Sometimes, you receive a game to review that has obvious shortcomings, but despite those, the game also has a lot of heart. Troublemaker from Gamecom is one of those games. I’m not going to lie, every single element of this game leaves a lot to be desired. The visuals are bland, the soundtrack is entirely forgettable, and the plot is lukewarm and at times, nonsensical.
That being said, I find myself drawn to keep playing it.
Heart, but Not Much Else
Players are cast as Budi, the titular troublemaker who, after causing too much trouble, moves with his mother and begins attending a new school. Vowing to leave his violent ways int he past, he tries to keep a low profile at his new school. Trouble, it seems, has a way of finding him…
Bland Choice After Bland Choice
Shortly after starting at his new school, Budi is befriended by Boby, who I think is meant to be a chubby, slighty dim-witted character. I say “think” because his 3D character model is average weight, while his cutscene illustration looks a little heavier. You might think that the purple streak in his hair is unique and will help seperate him in the sea of bland character models, but you’d be wrong – there’s a ton of characters with terribly bland black hair, and just as many with purple streaks.
The dialogue in the game is bland, which perfectly fits the delivery it receives from the game’s voice actors. The sound quality varies from bad to terrible, where lines are either mumbled or screamed so loudly into the microphone, they distort. I’m not sure if each voice actor recorded their dialogue from home with whatever equipment they could find (some of whom I’m assuming only had access to a mobile phone they yelled into) but it certainly sounds like it.
Some games are able to get away with having characters simply having one word of spoken dialogue to accompany a wall of text, such as “huh?” or “yeah!”. These usually summarise the mood of the character and usually work pretty well. In Troublemaker, voice actors will deliver wet mouth noises, mumbling, humming, and curse words. While I’m not a prude and have been known to swear like a sailor in some of my content, Troublemaker’s feels like it’s trying way too hard to be edgy, with characters spouting swear words at least once in every dialogue box. At least “eyyyy fuckboi” was hilarious, I suppose.
Controls are awkward, and the game is extremely linear. You might be excited by the prospect of a martial arts brawler set in an Indonesian high school (I know I was) but the reality is this game either couldn’t match its ambition, or the team behind it had no ambition. You can only walk down narrow pathways and corridors in the school, either to a fight or a new conversation. You’ll want to explore because that’s in your nature as a gamer, but invisible walls will keep you on track – whether you like it or not.
Wait, This is Set in a High School?
I can only assume Budi sleeps through school from start to finish, and is only woken up to fight other characters, because this is the sole experience players will have with Troublemaker. It doesn’t even matter that the game is set in a school, because everyone acts like they’re in a martial arts tournament/pissing contest and no one attends class.
So, how is the fighting? Janky, with some truly overpowered ragdoll physics. This somehow, is the only part of Troublemaker with any charm. Fights feel like a bizarre mix of the Arkham games and Gang Beasts, where I know what buttons to push and why, but I feel like I’m controlling a Rock’em Sock’em robot that knows martial arts.
Fights can also be boringly easy, and then frustratingly and shallowly difficult the next moment. This is always solved by stocking up on consumable items, and then devouring an entire vending machine’s worth of chilli, red wine and salty snacks in a fight. That right, you’ll briefly take a break from kicking buckets at schoolboy’s heads to down an entire bottle of red wine and somehow not throw up.
Combine this silliness with the fact you can perform truly nonsensical special attacks such as spinning around with a broom like a helicopter propeller, or summoning a fry pan for a three hit combo, and it’s I can’t help but think Troublemaker was actually developed by 15 year-old Indonesian school students. Which if true, would actually be pretty impressive.
As it stands though, $30 AUD is too high a price for me to recommend this game. While it might have some janky charm and Indonesian games are well and truly in need of more representation, Troublemaker is a bland, repetitive game that fails to reach its potential. I’m unsure of what the development team actually did, as the characters, music, environments and indeed, everything else feel like free assets found on some dodgy website. Bully but with martial arts would have been a slam dunk.