challenge will turn a lot of people off, but for those gamers out there who want to feel a real sense of accomplishment when they beat a game, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor is a good pick.