When does science go too far? How advanced can an artificial intelligence get before it is too advanced? And at what point does an homage cease to be an homage? The answers to these questions and more can be found in Condition, a sci-fi platform shooter by abielins and Lycheesoup that's just a little reminiscent of Cave Story.
Players control a bubble-headed space merchant who heroically answers a distress call from a remote engineering station, where things have gotten a bit crazy, with the super-science and sentient chemicals and all. Move with the [arrow] keys, and interact with items, doors, terminals, and cowering, fearful space engineers with the [down] arrow. Jump with [space] or [X], shoot with [C], and switch weapons with [S] or [D]. You'll have to find some means of defending yourself from the deceptively adorable space blobs, though stomping atop their cute, squishy heads will also do the trick. Collect upgrades and power-ups, and figure out what is going on before you and your charges are destroyed.
Analysis: Right, so, Cave Story. Condition. Kind of similar. The stories are quite different, but both have a similar flavor of pixilated artwork, similar hypsicephalic protagonists, a similar feel to their platforming, similar four-directional weapon controls, and a similar reliance on set-pieces in their level design.
It's hard to imagine that these similarities are accidental, but it's also unfair to dismiss Condition as pure derivation. Did Castlevania simply rip off Metroid? Was Galaga just a Space Invaders clone? Should we neglect countless excellent match-3 games just because of their similarity to Bejeweled? Furthermore, Cave Story and Condition are way different in scope: Cave Story was a platforming epic, with many hours of gameplay and a deep, engaging, tragic story. Condition is a much more casual affair, with maybe an hour of gameplay, and shouldn't be judged because it isn't as deep as the game that obviously inspired it.
So I don't think it's right to call Condition a "ripoff". I still feel comfortable criticizing a few areas where it falls short of Cave Story, because in these areas it is obviously trying to achieve what Cave story achieved. For example, you can tell from some of the interactions with the engineers on the station that the developers wanted some greater story depth, but they never quite developed it enough. Also, the various set pieces, while fun, don't feel as well integrated as they should, so the experience is just a bit disjointed.
It would be a shame to view Condition solely through Cave Story, because there are many areas where it stands on its own. The set pieces, though discombobulated, are very clever and quite fun when taken by themselves. There are interesting, varied environments and obstacles, a couple of nice, if easy, boss fights; and a nifty finale. I also liked the enemy AI: while the automatic defense systems are appropriately automatic, the space blobs are surprisingly wily skirmishers who require some deft footwork or clever use of cover to properly evade and dispatch.
Condition is its own game, as much as it is decidedly an homage. It's not perfect, but it offers a lot to approve of. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, it deserves to be judged on its own.