The Leap Motion device has many interesting applications, from creating a virtual touchsceen input where no touchscreen exists to allowing users to interact with or manipulate objects through movement. This is not Kinect for PC – which does exist, albeit with a limited availability – this is a personal device compatible with everything from tablets to desktops and small enough to be portable. But the hardware itself is only one part of the story: it’s the software that sells devices such as this.
There are a number of different videogame titles already available for Leap Motion, but it’s Blue Estate that has the honour of acting as the headline release. Set to be delivered periodically in instalments that build the story chapter-by-chapter, Blue Estate Prologue is available now and sets the scene for a stylish, action-packed comic book flavoured arcade shoot-‘em-up romp.
Of course, Blue Estate looks like a comic book because it is based on one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have prior involvement with the series to enjoy the plot: Blue Estate Prologue does a good job of setting up the story for the uninitiated. The action is narrated by Roy, a rather uninspiring private detective who gets hired by a much more ‘friendly’ pole dancer. We soon become embroiled in a world of organised crime, betrayal and vengeance, just as would be expected from a Pulp Fiction inspired comic book world.
And Blue Estate Prologue does make good use of this inspiration. Its art style is simply fantastic throughout. The story is story through animated cutaway sections which revel in their lack of subtlety. The gameplay itself is more realistic in that it uses 3D character models, but still never takes itself too seriously. Clearly inspired by The House of the Dead: Overkill in its trashy action delivery, Blue Estate Prologue is a fun ride from start to finish thanks to a mature tongue-in-cheek presentation. Take Blue Estate Prologue too seriously and you’ll miss its best moments.
Blue Estate Prologue’s gameplay is typical arcade shoot-’em-up fodder for the most part. Enemies will run onto the screen with the intention of taking you down and your only goal is to be quicker on the draw. As with Virtua Cop, enemies about to land a damaging shot will be highlighted and the player need only hover their cursor over the enemy for a moment as pulling the trigger is automatic. Mixing up the gameplay are a few additional mechanics, such as a combo meter and kill patterns that reward the player with a bonus score, but in reality these optional assets will be ignored by anyone who isn’t attempting to beat their own score.
Sadly, two of the more important mechanics in the videogame are infuriating in their gesture detection. It’s hard to tell whether it’s the software or the Leap Motion device itself, but reloading and taking cover – two fundamental requirements of making your way through the levels – are far too unreliable to base your interaction on. Instead the player must be very conservative with their bullets, which is not easy when the gun fires automatically; the player must take wide births of enemies then align with their heads for one-bullet-kills, inevitably taking more damage as each shot takes a moment longer to line-up.
It feels unfair to say that Blue Estate is a case of style over substance, though Blue Estate Prologue does little to discourage that feeling. The presentation of the videogame is simply fantastic – funny, mature and perfectly pitched with the pulp violence that it entices you to play more – but the gameplay is so regularly infuriating due to the poor gesture detection that you’ll burn through your allotted amount of lives far too quickly. Electronic Theatre is hoping that the issues of Blue Estate Prologue are overcome in time for the next instalment of Blue Estate, as this is a videogame that could easily find a cult following if it simply worked as intended.