Early Access Review: Pandora Project

Early Access Review: Pandora Project

From Roomah Gaming comes Pandora Project, a submission to GMTK’s 48-hour game jam. It’s a future where man and machine have been combined to create a new race of cyborgs. When a group of natalists break into a research facility for important files, they uncover more than they bargained for.

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

A short development time means taking into consideration either a level of unpolishedness or simplicity of story and function. This little short story game actually does quite a bit for the small amount of time it had for its creation.

For the art, instead of a sprite-on-background approach, they chose to move between CGs from scene to scene. Bust sprites were still kept to indicate speaker. Despite their simplicity, they actually have pretty bold character designs.

While it’s fairly likely their art style choice is a result of the time constraints, it’s actually very interesting and works well with the overall feel of the story. Bold, black, sketchy lines on white create a sense of drama even in their simplicity. While some of the scenes could use a bit of cleanup, the overall layout and feel of them is wonderful. There’s a strong sense of cinematographic design and visual, storybook-style storytelling. It plays well with the higher-action of the narrative.

That narrative starts from a very intriguing premise, that humanity has started moving on to robot bodies, and the social and scientific fallout of such an advancement. Our stalwart trio, as members of the Neo-Native group seeking to return humanity to its natural state, are elegant protagonists in this setting. Unfortunately, it almost feels like the world they’re building is just a little too big for the limited amount of story they were able to create. They introduce a lot of expository stuff right at the front that they just really don’t have time to deep dive on, and it clutters up what’s really a very simple and straightforward story. Not that they should have stripped away the world, because it’s quite essential to the turn at the end. They might have benefited from pulling the world in a little tighter to the plot, maybe integrating a little more without the lore dump at the beginning.

I also think they didn’t take full advantage of the choices presented to do something really interesting. They change the immediate story just a little bit with maybe one or two scene changes, but they don’t affect the overall story or how it ends. There was a really great opportunity to set up gameplay where you have to make the right decisions to “win” with the chance for dead ends, and it’s a little disappointing they didn’t take it.

While the overarching story is solid, it really does struggle with its actual text. The wording is clunky and poorly constructed with really basic grammatical mistakes. It really needs another editing pass specifically to smooth out the way the language reads.

While it’s still definitely in a beta state, Pandora Project has some really good bones. The rules of the jam to which it was submitted allow for updates after the end of the jam date. With a little more focus and polish, it has the potential, as it currently stands, to be a solid short story game.

Download it now on itch.io.

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