“Project Downfall” presents itself as an enigmatic title that veers off the beaten path, delivering an experience that oscillates intriguingly between the realms of ingenuity and perplexity. At first glance, it immerses you in a neon-drenched cyberpunk odyssey, yet delve deeper, and you’re met with a game that teeters on the brink of brilliance and befuddlement.

Visually, “Project Downfall” is a paradox wrapped in pixel art. The game’s aesthetic is a vibrant homage to the neon-lit cyberpunk genre, yet it’s juxtaposed with elements that might be less appealing to the discerning eye. The pixel art, while often stunning in its depiction of a dystopian world, occasionally clashes with the game’s flatter, more rudimentary character and item designs, reminiscent of early ’90s classics like “Wolfenstein” and “Doom”. This intentional nod to nostalgia is a double-edged sword; it evokes a sense of warm reminiscence for the era, yet it also muddies the waters of the game’s visual identity. The deliberate slowdowns and pixelated blood splatters add to this nostalgic allure but at times make one wonder if the game is struggling to find its unique visual voice amidst these homages.

Labelling “Project Downfall” as a “boomer shooter” feels like a misnomer, despite the surface-level similarities in pace and aesthetic. The gameplay diverges significantly from the genre’s hallmarks. The protagonist’s vulnerability is a stark departure from the invulnerability often felt in similar titles; a single hit can be fatal, transforming the game’s compact levels into intense exercises in precision and patience. This fragility, coupled with the need to replay levels repeatedly due to the game’s unforgiving nature, can be both a curse and a blessing. While it certainly heightens the stakes, making each victory feel hard-earned, it can also lead to frustration, compounded by a soundtrack that, though initially compelling, may become grating as it loops incessantly in the background.

The game’s narrative and mechanics introduce a fresh layer of complexity. The protagonist’s reliance on drugs, reminiscent of titles like “We Happy Few”, serves both as a plot device and a gameplay mechanic. This pharmaceutical dependency not only advances the storyline but also introduces a unique gameplay dynamic where pills enhance abilities, reminiscent of the SloMo effect in “Dredd”. This mechanic adds a strategic layer to the game, where managing one’s “health” becomes a delicate balance between empowerment and vulnerability.

However, “Project Downfall” doesn’t make its mechanics and possibilities immediately apparent. Much like the hidden levels accessible through an in-game SNES, many of the game’s features and abilities unfold in a manner that requires exploration and experimentation, sometimes leading to moments of confusion or missed opportunities for gameplay depth.

For enthusiasts of challenge-room shooters like “Super Hot”, “Project Downfall” might strike a chord with its mind-bending gameplay and stylistic flair, akin to “Hotline Miami”. Yet, it’s also distinctly its own beast, difficult to pigeonhole. This ambiguity can be both its strength and its Achilles’ heel, depending on one’s perspective. The game dares to blend genres and styles in a way that’s both intriguing and, at times, disjointed.

A word of advice for potential players: consider using a pro controller. The game appears to have issues with input lag when using Joy-Cons, which can exacerbate the already challenging gameplay.

In conclusion, “Project Downfall” is a game of contrasts. It pleases as much as it frustrates, challenges as much as it rewards. Its visual and gameplay dichotomies create an experience that’s memorable, albeit not always for the reasons one might expect. Whether it’s worth diving into depends largely on one’s appetite for its particular blend of nostalgia, innovation, and idiosyncrasy.

7 / 10