Developed by Freshly Squeezed and published by Soedesco, Defunct is basically the story of Wall-E's cousin falling to an unknown and inexplicably junkyard-themed Earth where he must use his busted motor and a gravity manipulator to navigate Sonic-esque loops, hills, and awesome jumps to return to the spaceship he fell out of.
First, just let me say what an amazing job Freshly Squeezed did for making the jumps feel BIG.
Many of the jumps gave me a sense of "Holy shit!" as I literally flew into the sky and saw the level spread out before me. These tracks are huge, and the sense of their enormity is well demonstrated while flying over them. The levels are all linear with multiple ways of progressing. While speed is important, how smooth you can traverse the often obstacle-ridden levels often outweighs speed. Defunct has the neat characteristic of offering you different paths without forcing you to take one. This makes exploration an unessential part of completing the game, but an essential part of experiencing it. While it is short (I reached the credits in under forty minutes), I spent nearly an hour trying to execute a series of jumps to land on a platform high up just to see the sweeping vista. If exploration is not your schtick, after completing the game you are offered a buffet of all the levels in a time-trial exhibition.
Defunct was designed with a simple charm.The graphics are wonderfully cartoonish, as are the animations of your robot. Virtually all of the levels have a kind of Borderlands-without-the-cel-shading look. Even my girlfriend, who rarely plays video games, commented how Defunct reminds her of Wall-E in Borderlands. It seemed an apt observation. An odd but adorable addition to the game was the hovering, white robots (that conveniently look like EVE) who can be seen zooming around the levels and occasionally hitting you. Despite the importance of needing to get back to the spaceship before it leaves there really is no sense of urgency. While this is at odds with the story, it makes the expansive levels feel more accessible, as opposed to zipping through as fast as possible. Defunct lacks any dialogue, and the only text featured are the brief explanation points in the first few levels. The story is clearly expressed with the robot, and his simplistic animations convey the general story and feeling of each cutscene. There is, unfortunately, little in the way of music or ambient noise but this is a small blemish on an otherwise visual treat.
My first minutes playing Defunct were not what I expected.
I actually became annoyed in the opening area. Call me impatient, but the cramped and dour spaceship you start in is not what I had seen in the trailer, and the controls were not convenient in such a confining area. My ill mood subsided when the "tutorial" came to an abrupt halt and I tumbled to the planet below. My first problem was playing with a controller. I am sure the controller works for most people but I am not one of them. I ultimately found the mouse and keyboard to be more intuitive and to my liking. The layout is W to move forward and S to stop, Shift to use the NOS-like substance, left click to use the gravity manipulator and right click to use the magnetizer. Using gravity to propel yourself while going downhill takes a second to get used to but is surprisingly easy to use once you do. Being bad at action/racing games, I usually ended up relying on the speed boosts and the NOS-like substance you pick up navigating the various courses, so my experience will definitely be different from people who have good reflexes. My only real issue with the controls was the inability to do a 360 pan around yourself despite being in 3rd person. Being deprived of the amazing views is annoying when you're a hundred or so feet in the air.
I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Defunct. If you told me the game is a robot jumping over various obstacles trying to get home I would probably never give a try. After the tutorial, I immediately saw the appeal of Defunct and wanted to explore the horizons I briefly saw while way up in the sky. The aesthetics were a real charm for me, and I especially liked lazily exploring, finding a great ramp to jump off and seconds later being in the air. Despite being short, it has a lot to offer. If you enjoy an open-world racing-type game, then Defunct is definitely something you should check out.