Who loves powerful magic hats? Many Faces does. This Roguelike retro-shooter is powered by fatal fashion and quick-paced platforming shoot-em-up mania.
Many Faces utilizes a very charming and colorful art style. Bright neon lines on stages change color and shape as you progress, sometimes with comical effect. For instance, I experienced a few stages with smiley faces made out of platforms in the center of the stage.
The art feels like an endearing love letter to the past but has a fresh coat of paint. The opening menu of the game seems to call back to Mario menus of old. My favorite little visual touch is that for transport between each level you are abducted by a U.F.O. using a rainbow tractor beam and it’s a nice little touch that puts a smirk on my face at the end of each level.
The angry geometry a la Geometry Wars is still a great enemy idea, and though the variety isn’t high, what is here is fun and satisfying and memorable. Many Faces art is a real high point, that might carry it for some.
All this compliments the fantastic music present in Many Faces. On the title screen I waited for a solid five minutes just to hear it and see where it went. It works well together in tone as well. The little sound effects mixing in and the sound of the rainbow tractor beam picking you up are mesh well together.
Initially, I wasn’t much of a fan of the character design for the protagonists, but as the hats changed, so did my opinion. It was fun to watch the little blob person play a game of deadly dress-up.
Hats are easily the best part of Many Faces. They function like power-ups in Ikaruga, each hat provides you with a new and unique power, like the ability to shoot in three directions at once, or shooting curved bullets. My personal favorite hat resembled a small candle. Everywhere I walked the floor would erupt in tiny flames to deter and damage many enemies bouncing around the stage. It was a great tactical mixup and the first time a powerup in the game made me feel legitimately powerful.
The hats were really the driving force that kept me going through the game. I loved seeing the variety in the types and powers. What Many Faces lacks in real procedural variety in the stages and enemies (besides color and layout changes). The hats felt like a different story. I was able to breeze through most of the game fairly quickly. What kept me wanting to see the next boss or level was the chance at a new hat.
That brings me to the bosses. Throughout your time with Many Faces there are 7 bosses that you will meet in random order. However, you need to do more than one playthrough to see all of them. Each boss did a good job at feeling different than the last. And you definitely had to switch your strategy significantly depending on the powers from your current hat. Some bosses felt a bit too easy, or maybe I cheesed it a bit.
The Many Face King, for example, looked menacing. At first it was one of the most challenging bosses to fight. At first. I soon realized that I could beat him by simply sitting in a corner. I thought maybe it was due to my current hat/powerup, the giant bomb. This power up has a delayed explosion and thought that that might have taken all the difficulty out of the fight.
On my next playthrough, when I encountered the king I had the tri-shot hat. Thinking maybe the fight would be harder or different I rushed in. This hat allowed me to shoot simultaneously above and to both sides of me. Disappointingly, the same strategy of hiding in the corner made the fight painless and easy.
An important thing to note is that you do have a dodge, allowing you to quickly roll and evade damage. The double-edged sword here is that doing so drops your currently equipped hat, forcing you to either leave it or pick it back up. Some hats use this to their advantage such as spikes that pop up where the hat is dropped.
It’s evident that a lot of thought went into the synergistic loop of switching hats and dodging to lose a hat/use its ability, all while constantly engaging the angry shapes around you.
During the final boss battle, I actually was able to utilize this as a strategy. The hat I had equipped raised giant spikes from the floor every time I dropped the hat. It was something that surprised me and put a little smile on my face.
The issue here is that the general idea is fine and dandy, but the overall execution feels sluggish. Character movement and aiming just feels either a tad delayed or a bit sluggish.
This quickly became my main complaint about Many Faces: Console Edition. I tried it with a couple of different controllers thinking that might have been the issue and noticed no discernible difference. Having not played the PC version, I do not know if it is present there. The only time it feels really responsive is when jumping between platforms, which makes the issue that much stranger.
Adjusting the settings didn’t help either. It’s a shame because the general gameplay loop is satisfying. It wasn’t a big enough deterrent to stop me from playing, but it did seriously hinder my enjoyment.
The optional crosshair is set to OFF by default. And it’s placed very close to your player character and doesn’t move freely from them. This forces you to resort to aiming by your previous shots, which defeats the purpose of having the crosshair altogether.
I noticed a few issues with losing the crosshair on the screen when avoiding a hail of bullets from angry obtuse geometry, but that is a minor complaint you could lobby across many games with bullet-hell elements. Many Faces also give achievements away like candy.
Something that was a bit odd to me as well was that without paying attention to the achievements I was able to obtain all of them. Without trying, in my longest run which only lasted around an hour, I had full achievement completion, and it felt like a throwaway.
That coupled with the slow-moving gameplay made a lot of moments feel a bit out-of-place, somewhat hollow. Which is a shame seeing as Many Faces gets a lot right with its’ formula.
I had a lot of fun with Many Faces. The simplicity of the gameplay and general loop helps to narrow your focus on seeing what comes next. It is a satisfying albeit easy loop. The hats and roguelike generation help to freshen up each run just enough to keep you entertained, even if the core game really remains unchanged.
Many Faces creates something of an homage with its own unique imprint. It has a lot of the right things going for it in terms of concept, art design, and mechanics. However, I simply can’t look past the sluggish controls and the overall breeze this game was. I was able to see practically everything in the game in around 1.5 hours. I was really expecting more things to see, more bosses to fight, or something that changes up the formula just a little bit, but alas that doesn’t happen. What you see is really what you get.
After playing the game on Easy, Normal, and Hard my longest run took only about an hour. It is a satisfying yet shallow experience. I would only recommend it as something to bide your time with between some other AAA releases. However, after beating it on all three difficulties I don’t feel a real drive to revisit. It turns out that Many Faces is much like the tree in its’ title screen, it is beautiful, retro, and charming, but hollow.
Note: We received a review code from Eastasiasoft Limited