Excessive Trim is the latest effort from Panda Indie Studio best known for their long line of vertically-scrolling shoot ’em ups published by eastasiasoft. We’ve reviewed quite a lot of their games and while their last one, Feeble Light, was awful, we generally like what they do.
This game is a little different to their usual output. Yes, it’s a vertical-scroller and it has a garish three-colour palette (a definite Panda Indie trait) but this has a couple of key differences. The first is the view point. Rather than being traditional 2D, this has a tilted perspective that’s a little more 2.5D. It doesn’t affect the gameplay all that much though. However, the other change is more meaningful and that’s the fact that you can’t shoot.
you play as an angry, stoned alien who is flying through a rural landscape in a buzzsaw saucer and your first few attempts at playing the game will be a little bit strange as the game gives you absolutely no clue as to what is going on. Aside from moving with the left stick/d-pad, the only other control is a forward thrust move. When you hit that, you’ll move a few inches up the screen (although if you’re not moving in that direction, you’ll just move in whatever direction the game picks which is part of the early confusion that we had). This is both an attacking and defensive move as it’ll allow you to mow your way through threats while also providing you with a few frames of invincibility. Without it you’re vulnerable to this game’s main threats which are rows of cows, angry farmers and tractors that roll towards you in formation.
Once you get used to the timing of everything, the game starts to make sense and it moves forward at a fast and relentless pace. As long as you make sure to dodge every time you end up near a threat, you should be okay but the levels are all randomly-generated which does have the effect that sometimes threats are close enough to each other to make it likely that you’ll hit the second one while avoiding the first.
With just two lives (or HP as the game calls them), you’ve not got much room for error but each stage does end with a stall where you are given a choice of two power-ups. These vary in scope from movement speed, life recovery, offensive power (which is odd because things just seem to die in one hit, so why do you ever need more power?) and scoring-related upgrades which take us onto this game’s only objective.
The aim here is to score as many points as possible and you do that by collecting marijuana leaves which are dropped every time you buzzsaw through anything. The upgrades can either give you a magnetic to attract the leaves or just make more leaves appear when you destroy things. However, there’s no leaderboard in the game, either offline or on, and so the scoring has literally no consequence short of giving you your own target to beat. Points don’t unlock anything, not even new palette options (there are a dozen or so of these and they are all unlocked from the start which is unusual for this studio). So really the motivation to keep playing Excessive Trim is about as strong as one of those old Nintendo Game and Watch handhelds from the ’80s.
Of course, being an eastasiasoft joint, this game will entice a subset of gamers in with the now-standard easy double platinum. To max out the trophies here, all you have to do is get to stage 6 which, once you get your bearings with the game, will take under ten minutes (certainly if you max one version, the second will be within that timeframe). So yeah, there’s not really much in the way of longevity here.
That said, the game does have a certain charm and sense of humour to it. The stone alien sawing through cows thing is amusing for a few seconds and the game’s unusual presentation does give it a unique feel. That said, the visuals are very messy at times with human enemies often being near-impossible to see at times. At times the aesthetic reminded us of when developers tried to do 3D on the Gameboy Advance which isn’t exactly a sub-genre of retro gaming that we look back on all that fondly. And the whole palette-swapping thing has gotten a little tired now. Why not give each level its own colour scheme? It’d help given that they all feel exactly the same.
So, yeah, this one is another dud for Panda Indie unfortunately which is frustrating because they are capable of better than this. It’s nice to see them branch out from flat 2D but, in all other respects, this game is a bit of a downgrade from most of their other work and given that it has the longevity of a mayfly, this is a game that’ll unfortunately offer you about two to three minutes of fun per pound that it costs and that’s not great is it?
+ Has a bit of a sense of humour
- Messy visuals
- Unrewarding scoring system
- Lacks variation
- Isn't much fun to play