Glitchpunk - Alice

As Half-Glass Gaming’s resident cyberpunk aficionado, I’ve had quite a year. The sci-fi subgenre has seen a boom in the gaming industry of late, with a multitude of different takes, from the comic-book-style, narrative-focused Foreclosed to the excellent indie delivery darling Cloudpunk. And that’s to say nothing of the elephant in the room, the game updates simulator Cyberpunk 2077. Over the past twelve months, I’ve played a bevy of cyberpunk games, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve come out the other end a changed man.

So why not tackle yet another take on this bustling genre with the recently released (in Early Access) top-down title Glitchpunk?

Although I do like aspects of Glitchpunk — and I can definitely see it going in interesting directions in its current state — it also comes with a cavalcade of issues. Much like the top-down games of yore, including the PSOne-era Grand Theft Auto games, the controls and camera’s vantage point can get in the way of what fun there is to be had.

Where to start?

I guess I should touch on the positives, because there are some for sure. Glitchpunk looks good. At least, the lighting specifically makes it look good; there is just something visually pleasing in seeing simple, pixelated graphics mashed with gorgeous lighting effects. It makes everything seem both fantastical yet tangible, which is the best possible way to present Glitchpunk’s almost-gothic take on the cyberpunk cityscape. The neon colors pop and the lighting sources — like streetlights and vehicle headlights — look great as they flood the otherwise dark streets.


I also like the brisk introduction to the main story thread. You are immediately greeted by some government stooge who asks a brief set of questions and gives you the option to answer in several different ways. All paths lead pretty much to the same conclusion: You will seemingly always be referred to as Texas, and you will always play the role of an android with a screw loose, an interloper in this fair cosmopolitan. Even if you skip the conversation altogether, the outcome is roughly the same, as far as I can tell. You will invariably be tasked with killing folks. That isn’t a bad thing, since I came here to kill folks and chew bubblegum, and… well, you know the rest.

The city also seems properly inhabited and rather bustling, even if it is perpetually nighttime. The top-down viewpoint doesn’t lend much to the individual character designs, of course, but such is the way with top-down open-world games. You get the top of a head, a pair of shoulders, legs when walking, and the occasional arm when punching something.

There are also some pretty fleshed-out radio stations that you can listen to while you’re roaming around in vehicles. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth here. During a future playthrough, I hope to just park up and listen for a while to see just how extensive these stations actually are.

I also like the random mayhem that pops off all around you. It doesn’t get incredibly crazy — at least I haven’t seen epic levels of chaos myself — but it is nice to see cops busting punks or street gangs duking it out on the periphery, without having to first incite those scuffles yourself. 


But, as I previously mentioned, Glitchpunk is not without its fair share of annoyances, and too often those annoyances come at the cost of the genre it inhabits. 

The top-down viewpoint makes it impossible to enjoy any detail in the city, since you only get a sliver of a glimpse at building facades, and you only ever get to see the tops of vehicles. For me, that makes it hard for landmarks to stand out. And that cheapens the effect of trying to learn the city streets as if this were an actual location, which reduces the enjoyment of a cyberpunk open-world game. 

When you are tasked with dispatching specific targets, they’re really just the same vaguely person-shaped blobs as all of the rest of the vaguely person-shaped blobs in the game. It doesn’t make any of these targets seem all that more important than anyone around them. If not for the indicator, I doubt I would’ve successfully picked them out in a crowd. The different factions do manage to color coordinate a bit, giving themselves a bit of a visual distinction, but not by much. I’m still having trouble even telling which blobs are police officers, oftentimes having to rely on the red arrows on the minimap (as opposed to the white arrows that depict civilians). 

Oh, and do you remember that you have to go to a safehouse in order to save your progress? Well, I certainly didn’t, at least not until I had to restart the game, since it wasn’t immediately obvious that there wasn’t an autosave feature or in-menu save option. It wasn’t until I was bumbling about on the map — looking for a save icon after having lost an hour of progress a second time — that I just happened to see the safehouse icon buried behind some other points of interest. I don’t mind having to go to a specific location in-game to save… I mean, I do mind a little bit, but I’ll jump through that hoop if I have to. The issue is that it wasn’t actually conveyed to me that this was how progress needs to be saved in Glitchpunk. As an Early Access title, I do hope this gets ironed out before a proper 1.0 launch.

Now, my biggest complaint is about how driving feels, which isn’t great. I can’t really pin this all on Glitchpunk, because whether we’re talking about the classic GTA games, River City Ransom, or the more recent Shakedown Hawaii, driving in top-down games, for me at least, has always been a crapshoot, mostly resulting in me saying the R-Rated versions of crap and shoot. Trying to do it using a controller is an absolute nightmare, and the mouse and keyboard don’t make matters much better (though the latter is definitely preferred).


In fact, even controlling your avatar’s movement and the aiming reticle leave much to be desired. I’m far better at character movement using a controller, but the reticle is difficult to get used to. And although the reticle is really quite easy to use with a mouse, character movement on the keyboard is tiresome.

Hopefully these grievances will become less of a hurdle the more time I spend with Glitchpunk (and the more time the developers spend tweaking it), because as I detailed at the start of this article, there are elements I do enjoy. But considering the flaws, especially in the control department, things go off the rails quickly. For many, Glitchpunk is going to be an uphill battle.

Disclaimer: I was given an early review code for Glitchpunk for this article, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

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