By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Publisher: Apogee Entertainment
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC - Steam, GOG, Epic Games Store
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch Lite
Residual crashes players onto procedurally generated planets for players to survive. The point of the game is to gather resources to repair your ship while keeping yourself alive. Plenty of games out there have this similar goal, and each has its own take on survival, so what makes Residual any different? Is it the procedurally generated planets? The platformer genre design? Or something else?
A question I have been asking myself lately is, "do procedurally generated video games really create a whole new experience in video games?" Procedurally generated maps create whole new worlds to explore, but they don't seem to offer too much of a different experience than that. Residual goes a bit further by generating new planets (even the names are different) each time you crash into one and generating new, strange creatures, unique biomes, and slightly different puzzles to challenge you. This is due to OrangePixel's 'Nature' engine, which generates planets based on specified rules of nature, which sounds all great and interesting because you have no idea what you will encounter on your next planet.
Yet, I found the experience of Residual to be fairly much the same as any other survival crafting game each time I played a new planet. Crash, analyze, fix the computer, find and analyze food, analyze and gather resources, eat, sleep, survive, explore, analyze and gather some more, craft, explore, dive (fall) into a cave, gather more resources, craft, repair your ship, survive, craft, gather and survive, survive, survive, repair your ship. I know I make it sound bleak, but weirdly enough, I enjoy games like this. They're relaxing once you get into them. I also love Minecraft, and the experience here really isn't that much different in terms of what there is to do. The main thing that sets it apart is that Residual is set up as a platformer. Normally, I am terrible at platformers as a genre, but this was one I didn't feel pressured to make constant timed jumps or avoid enemies in.
A list of some of the other planetary features beyond the map that get generated each time you start a new game in Residual:
Hours in a day
Resource availability (though the percentages seem to stay within close range of each other, probably due to needing materials to repair your ship.)
Explorable cave systems (technically part of the maps, but they're interesting enough to mention separately.)
Survive, Survive, Survive
The thing about Residual is that sometimes getting a good start means restarting the game. It took me a few restarts to get myself into a map where I could hit a rhythm and work my way on to crafting further into fixing my ship while having an easier time surviving. Some restarts had me struggling to survive because climates on certain planets are, simply put, more challenging to deal with, which did make me wonder if the procedural generation shouldn't be controlled with a difficulty meter. However, once I got the hang of surviving in an easier session, I returned to a different, slightly more difficult save kept going.
The game isn't so difficult that you can't figure out a good routine to keep your protagonist alive eventually. It also gives you tasks in the form of what you need to work on to fix your ship, so you're not running around aimlessly while crafting and surviving unless you want to. Your need to eat and sleep can be a hindrance, but this is a survival game, and it wouldn't be much of a challenge without having to deal with your protagonist's basic needs. It wouldn't be much of a survival game at all, to be frank.
There is the availability of a permadeath option for players who might be looking for an extra challenge. I may try that later once I've made it through the game a few times.
Being a singular survivor on a planet is isolating, but at least you have your little robot companion. I'm pretty sure everyone has noted by now how similar the vocals are to Claptrap in Borderlands, and sometimes your robo-buddy can be just as annoying. But, he seems to mean well, and sometimes he's funny. The fact that he speaks whenever you manually save was pretty cool. I think without him, the game would be much less stimulating.
Overall, I think the gameplay experience of Residual doesn't offer anything deeper than its cave systems. Still, if you're like me and enjoy mindlessly exploring, survival, and crafting, it'll do for a bit of casual play before bedtime.
Itty Bitty User Interface
The user interface is kind of small on the Nintendo Switch Lite, making the map when you use your visor even smaller, as it is already not a particularly large map. While playing, I also had problems locating resources simply because the small circles on the map indicating where resource locations were not particularly great to decipher. (Note: As of an update 09/30/21, the map marks resources with colors instead of circles, which I am grateful for.)
If you're playing Residual and you have a sight problem when games are too dark, definitely up the brightness on your screen if you can. Residual is pretty dark for a game, and sometimes the colors of the blocks don't contrast enough with the background, and you might often fall off of platforms. Falling inside of caves is one particular danger to look out for.
One Crash at a Time
The nice thing about Residual is that each of your crashes has its own save. So you can easily start a new game, crash onto a different planet, play, save, then go to one of your other saves and compare the differences of each. While you may only have 5 of them, it does encourage you to restart and save and explore new planets each time. While the overall experience is still much the same, the chance to explore some new planet(s) is great for anyone who is primarily interested in that aspect of games. It also helps that the aesthetic of each planet differs widely, and the colorful backgrounds combined with the different landscapes and fauna are interesting to check out.
Residual is an interesting survival platformer with great visuals; however, while I enjoy the monotony of tasks within the game, other players may not. Outside of the procedurally generated planets using the 'Nature' engine and the platformer take on survival crafting, it doesn't offer anything else new to the experience. I give Residual a solid 7.5 out of 10. It's a great game any survival craft player should check out for at least a few planet crashes.