Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta (PC) Review

The Short


Pros

– For a game made on the Unity engine, it actually looks ok

– For a phone/android game, it also looks ok

– Shooting is somehow more precise than the Uncharted series

– The dialogue is so bad it borders on genius

– Has multiplayer…for some reason

– Only five bucks for “Episode 1”

Cons

– Everything else

– Also, it’s only an hour long.

For a phone game, this isn’t half bad.

The Long


Have you heard of Asylum Films? I’m actually a pretty big fan. They basically look at what is popular (like Transformers) and quickly ham out a direct-to-dvd garbagefest that exists solely to confuse grandma when birthdays roll around (Transmorphers). They also made the Sharknado films. Despite their China-level disregard for copyright laws, I kind of find Asylum endearing, as their films have kind of a hilarious badness to them, and when put alongside the original films they’re genuinely funny.

This, unfortunately, does not translate into games.

I could say a lot about Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta. I could say how it uses both a Tomb Raider and Uncharted joke in the first cutscene. I could point out that the main character is a direct ripoff of Nathan Drake, down to the facial structure, except his “witty” one-liners are so atrocious they make Nathan look like a linguist. I could point out that the hour-long “Episode 1” has more different types of guns then it has enemy types. I could shed a single tear at the five minute “walk slowly around town listening to expository dialogue” scene, and the absolutely incredible “drive through a looping cityscape avoiding randomly spawning cop cars for five-to-ten minutes until the game decides you’ve done it for long enough.”

But I’ll just say this: Unearthed is such an incredible, glorious failure, I kind of love it. But not enough to ever, ever play it again.

Nathan Drake, meet Drathan Nrake, your long lost twin.

When you first boot up Unearthed, you are rewarded with an opening movie that looks like it was made in Apple Movie Maker. Stock photos fly across the screen as text breaks down the backstory, screenshots from the game accompanied by character names zooming by until it cuts to the plageristic looking title screen. It’s something you have to see to believe.

You are then introduced to our main character, Faris, and his obnoxious sister Dania. Well, to be fair, they’re both obnoxious, but she comes off as particularly grating. Though if I had a brother like Faris, I might feel the same way.

Wait, somehow I forgot the actual opening scene. Which is important, because it constitutes roughly 1/4 of this entire game’s length.

You start out in some sort of military bunker. The game gives you a brief tutorial on how to shoot (read: it’s a third person, cover based shooter) and oddly enough the guns are punchy and enemies aren’t bullet sponges. You hear that, Uncharted? People actually go down without having to use two full clips in this game. Unearthed: 1, Uncharted: 0.

It then cuts to a “three weeks ago” flashback, starting the longest panorama alongside the pyramids I’ve ever seen, and finally resting on our two heroes, giving us a good five minutes of ungodly bad banter. My favorite line was when Faris, who has clearly been travelling for days to reach this location, asks his sister “What is here, exactly?” As if somehow when he was spending all the money, doing all the travel time, and driving up this mountain next to the pyramids, he never bothered to ask why he was doing it. I love expository dialogue without context.

Hope you like this temple, because is the only real place you get to explore in “Episode 1”

Anyway, you get into the temple, solve some puzzles, drive an RC car around, and get some treasure. Then, a rival gang of treasure hunters shows up. Now, I always bashed Uncharted because Nathan Drake was a murdering psychokiller, but Faris makes him look like Ghandi. You’ll be gunning down these random guys who just showed up without remorse, until at last you make your way out. After that, Faris and his sister escape on an ATV, gunning down anybody who follows them and even shooting down a helicopter with a machine gun. Badass.

The rest of the game is considerably more boring. Some random guy calls up Faris and invites him to Morocco. There he tells him of the Trail of Ibn Battuta (roll credits!) and how it’s not at all like the Trail of Marco Polo from Uncharted, and how he should go find it. But oh no, the map is stolen from the dude’s house! Luckily Faris can leap from roof to roof and grab the thief, but not before a sniper decides to shoot the captured thief instead of just shooting Faris. Then it’s a thrilling car chase around the city (more on that later) followed by an amazing FMV ending movie (Yes, seriously. With Papyrus font explaining everything. I love this.) and the game is over. Total playtime? 45 minutes.

Ocean’s 11 got nothin on this

Let me say this: for how absolutely atrocious the story is, and how painfully awful the dialogue is (especially when it’s trying to have “witty comebacks”), something about this whole thing is oddly charming. The broken English, awful sentence pacing, random pauses, and just straight up stupid things everybody says are cringe worthy but still worth laughing at. If the game had just been that for an hour, maybe I’d have liked it better. Unfortunately, you have to actually play Unearthed.

The game is all over the place in terms of stuff you do, but it’s segmented very distinctly so that each section feels like an entirely different game. It starts out with just straight shooting in its prologue, then moves you to more Uncharted/Tomb Raider style exploration. It’s worth pointing out there aren’t any actual puzzles; you just find the objects you need in the environment (either by climbing up to them or just…walking over to them) and move on. You do get to drive an RC car (which is pretty funny), but even that I wouldn’t call a “puzzle” just like I wouldn’t call the Legend of Zelda series “action games.”

Following that you have to get out of the temple while gunning down dudes. This is fairly standard cover based third person shooting. I will point out that the shooting feels better than the Uncharted games. Yes, lynch me now, but Uncharted‘s gunplay is kind of garbage. Unearthed enemies at least go down when you shoot them in the head.

The driving segments are my “favorite” parts.

Upon exiting the tomb, you’re treated to what is essentially a turret scene, with you sitting on the back of an ATV shooting guys that try to chase you down. It’s absurdly easy, but ends in you taking down a helicopter with a machine gun, so it ain’t all bad.

Then you have my favorite part in the whole game: five minutes of you walking slow, following a guy and your sister, while he spouts expository dialogue. The best part is you get to where you are going and hit a cut-scene, and you think the game is going to kick up again, but then it puts you into another slow walking expository dialogue scene. I love it.

Then you have a “rooftop chase,” which is extremely simple and lasts less than a minute. I forgot to mention the game also has a “fist fighting” system, which is completely awful. Blocking is worthless, kicking is worthless, mashing buttons is all you need. After beating up the dude, you’re supposed to “dodge the cops,” but in my playthrough I just accidentally fell off the side of the building and the game triggered as if I’d escaped. So good.

Then you have the final scene, the best scene, the scene that will go down in history. You’re supposed to dodge the cops in a car. Your sister points out that you have to “avoid them for some time.” So what does that mean? It means you drive through a cycling city block over and over again, while police cars randomly spawn (usually far out of the way so they have no hope of catching you). You drive through this same area over and over and over until the game decides you’ve had enough. There’s no indicator, no challenge, the car doesn’t even go very fast, and even getting tagged by the cops just causes you to lose a tiny amount of life. It’s so good.

Such lifelike posture.

After that, the game is over. You get a final FMV scene and it tells you to wait for Episode 2. Which is not out. And I don’t think will ever come out. For this whole freaking game you don’t even start on the “Trail of Ibn Battuta.” And I keep reading it as the “Trail of IGN Battuta.” Maybe they were trying to suck up for a better review score. I have no clue.

What the crap else can I say about this game? It looks ok, at least the environments do. The characters look awful and move really janky, with tons of glitchy animations throughout. Controls are ok for the most part but not really polished (I can’t imagine playing this on a touch screen phone) and the sound design ranges from “dull” to “grating.” The voice acting is so, so bad that I have to actually rank it up for its atrociousness, and paired with the abysmal script it just makes things extra hamball.

Oh yeah, there’s multiplayer. It’s a wave based survival mode. Against zombies. Don’t play it.

I see them rollin, I’m hatin…

Ok, let me just be straight with you here: yes, Unearthed is kind of garbage. YouTubers ripped into it fairly viciously, game websites that even bothered to review it shredded it, and the game became kind of a joke because of it. But if I’m being totally honest here…it isn’t that bad. I’d more say it’s misguided. The exploration portions aren’t horrendous, the shooting is ok, and for being made by a small team, the game looks good and has good set pieces. The endless driving and slow walking parts are a total miss, I’ll give it that, but the awful dialogue is so charming I kind of want to forgive its shortcomings and recommend it.

But then I remember it’s 45 minutes long, which means I could have beaten the entire game in the time it took me to write this review. And they’re charging $5. Eeehh…

Maybe if they actually finish the whole series and then sell that for $5, it might be worth a shot just for a laugh. But if I’m being totally honest here, this game is really pretty bad. I started off loving it (for the wrong reasons, but whatever), and then it wore me down until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. If anything, the game is at least entertaining to just watch, so you can save yourself $5 and just head on over to YouTube in that case.

The fact this game made it on the PS3 is a laugh riot. Better luck next time, guys. I think you have promise, this just…falls flat.

One out of five stars. 

Or you could, you know, watch me play it. If you want. That could be fun.

Author: Nathan Major

Spirit Shark: Hammerhead. Retro game collector, true ginger, and SNES fanatic. Goal in life is to become Karnov from the NES game Karnov.

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