Camp Keepalive review

Jose Cardoso September 18, 2013 - 5:00 pm

A rainstorm wasn’t enough to spoil the festivities, so Camp Keepalive was instead given a more insurmountable curveball. The many days of preparation and sacrifice… It has all come to this – nights of team-building in the face of certain terror.

Camp Keepalive screen 8

What was to be a day of relaxation before the rush of seasonal arrivals instead turned into a B-side for Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’d have rather taken my chances with the usual discomforts of the wilderness. I’ve never even been to camp (not a leisurely one, anyway), so what would I know about weathering the storm of a loopy activity fest? And then having to brave these hostile conditions? Any other day, I’d think it to be a life-threatening family outing told only in cheesy flicks.

I shouldn’t complain, though. Imagine how difficult it must be for the folks handling the marketing for this place.

Well, fear not, executives in need of regulation-abiding ideas, for I have the solution: position Camp Keepalive as a high-stakes, turn-based game of Capture the Flag where you have to save campers from all your favourite horror movie monsters. Government-sanctioned, of course.

Meet the troops

It’s hardly a fair trade, having successfully escaped the jaws of rowdy, pre-hormonal miscreants for a summer of trauma at the hands of negligent babysitters and forest-dwelling monstrosities. So I’m about to be the lifesaver management was too afraid to ask for. Or rather, you are.

A leader is only as good as his team, and those making up this band of merry protectors are a rather experienced bunch. Experienced with organizing (unfruitful) search parties. Experienced with losing more marbles than just the playful kind. Experienced with being numb to grief.

Camp Keepalive screen 1

Careless work ethic aside, they do possess the capability of overcoming (misdirecting) the most sinister of foes to carry stranded campers to safety. Even if that means sacrificing themselves for the greater good. ‘Get those kids to safety!’ screams the only couple on the team, serving as a decoy while a fellow counselor’s expertise in navigation allows them to escape with the help of detours not known by others. The team’s father figure takes oversight of close-range gathering, doing so from a safe distance. ‘Come, kids! Away from that filthy being!’ he says, while his behavioural twin – a would-be cheerleading squad leader – calls for periodic team huddles as she joins the hunt.

Another, wielding a weapon of destruction, taunts enemies to accept their imminent doom, contrasting the mannerisms of the ninja apprentice who likes to take the silent and non-violent approach. And then there’s the scaredy cat of the bunch, rounding up campers speedily and then taking on the role of temporary Sheriff while waiting for the well-prepared scout to escort them to safety.

Whoever gets enlisted and how resources are divided rests all on you. Just remember that even though you won’t find yourself weeping over fallen campers, only ten deaths can be sustained before the game is called and you presumably get sued.

Camp Keepalive screen 10

With all of Keepalive’s camp grounds, you’ll find yourself mentally apportioning areas into quadrants as a means of dispersing strategy and guarding against sluggish movement or a lack of foresight. And a major reason why the game’s design encourages this methodology is to preserve the overall balance, and so that certain party members don’t become superheroes.

Camper capture

Because your viewpoint focuses on sections of squares, having the camera follow campers and counselors from different corners of the grid can be clunky form initially. Although you do have a small map, you’ll likely find yourself wanting, as I did, a fuller view of things. It helps, though, that the topography of a given area is illustrated well, both in its use of distinct landmarks and its method of highlighting approximate dangers. Enemies on the grid always surround their vicinity with a shaded effect, indicating that if anyone’s on one of these squares, they run the risk of being overtaken before their next turn. Like a “check” warning in Chess. But when moving to clear spaces, you must still survey the surrounding area because of how the turn system operates.

Often, inactive counselors who on their turn may have moved into a safe position will later be in a vulnerable state as others take their turns. Such a situation calls for players sticking close together so as to shield each other from harm or divert enemy paths.

Camp Keepalive screen 7

From studying the enemy behaviours and the terrain can risks be comfortably taken, and the developers have done a great job of creating a very balanced turn system that’s predictable enough for such study while also not being too restrained in delivery of surprise that it bores. There’s a balanced share of variables to consider, but not all can be planned for with accuracy, and that makes for steady challenge and a need to adopt stratagems. The key being that these are not unchanging, but instead go through stages of renewal and revision, preventing Camp Keepalive from being too stoic.

Traps – a provision accorded to all counselors at the cost of one move – join Bonfire Pits in acting as checkpoints and zones for safe passage, and can also be used, just by the lure of your presence, to ensnare creatures that hold a fix on your position or that of a camper. Gradually, you’ll see just how valuable traps can be in directing the game along smooth pathways in conjunction with character advantages.

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