Final Exam is, perhaps not surprisingly, not a game about scrambling to prepare for a test that will single handedly decide whether or not you get into law school. It is, in fact, a game all about beating up monsters with your friends and trying to beat their score. So in a way Final Exam is all about a test – a test of your own badassness.
Final Exam is at it’s heart a classic side scrolling beat’em up. You and up to 3 friends fight your way through 8 levels, cracking monster skulls and solving simple puzzles along the way. There are 4 characters to choose from, and each offers a specialty in a particular category – ranged attack, melee, attack, taking hits, and explosives – meaning everyone can pick a character that suits their strength as a player. Final Exam also features a light RPG system in it’s upgrade system. Beating each stage gives you skill points, obviously used to unlock new skills and combos, and upgrade points, allowing you to upgrade your character’s stats. Finding all of the collectibles in each stage and beating a stage within the target time will also give you extra points, giving each stage some replay value as you try to get through it quickly or scour the level for hidden collectibles.
As you play through each subsequent stage, you’ll notice that Final Exam differs from classic beat ‘em ups in that each level is not a straight left to right drive for the finish line; Instead, every level is actually made up of multiple pathways that stretch in all directions. Several puzzles will have you exploring these pathways, but luckily you’ll never get lost since the game implements a waypoint system, ensuring you’ll always know where you need to go (although you’re also free to explore on your own, as well). As mentioned above, exploration is beneficial when looking for collectibles to gain new skill points, but each level also contains hidden weapons for you to unlock, allowing for more combat options and variety.
Finally, the meat of any beat ‘em up is the combat, and Final Exam certainly doesn’t disappoint. Fighting monsters is relatively simple, but you do have options: You can fight with melee weapons (bats, swords), ranged weapons (guns) or explosives (i.e. grenades), as well as being able to pick up enemies and throw that at each other (or into fires). Encounters are well spaced throughout the levels, providing players with enough downtime to regroup but not so much as to be boring, and with one new enemy type introduced per level the encounters stay relatively fresh throughout the game. Final Exam features a neat scoring system that, for me, is the greatest part of the entire package. Your score goes higher as you hit enemies more and more, and keeps climbing until you either bank the score (by pressing down on the D-Pad) or getting hit. The careful balancing act between banking points immediately or waiting for a higher score (while possibly taking a hit and earning nothing) is surprisingly addictive and constantly encourages you to get better at the game so you can climb the leaderboards (ranked per stage and difficulty level). Multiplayer just adds to the fun, where you’re not just trying to beat your own score but to outscore your friends, giving a little friendly competition to an otherwise cooperative experience.
If I had one complaint, it would be that the combo system is too shallow. There exists only a single, three hit combo for both ground and air and a very limited number of other moves (regular attack, hit into the air, and ground slam). For a game so built so heavily around combat it’s a little disappointing to have to repeat the same combo over and over again. Some more variety in the combo system would have been beneficial for mixing up the fighting style and allowing more ways to take down enemies. If there is a flipside to this, however, it’s that in Final Exam it is very easy to master the controls and be dodging and fighting like a champ.
There’s not much to say about the graphics in Final Exam. They’re serviceable, but not particularly impressive at any point. The game does run smoothly, which adds points to it’s favor, but that’s to be expected. Sound design is much the same – serviceable but not impressive.
Final Exam is a simple game with a surprisingly deep and complex high score metagame. It doesn’t get more complex than moving a box from point A to point B with some fighting in between, but it doesn’t need to. When the core systems that make up the game are this fun and polished it becomes very easy to enjoy yourself, and if you become enraptured with the scoring system the amount of playtime you’ll get will go through the roof as you go back to each level to improve yourself just that little bit. Overall, Final Exam is great fun and comes highly recommended if you crave some old school beat ‘em up action.
Title : Final Exam
Format : Playstation Network
Developer : Mighty Rocket Studio
Publisher : Focus Home Interactive
* Focus Home Interactive provided Slimgamer with a review copy
Release Date : 11/05/13