There are games that need some work, and then there are games that need a complete overhaul. Then, there are games that feel so unfinished that they never should have been released in their current state. Lucentek - Activate falls in the last category.

You can tell this is a budget game as soon as you see the first title screen. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as plenty of fantastic games have been produced with minimal funding and/or small numbers on a development team; the excellent Axiom Verge was produced by a single person earlier this year. Unfortunately, in this case the game's bland title screen foreshadows the incomplete ideas and poor execution contained within.

You are dropped into a world with little explanation. The text that tells the background of the story – you've detected unidentified life forms and a space vessel and now you're under attack – doesn't even use correct grammar. This doesn't get any better throughout the game, but that is just the tip of the iceberg of problems that sink this ship.

You begin, seemingly, as a slow-moving robotic animal on all fours. There is no option to run, turning is awkward, and while there are step sounds when you move forward your character literally floats in place when moving backward. The basic gameplay premise is to walk towards an enemy, lock onto it using a disjointed, unreliable targeting system, and simply walk back and forth while slowly firing a single tiny bullet towards your foe as they do the exact same to you. There are minor variations, but that's the crux of the battle experience; it never gets more interesting than that. The biggest challenge lies in finding a big enough space to pace left or right while shooting, and also dealing with the awkward controls.

Eventually you meet up with "Joe" who accompanies you but never fires a single shot unless you are actively shooting yourself. Instead he will just get in your way and die. You will die often, not because of poor strategy or insufficient skill, but because the game doesn't give you an opportunity to succeed. Sometimes walls enter your field of vision and obstruct the view of your target, the lock on function disappears, or the enemy randomly starts firing twice as fast as before. You technically do have a dodge mechanic but it's also unreliable and clunky. Thankfully there are save points scattered throughout.

Draw distance is awful, as textures pop up only when you approach them. You'll often find yourself suddenly in a new location immediately after destroying the last enemy in a scene as the game relentlessly jerks you from one area to another. The ambient music while exploring fits the lack of detail that pervades the rest of the game; it wouldn't be so irritating if it wasn't just a short loop set on repeat, ad nauseum, with a very obvious switchover. The music during battle scenes is actually quite catchy with a thick driving bass line, although it is utterly in opposition with the (lack of) excitement of actually playing the game.

Lucentek - Activate is incredibly glitchy as well. Entering a new location sometimes results in the camera being stuck behind the door you just entered, meaning you can no longer see your character. To the game's credit, it does have some varied methods of play, including a hovercraft/bike mode. However, in the hovercraft, the camera angle is so bad that you can barely see the jumps you'll need to make before you happen upon them, and one-hit deaths in that mode ensure you'll die repeatedly until you've learned all the necessary patterns.

The game occasionally just cuts you off right in the middle of a battle scene, too, in order to tell you some unimportant information. When you kill an enemy it'll also stutter for a second, causing you to get hit by another enemy without any possibility of avoidance. On three separate, unlinked occasions, the game froze, twice requiring us to do a hard reset of the Wii U to continue. These instances didn't happen in the same areas, suggesting there are many other ways the game could glitch out in a similar manner.

As another example of the issues to be found here, the first chest you find tells you that you need three crystals to open it, but the game doesn't provide any instructions on how to attain them. It will tell you that you need to do something on the GamePad but provide no instruction, and you're left pressing all over the controller trying to get a response. Instruction is provided occasionally, but it's almost always confusing.

Let's be clear about some of these issues. It can be acceptable for games to be a little buggy, or to encourage the gamer to figure things out for themselves, or even be unforgiving. For example 1001 Spikes punishes you with many deaths, but the experience feels like a learning curve and the solid design encourages you to try again. Lucentek possesses none of these redeeming qualities and ends up being an exercise in frustration.

Conclusion

When considering a game's merits it's important to consider reasons you might not be enjoying it. Perhaps you don't like a game just because it's not your style, and so you try to understand how someone else might be enjoying the experience. However, sometimes the reason is simple - that you're playing a terrible game. Lucentek feels like an unfinished project and we can't recommend it on any level.