It seems to be the season for parkour games on the PS4, with our Super Cloudbuilt review going live recently and impressing in almost every aspect. Deadcore is a game along the same lines; floating, mysterious levels with hostile robots and lasers trying to hinder your progress at every opportunity. Unfortunately, where Super Cloudbuilt shines, Deadcore falls flat on its face.
Despite Demi's story in Super Cloudbuilt being fairly lacklustre and ambiguous, Deadcore goes one further and relinquishes any story aspect whatsoever other than "here's an enormous tower. Get to the top." Logs can be found scattered across the levels and while they shed some light on the situation, it's far from enough. 5 Bits Games clearly focused on the gameplay, but when it comes to playing it with a controller on the PS4, it's more of a frustrating chore than an enjoyable platformer.
Much of the gameplay is about finesse, executing tight jumps and landing on small platforms, making sure you don't slide off the edge or get shunted by one of the incessant drones. The thing is, while a keyboard and mouse set-up no doubt works well for the title on PC, the DualShock 4 (and presumably the Xbox One pad too) offers far less precision and it's a struggle to make the more difficult manoeuvres. The game is far from unplayable, but it's also nowhere near the thrilling, moreish experience one would expect a sci-fi parkour game to be.
You're equipped with a gun, one that is less of a killing machine and more of a long-range universal switch. Fire it at a jump pad and it will toggle it on or off, while hitting a drone with it will just temporarily disable it for a few seconds. The only way to effectively get rid of the flying robots is to disable them then quickly shunt them off a ledge, or wait until they're hovering above the abyss then send them careering down to their demise. Much of the platforming requires twitch reactions to disable inconveniently placed jump pads so you can move past them, but with an analog stick this is far more difficult than it would be with a mouse.
In terms of first impressions, the tower you have to ascend is just one ongoing, intimidating obelisk that has a lot of black and little of much else, implying that it holds some dark secret or evil villain. It's not particularly imaginative or enthralling, looking fairly generic at points. Sometimes you'll have the option of two different routes, but both ultimately lead to the same destination. While it was fun to explore the various paths in Super Cloudbuilt, it's often better to just pick whichever route looks simpler in Deadcore to save yourself from getting too frustrated with the mechanics.
Deadcore is only an enjoyable time when you're going fast, but without replaying each level over and over and suffering from multiple deaths until you nail it, it's impossible to tackle it at speed for more than a few seconds at a time. It relies on speedrunning, with a specific speedrun mode available from the main menu, but for anyone to take the time to become that good at the game would require them to endure the pain of learning the mechanics.
It's also a common occurrence to become lost; the path forward is not always apparent and due to the floaty, open nature of the levels, it's possible to go out of bounds. You won't be penalised, but combined with the infrequent clipping through walls, unintended aspects like this hold the title back from being a decent game.
By all means, Deadcore is a competent game. First-person parkour feels more natural than third-person, but simple things like the lack of a mantle mechanic and the weapon being flatter than a pancake mean failing becomes an annoyance to replay sections rather than a blessing. No doubt Deadcore works better on PC with more precise controls, but if you're looking for a parkour game on PS4, we'd recommend Super Cloudbuilt over this.