The Prof and Brian have been away for a while, but today marks their triumphant return for the second series of Cost of a Coffee. Before we let them get away with the bags of cash they are demanding as an appearance fee theses days, we’re making them take a dog run… RELEASE THE HOUNDS!
“Today’s Cost of a Coffee game, Release the Hounds, is a game developed by Brighton-based Just A Pixel, which is designed and produced by Gogglebox Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television. Not surprisingly, it’s based on the ITV2 game show of the same name. Until recently, if you’d have said ‘Release the Hounds’ to me, my reply would have been “there are no twisted experiments against nature being conducted here; those Beagles are simply enjoying a nice cigarette break”. So if like me, you haven’t seen the show, Brian is going to give us a synopsis.”
“Well Professor, there’s this group of three friends that respond to an advert in the local paper about winning loads of cash, but it turns out that it’s a trick and they have to take part in some reet scary games in a forest as it gets dark. But it’s ok because after they swear lots and have done some crying, they pick up keys that unlock boxes of money, which they stuff into little red rucksacks. To take the money home with them though, they have to out run some great big Alsatians who are hungry and eat red rucksacks full of cash. Basically, the dogs are really quick and the people aren’t right; so they get mauled to death on prime time ITV 2, as Reggie Yates watches and laughs.”
“Usually at this time of year “he’s behind you” is synonymous with a pantomime villain in the background, but tonight at 9 pm (or on the 18-Dec-2014 for those of us not listening in the brief window between this being posted and the show going out), there’s a Christmas special of Release the Hounds, so that traditional festive chant will in fact be a reference to a pack of slavering dogs bearing down upon and tearing apart Diversity’s Ashley Banjo. Actually it does sound pretty good, doesn’t it.”
The game however, isn’t. The potential to create something really interesting presented itself here; a horror story filled with shocks and scares could have been done in so many unique ways such as a point and click adventure or a Device 6esque interactive story, with a final frenetic dash to evade the titular hounds; instead it features 5 fright free levels of endless running in which you collect coins and bank them by tackling the dog run. You have a health bar that is depleted by hitting or tripping over obstacles as you run through the dark in the various stages, but there’s no immediate penalty for this. It will affect your ability to outrun the dogs when you’re trying to bank the cash though. You need to score big and outrun the hounds to unlock higher levels and bank cash, which can then be used in the shed to purchase buffs that will improve the brightness of your torch, restore your health or help you to run faster. The torch is an interesting touch that adds to the atmosphere when obstacles appear out of nowhere; sadly the touch mechanics to dodge, jump and duck just aren’t responsive enough to make this pleasurable and the game quickly becomes frustrating. Thankfully the levels are simple enough to practically learn by rote, but that’s the only thing that kept me playing as long as I did.
At £1.49, you’re going to get some change from that cappuccino cash. Trouble is, it might leave an aftertaste bitterer than an over-extracted shot of coffee. The sound is mediocre with repetitive background music and effects, the graphics aren’t great either, with the main character clunking through the forest or asylum, also the player character does look like they are wearing a Spiderman costume. The one mechanic of interest, navigating the forest by torchlight with it bobbing and weaving as you duck and dive, obscuring your view, is let down by the clunky controls. The game simply doesn’t capitalise on the kitsch creeps that the TV show manages and Reggie Yates is conspicuously absent.”
Release The Hounds is available now on iOS from iTunes App Store and Android from Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore, priced £1.49. A copy of Release the Hounds was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.
Cost of a Coffee is a production of Codec Moments; for more information you can visit codecmoments.com. If you can recommend a game that costs less than a cappuccino, tweet @profandbrian or e-mail email@example.com.