Can Androids Survive Review – Moon Puncher
Developed and published by Strange Scaffold and aPriori Digital
Available on PC
Recently I got the pleasure of playing through Can Androids Pray, a short visual novel about two mech pilots coming to terms with their upcoming death. I enjoyed the game a lot, but it left me wanting to see more of the world. Thankfully, a sequel appears to have been surprise-released into the world almost specifically for me. Can Androids Survive is a spiritual successor to the first game, a new genre, and story while still taking place in the same world. Also, you get to kill the moon. Is that enough to be worth it?
Taking place in a universe that sees two space-faring factions fighting over the moon, despite the admittance that the Moon is barren and has no resources. In these conflicts, they deploy vast armies of mechs to fight, though only 7 in every 1,000 mechs is controlled by real humans. The rest is androids who just think they’re human. Parts of the world are so messed up that wireless signals can’t get through to them, and that’s where you come in. You’re drafted into the army, pulled out of the virtual world (or ‘vert’), given the job of courier and a deal: deliver 45 packages and you can go back to the vert. You even get to do it in a mech. Just you have to do it in one of the aforementioned dead zones and you have no weapons.
This makes up the basic gameplay loop. You’ll wander around a small open area, running to supply drops and following the minimap to pick up packages. You then need to bring these packages back to a central base. For the most part, the packages are composed of either ammo or information, the latter of which ranges from casualty reports to the latest celebrity gossip to everything in between. There are just two catches. First is your fuel, which you need to always keep a supply of by finding some with supply drops. The other is the enemy’s presence, which is composed of mines and turrets. The game isn’t named Can Androids Survive for no reason, after all.
At the start of Can Androids Survive you only have a limited range of abilities: movement, jumping, and a dash. It’s rather difficult to actually avoid enemies, especially the turrets that launch rockets at you. The good news is if you die you start back in the center not having lost any progress, just the items you were holding. In fact, at any time you can self-destruct, just in case you want that without having something kill you. In a way, it’s almost disturbing, that sometimes death is more beneficial than just doing your job. I imagine this is a metaphor.
Before long you come across something more interesting: restricted files. These give you peeks into the real events going on around your trips. The stuff command doesn’t want you to know. More importantly, every few restricted files you find unlocks a special ability for your mech. By the end of Can Androids Survive you’ll have skills like temporary invisibility, an EMP field, and a rocket punch. These are a godsend, something that makes the game world a tiny bit easier to navigate.
However, that’s not the only reason you want the restricted files. The more you read the deeper the plot gets, with the game building up the history behind the war and a possible way out. It says right in the description that you’re going to kill the moon. This is less about what you’ll do and more about how you get there and what happens once you do. If you want to get there you have to read more restricted files, something the AI in your mech keeps asking you not to do. Who’s going to listen to that thing anyway though?
That AI really ties together Can Androids Survive‘s presentation as well. The entire time you play it’s whispering notes in your ear, like “your brothers are relying on you.” It’s a creepy way to try and guilt trip you to abandoning your goal of collecting these restricted files and instead just keep getting supplies so your “brothers” will be saved and you will get to go home.
It only took me about an hour to finish Can Androids Survive, but I loved every moment of it. It took a world I was already interested in and expanded upon it in all the right ways. Both in the story, with some solid world-building that you’ll discover, and in gameplay, thanks to the rather fun courier-styled game. While I wish it was longer, if only because I really do want to see even more of this world, it’s a solid sequel to the first game, and I deeply hope we’ll be getting another look into the Can Androids universe soon.
…Candroids? Is it the Candroids universe?