I like to open reviews with a discussion of whether or not you should play the game I’m reviewing. No Delivery makes my life hard, because that recommendation is conditional. I think if you’re someone who has an interest in game design and the extent to which you can design interesting systems within systems, No Delivery is worth looking at. If you just play games to… well, play games, it’s a little more complicated. I’ve created a simple test below.
- Do you like classic turn based RPG’s?
- Do you like body horror/squick?
- Did you feel that the ending to Lost and How I Met Your Mother were well done and satisfying?
If you answered yes to at least 2 out of 3 questions above, I think you might enjoy No Delivery. It’s $5.00 and you can buy it here. For everyone on the fence, or quite possibly attempting to get themselves off the fence, I’ve written the rest of this article.
Let’s start with the setting shall we?
Theme-wise, the game is… fine. It’s okay. It takes place in a haunted/infested/might-actually-just-be-a-giant-perpetually-animated-building-that-breathes-life-into-inanimate-objects-within-it-because-of-a-satanic-ritual Chuckie Cheese inspired shithole.
ED NOTE: The autocorrect above just suggested that I correct shithole to shibboleth, which is… wow. Amazingly on theme, and also why is that in the dictionary?
It’s not that the theme is bad, it’s just that if I had to compare the general tone and aesthetic of the game, it would be the bastard child of Five Nights At Freddy’s and Binding of Issac. All of the attacks that give the “Nausea” status usually involve shitting on things. You kill a man by baking him in an industrial microwave oven. This is an accident, not deliberate. There are a fair amount of slashed up corpses and news articles about missing children and families. There are gift boxes that try to eat you, and you fight cursed/broken animatronics. The horror and humor is much less subtle, and much more Cronenberg then Stephen King.
I don’t love horror, I don’t love FNAF, and I played Binding of Issac in spite of the artistic theme. I’m not sure I’m the right person to be looking at No Delivery’s theme. So take this with a grain of salt: while the theme grabbed me, I never liked it or enjoyed it. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s surprisingly well polished for what it is, with death screens, dialogue, and sprites working together to bring that old-timey rotting corpse of a entertainment franchise atmosphere.
Now let’s talk mechanics. No Delivery is a fairly classic turned-based RPG, but with a few big twists. Your characters don’t level up, and you don’t construct a party. Instead, you are given a single random character, and each time you die (more on that in a bit), you get another random character from the pool of classes you’ve unlocked, and you continue on. In addition, there’s no mana or secondary resource. Almost all skills are powered by either health or items, and many of the items will give you other items when used. When you eat food, you’ll be given dishes and trash. Both can be sold for money, or used by attacks from some of the other classes (e.g., the waitress can throw dishes, and recycle trash). This can lead to some very neat resource engine moments, but often gets hamstrung by the way that the game’s dungeons, “Wrong Turns,” work. Outside of the leveling and items, it’s pretty classic “You take a turn, I take a turn” RPG stuff.
My biggest issue with the game’s combat mechanics is how party construction works, or to be more accurate, how it doesn’t. A large section of the game is spent running random dungeons, called Wrong Turns. You go from room to room, and some rooms have a chance to give you an extra Ally that you’ve unlocked, and add them to your party. While this would be fine, it’s entirely possible to go an entire Wrong Turn without getting one party member and the end result is a very screwed up action economy. I failed a boss fight several times before getting a party member with a stun, who I then used to stunlock and clear that boss without taking a point of damage on the next run. The biggest issue I have with the random party/lack of party is that it cripples the interesting engine mechanics I mentioned up above. Without a diverse enough party to use different items, many items you pick up will feel useless. (Looking at you Ammo, and by extension Batteries. I played 16 hours and rolled a Security Guard ONCE.)
The other thing to know is that once you clear a Wrong Turn, you lose the additional party members, and while there are a few other special party members you can get, they leave as soon as you’re no longer in the fights you’re expected to use them in. It’s kind of a bummer. The item transformation/resource mechanics are one of the coolest things about No Delivery, but they don’t get as much time to shine as they could.
So, if I don’t love the theme, and parts of the gameplay feel a bit hamstrung, why do I still think this game is very cool? Well, ultimately, it has to do with the engine the game is made in. Despite what it might be named, RPGMaker isn’t actually super easy to make interesting or good games in. Most of the time I’ve tried to make projects with it, I’ve either felt constrained by the engine, either mechanically or in terms of design space.
No Delivery utterly breaks that mold, though. Within what feels like almost entirely vanilla combat mechanics, it manages to build a really interesting item based resource system, even if it could be fleshed out a bit more. It manages to execute its “gross out” theme despite being built in a game engine that is made to create fantasy fluff. It even does some really neat things with enemy sprites, hiding information about them so that they appear as a single pair of eyes, but morph into a whole face when you select them as an attack target.
For me, this was the value of playing No Delivery: a reminder that really cool mechanics and systems can always be constructed, and that it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools. No Delivery is not the most polished or clean experience, but there are legitimately really interesting ideas and mechanics at play here. For an almost entirely one-person project, it’s impressive.
While I wouldn’t play through the whole game again, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how neat the item mechanics are, and wondering what else you could with them in if you expanded them.
No Delivery is $5.00 on itch.io, and if you purchased the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle a while back, you already own it. Do yourself a favor and play it.