Funk of Titans is a sidescrolling plaformer exclusively for the Xbox One by indie developer A Crowd of Monsters. It follows the story of Perseus, a wielder of Funk-Fu, as he takes down the Music Titans and is charged by the almighty Zeus to bring Funk back. The game is an endless runner, of sorts, as you dodge obstacles and take down enemies on your way to the goal all the while Perseus moves forward on his own. The game is broken up into three worlds, Pop, Rap, and Rock, with a Music Titan at the end of each world. Along for the journey is Zeus, Aretha, and Hercules all cheering you on along the way. You press the A button to jump while the X, Y and B buttons all attack. The directional pad and the left analog stick aren’t used for anything except having Perseus spout catchphrases.
The game is incredibly easy. There is next to no tension in completing a level. Sure if you die, you start all over from the beginning, but the levels don’t feel as if you’re struggling to make progress. If you die, you start over and continue on. Gold Records and the Pegasus pick up are collectibles in each stage which does lend the short game some replayability. The Gold Records are used as in-game currency to purchase new weapons and helmets. For the most part, the new weapons and helmets do nothing but provide a different look to Perseus as he goes through the levels. There are a few weapons that do unlock a small room that houses the Pegasus collectible, but you don’t know which weapon to use until you’ve hit the room. If you manage to collect the Pegasus stick in a level you are treated to a bonus level where you ride a â€œpimped out Pegasusâ€ as you try to collect more Gold Records. The bonus levels is nothing more than a confusing arrangement of items in a Flappy Birdy clone. For whatever reason, the developers though that iPods, cassettes, forks, and cupcakes all form a cohesive visual look.
Each world has it’s own world map with several levels, Perseus’ friends, the Music Titan as well as a mid-boss which is called a grunt. Each world map has ostensible branching paths, but once the paths merge you have to complete both sets of levels. It gives the game a sense of choice but forces you to complete all of the levels anyway. Once you work your way to the midway point of a level you are treated to a grunt fight in a modern looking boxing ring. Again, aesthetically, the game is all over the place with very little rhyme or reason to why anything looks the way it does. The grunt fights are nothing more than quick time events with a very loose timing window. After three sections, you have defeated the grunt. Once you defeat the grunt, it’s time to continue on to the Titan fight. Similar to the grunt fight, the Music Titans are all QTE based. It feels like the developers want to make the game flow to the beat of the music, but instead you are just pressing buttons to your own beat. I’ve actually pressed a button after it disappeared from the screen, and the game still took it as a valid button press.
The game also has a level system that locks certain weapons and helmets behind certain levels to extend playability. To get experience to level up, Perseus must complete Zeus’ Missions which range from jumping so many times in a level to wearing a certain object while finishing a level. And like I’ve said before the weapons and helmets do nothing but occasionally help to unlock the Pegasus collectible to obtain more Gold Records.
Visually, the game is absolutely random with several different elements thrown in without much sense of a theme. The developers were trying to blend together Blaxplotation along with an Ancient Greek aesthetic, but it feels incredibly disjointed. Perseus is obviously a reference to the movie Black Belt Jones with his afro and yellow and black tracksuit jacket. But to tie it back to the Ancient Greek theme, his lower body is costumed like a gladiator. From his shaved head to his glasses, Zeus is another reference to Laurence Fishburne’s popular Morpheus character from the Matrix movies. Needless to say, Aretha is a nod to Aretha Franklin with much less pizzazz. Although I do like that each of the Titans are modeled after mythological creatures and modern musical artists. The Pop Titan is Medusa crossed with Lady Gaga; while the Rap Titan is a cyclops dressed up as Pitbull.
The levels have their own issues. The goal post is a jukebox, which would be fine if it was made to look like it belonged to the classical culture. Instead it is a bright neon jukebox with the word FUNK on it. Most of the levels just seem to be a smattering of random visual elements. Compared to something like Rayman Legends, the levels all have a certain visual style and everything flows into each other. Here it feels like different people worked on certain assets in separate rooms and they just combined everything at the last minute.
One would think that a game that has such a large focus on music that it would be one of the better portions of the game, and that would be wrong. The music is monotonous and bland. Sure the point of Perseus’ travels is to bring Funk back, but the music is hardly funky. And there is very little variety between the different worlds’ music. Instead of filling the Pop World, for example, full of catchy pop tunes, the game has nothing but very generic â€œfunkâ€ sounding background music.
Despite the problems I had with the game’s visuals, at the very least A Crowd of Monsters does show a bit of imagination in what they are trying to do here. However, the game is just flat out boring. I went in hoping to get a game similar to Bit.Trip Runner, but what I got was a mediocre platformer with no charm, style, and no idea what it wanted to be. I’m also infintiely disappointed the developers didn’t use the pun, Athena Franklin, which would have worked well in paying homage to the great singer and the classical theme the game wanted.
Funk of Titans is out January 9th, 2015 for the Xbox One.