When I first saw screenshots for Funk of Titans, I had assumed it was going to be a beat ’em up platformer set within a vibrant Greek landscape. Created by the indie team, A Crowd of Monsters, Funk of Titans also marks the studio’s exclusive console debut on Xbox One, which was made possible through the ID@Xbox initiative. Admittedly, when I first loaded the game, I discovered it wasn’t at all what I had expected it to be. However, being a big sucker for quirky and over-the-top games; especially the cartoony platformer types, I was still very keen to give the game a fair bash.
At a glance, the gameplay appeared quite interesting; which is what initially piqued my interest. You see, the game is unique in that the main character is constantly running and must navigate hazardous traps and fight foes to reach the end of each level (represented by a jukebox). The adventure takes place across three different worlds: Pop, Rap, and Rock, with a “Music Titan” (boss) at the end of each world which must be defeated for the player to progress.
You play as Perseus, a wielder of Funk-Fu, who has been summoned by the Almighty Zeus “Father of Funk” for an important task. You are assigned to take on the three Pagan Titans who are wreaking havoc with their brand of music; who apparently want nothing but absolute power and to destroy funk music as we know it. Exhibiting themes from Greek mythology, as well as dialogue inspired by 70s funk, the combination makes for a rather unusual mashup. Unfortunately, however, the story is about as thin as the synopsis reads, so I consistently struggled to care about the characters and what was happening. I also found the entire cast dreadfully cheesy, and that’s not meant in a fun way.
The arrangement and flow of each level’s design doesn’t offer much of a challenge, with most stages easily completed with just one attempt. The levels are mapped out with several launch pads, traps and enemies that are all evenly positioned, and, at times, are linked together to move the character in an acrobatic way without your assistance. The enemies also offer zero contest as you can either jump on them or attack when they’re in your path (with a single blow). What’s frustrating, however, is that the three worlds don’t off any variance in their designs. It’s pretty much the same thing repeated over; just with sand, ice or concrete “skins” to differentiate them. The change in terrain doesn’t even offer any shift in the way the character moves; which is a mechanic common in almost all side-scrolling games.
Each stage has two collectable items: “gold records,” which are used as currency, and “Pegasus rides,” which unlock a bonus stage at the end of the level. With the gold records, you can purchase new weapons and helmets, but I found this to be pointless as they do absolutely nothing to alter the way you play. It’s all superficial; simply providing an alternative look for the Perseus character. The bonus levels, on the other hand, are essentially a clone of Flappy Bird where you can collect more gold records. Strangely the bonus levels are made up of cupcakes, blocks of chocolate, records and other randomised items; it made me believe there was no real care or thought put into these areas.
As I mentioned earlier, the game wasn’t really what I was expecting, and this mostly came down to the way you control the character. In fact, Funk of Titans arguably has the most basic control scheme of any Xbox One game to date. While playing, you have no control over Perseus’ course or speed whatsoever as its actually a “rolling platformer” with similar mechanics to Runner2. Your only options are to jump and attack, with the d-pad and left analog stick being reserved for Perseus’ cheesy catchphrases. It’s a style much better suited for a mobile platform.
Fortunately, there is a change of pace when you encounter a boss battle; in which you must participate in a dance-off for three rounds. It is done using quick-time events, and the player must quickly press one of the four buttons based on what appear on the screen. The Titan dances to their speciality music all the while Perseus must outclass them with his own set of funky moves in order to reign supreme. The control system for both elements of gameplay are responsive and very simple to learn, but once again, it doesn’t offer any great difficulty or require a lot of skill to win.
The cartoony presentation of characters and backdrops are very colourful and fun to look at, but the visuals do look somewhat out-of-date. It honestly looks as if it were a port from a mobile device and feels out of place to be on the Xbox One. What surprised me most, however, was the audio and lack of music. The sound effects are awfully repetitive, and the cheesy one-liners grew tiring. Given the entire premise of the game, you would have thought this would be a primary feature of the game, but the music is quite generic and repetitious as it’s the same track for each stage. Once you get to a boss stage, you are treated to a new track, but again it fails to be catchy or at all engaging.
Funk of Titans could have been made as a decent beat ’em up side-scroller as all of the elements were there in the game. Instead, it’s a tiresome and monotonous experience that arguably doesn’t belong on any console or gamepad. There were a lot of neat ideas and creativity in certain components of this title, so I’m sure the team would be more than capable of making a fully realised game. However, in this case, the storyline was undercooked, the gameplay offers no difficulty and there is a massive lack of variety across the board. I hope in the end that Funk of Titans does get a release on mobiles and tablets; as that’s where I think this game belongs and can garner some success.
Disclaimer: this game was sent to us by the developer, and reviewed on Xbox One with 4-5 hours of gameplay.