Review Troublemaker

Review Troublemaker

Almost every gamer in the Nusantara region who follows the local gaming scene is likely familiar with the name "Parakacuk" - an action game concocted by a team named Gamecom Team several years ago. The hype surrounding this game was incredibly strong, as various publications, both local and international, immediately drew comparisons between its school-based concept and Rockstar's game - Bully, back in the day - with the action aspect even being associated with the Yakuza series. Unsurprisingly, all the news that came out, without any clarifications or denials from the development team, immediately raised hopes that Indonesia would finally have a semi-open-world game with proper 3D visualization.

During the development process, the name "Parakacuk" was later revamped to "Troublemaker," which should have been more effective in capturing the potential market outside of Indonesia. This name change, however, wasn't accompanied by any other changes from the Gamecom Team. Troublemaker still stands as an Indonesian school-themed action game that aims to sell the intensity of profane and rough language as a distinct feature, where you won't have difficulty encountering words like "Bangsat" and even worse, from the very beginning until the end of the game. A rather unique strategy.

So, what does Troublemaker actually offer in its final version? What makes us refer to it as a game with high aspiration but plagued by impotence? This review will delve deeper to provide you with the answers.


Troublemaker puts you in the shoes of a teenage boy named Budi, who not only frequently finds himself involved in fights against his will but also possesses skills in that area. His latest fighting incident leads his mother to decide to transfer Budi to another school - SMK Cipta Wiyata, which turns out to be even worse. Budi now enters an SMK where, instead of being opposed, student fights are actually supported.

Budi then becomes entangled in a plot that's difficult to assess rationally. For some reason, SMK Cipta Wiyata turns out to host a bare-handed fighting tournament among students from various majors to compete for the School Operational Assistance (Bantuan Operasional Sekolah or BOS) funds. Whoever wins will receive BOS funds after graduating and even secure a job, making this offer appear tempting amidst the stigma in the game about SMK graduates struggling to find work. Budi is chosen to represent his major, with friends like Zaenal, Rani, and Boby supporting him.

As predicted, SMK Cipta Wiyata is also filled with numerous other student fighters who come with their own fighting styles. Some officially enter the tournament to vie for the same BOS rights, but there are also many who gather merely to form groups of bullies or small-time thugs within this educational environment. These are the individuals who will eventually exchange punches and kicks with Budi.

So, what kinds of challenges must Budi overcome? What kinds of opponents does he need to face? And what roles do his other supporting friends play? All the answers to these questions can be discovered by playing Troublemaker.

"'2D is better than 3D' joke is something you might often hear in anime communities, especially when conversations turn to the topic of waifus. There's a belief, along with a jest, that 2D waifus, typically from anime, are more faithful and reliable than 3D waifus, referring to real-world women. Who would have thought that at one point in our review's history, this 'joke' could actually be applied to a video game. Indeed, in this case – Troublemaker.

The gameplay of Troublemaker is built as a 3D action game based on Unreal, but the storytelling is mostly presented in the form of enchanting 2D artwork, the quality of which is undeniable, even worthy of a separate release as a local comic. Troublemaker certainly isn't the first game to utilize these two different styles to create the gaming experience. The problem? The game fails to translate the charm of these 2D story-presenting artworks into its 3D gameplay, which should be its focus.

You don't need to look far to see this; it's already apparent from the failure to translate Budi's appearance from the 2D version into his 3D version, which appears as a generic character with uninspiring design. With the main character facing this issue, you can predict that you might encounter similar quality from all the supporting characters. The disparity in quality between these two visualizations is truly significant, enough to make you furrow your brows about the creative decisions made. Because it's clear now that some kind of impotence is occurring in translating the existing designs into gameplay, including the dramatization which feels more impressive in the artwork.

Observing the 3D models of the characters you encounter will raise more questions about what happened during the development process. Apart from the generic design issues, you can also see the application of absurd elements that make many of these characters look abnormal. For instance? Sophia, who is supposed to be Budi's partner. Wearing a high school uniform with a pronounced bust, her character model doesn't look like she's actually wearing clothes. The tightness of the outfit she's wearing, revealing her body contours so clearly, makes her look like she's covered in body paint rather than wearing a dress. Odd animations and character models for other students are also easily noticeable in various angles."

Another aspect of visual presentation that is worth criticizing comes from the variety of visual effects that occur in several chapters, especially regarding rain and fog effects. In many chapters where these situations take place, what you see on the screen is really unclear. Instead of looking like fog or rain, it's more like you're running or fighting inside a murky fish tank that suddenly appeared. Fortunately, on the visual side, there's at least one thing worthy of praise – the finishing move animations for defeated enemies are fairly smooth with commendable details.

On the audio side? Fortunately, Troublemaker at least has a soundtrack that fits various situations, although one of them is arguably too reminiscent of what Yakuza offers. While the rest of the audio aspects? Disappointing. Despite a slight appreciation for including Voice Acting, the Indonesian version of it is inadequate. Not only are the character intonations sometimes too flat in emotional situations or excessively emotional in flat situations, but you can also find inconsistent sound volume quality throughout the game.

So, in terms of presentation, Troublemaker can't really be considered impressive. Apart from the finishing move animations, the 2D artwork it presents, and some parts of the soundtrack it offers, almost all other aspects of presentation fall far below expectations.

One unique feeling arose during our playthrough with Troublemaker, which we managed to complete in under 5 hours. Something we rarely encounter in other indie or AAA games. Yes, a consistently cringe-inducing sensation from start to finish, primarily due to two things - the storytelling and the use of profane language it employs.


Review Troublemaker

Along with the playtime, we've ourselves ignored the irrational foundation of Troublemaker's story regarding the BOS funds and the need to hold a bare-handed fighting tournament in a school ecosystem that inherently consists of more educated adults who should be capable of devising far better solutions. Also, disregard how this tournament "leaked" onto the school grounds, with fights against other class groups happening frequently, which aren't part of the official tournament yet bear no consequences whatsoever. Disregard that, for a game with a school theme, you're not treated to much in terms of learning and teaching processes; your activities are solely centered around fighting. Disregard all that, and believe it or not, Troublemaker will still make you cringe constantly.

One of the sources of this cringe is the issue of humor that feels misdirected. Because it must be admitted, instead of laughter, much of the "humor" or attempted shock moments come across as so absurd and forced that we feel this kind of humor would only be amusing to children. For instance? There's a character from another class who has a hobby of discussing the size of his stools after using the restroom. The development team might have thought that such dialogue is absurd and funny, but it's so inappropriate and out of place that our reaction was often more like "What on earth..." Even worse news? You'll also come across a photo where Budi, Zaenal, Boby, and Rani gather in a restroom and take a selfie together with the said stool. Funny? No. Cringe-worthy? Yes. And situations like this surface several times.

Another source of cringe comes from the references that the development team brings into the game. You'll encounter situations where characters talk about "Night City" from Cyberpunk 2077, the iconic lines of The Merchant from Resident Evil 4, and even the iconic Jojo poses repeated on two different occasions. References like these assume that all Troublemaker players are familiar with these games, just like the development team is. But imagine how disconnected it feels when you're checking out the story and suddenly find a reference to Night City here if you haven't played Cyberpunk 2077? And it must be acknowledged that Troublemaker injects many such references here and there, to the point where it's not hard to stumble upon the name of a familiar Indonesian YouTuber as an NPC name you're up against. For this latter point, is it merely a tribute? Or a strategy in hopes that the YouTuber would help promote their game because a similar name is featured? Whatever the reason, it's still cringe-worthy.

Then you encounter dialogues filled with explicit profanity in almost all types of conversations. While in some situations, such profanity should amplify the emotions intended by the voice actors/actresses, it should not be excessive. The excessive use of profanity injected by Troublemaker into its dialogues leads to it "leaking" and being used in situations where the profanity doesn't feel appropriate. Instead of enhancing the atmosphere of the conversation, this profanity actually disrupts the flow that should have been better presented. The bad news? There's an impression that the development team determines the "COOL" level of characters based on the frequency of profanity they utter, rather than crafting better characterizations. The mismatched timing of its usage also makes many situations in the game feel awkward, or rather, cringe-worthy.

And ultimately, the source of the last cringe-fest also comes from the writing style of the story, which must be admitted to be below standard, ranging from incompleteness to pacing issues. For instance, the romantic relationship between Budi and Sophie suddenly develops through just 2-3 separate cut-scenes that provide no prior foundation that there was any romance there. Or how they write that one of the boss characters is often late, and therefore while waiting, you have to fight the same crocodiles at least 2-3 times, which is naturally confusing.

However, from all of this writing, it sometimes reveals sensitive matters that feel misplaced and inappropriate again. Previously unaddressed issues are suddenly brought up at various times to trigger a bit of sensitivity, but it actually makes us furrow our brows. There are two situations where we felt this way. First? When Budi is careless and loses a fight against Sophie's ex, and the ex claims he had "used" Sophie before, then retracts it as a lie. This situation is absurd. It addresses the issue of virginity that was never discussed by Budi or Sophie before and they never talked about how important it is in a relationship. Then, without a clear reason, virginity is brought up as a "weapon" against Budi, who, despite his wise words about how it doesn't matter, still submits to defeat and carelessness, clearly showing that he's still affected. What's worse? This virginity issue is not discussed again after the scene, leaving it without a conclusion on whether this is a matter worth discussing or not.

Second? When nearing the ending session where the Parakacuk kids gather again amidst the month of Ramadan. Without a clear reason, without any previous hints, and without any significant contribution to the story, you suddenly get the information that 2 out of 4 members of the Parakacuk team – namely Rani and Zaenal here – are Christians. This is then followed by religious jokes with Boby about converting religions. We were quite confused as to why information about religion suddenly surfaces at the ending. There are many ways to depict camaraderie among friends without resorting to joking about religious issues, which actually makes us suspicious that this joke was included solely because the development team enjoyed a specific comic reference in Indonesia and decided to inject it into the story, regardless of its suitability. Once again, the problem of excessive references.

So, the combination of these storytelling quirks and references results in a cringe-filled experience that we felt from the beginning to the end of Troublemaker. The excessive use of the expression "UwU" on numerous occasions also doesn't help alleviate the situation.

After being hyped by so much news about how Parakacuk, or Troublemaker, would be an Indonesian version of Bully or Yakuza, which wasn't denied by the development team, the game ends up being neither. Because in the end, instead of an open-world or semi-open-world game, Troublemaker is a highly linear action game.

An action game that, at its core, falls below the standard. Armed with weak and strong attacks that can be combined with an extra button for blocking or parrying at the right timing, the action experience offered by Troublemaker unfortunately becomes repetitive. Why? Because regardless of the many opponents you face, you'll use the same strategy repeatedly to overcome them.

We never once used Budi's weak attack. Every time we parried or actively attacked, we relied on Budi's strong attack combination, which usually led to a spinning kick that knocked enemies down. In this situation, you could approach them and stomp on them a few times for extra damage. This strategy is what we used from the beginning to the end of the game, whether facing individual bosses or a multitude of crocodiles. Once your special attack gauge is full, you can execute it as quickly as possible. This process repeats over and over until you defeat the game. What might make it different is only lapses or impatience that could lead you to consume items to restore HP or deal double damage to speed up fights that might feel prolonged due to repetitive situations like this.

So, the remainder of your action journey is rooted in your effort to strengthen Budi, which can be achieved through purchasing actions from a character named Richard, who plays the role of The Merchant here. Money, as a resource, can be obtained by defeating enemies in the story, encountered during the exploration process, or through various mini-games available. You can make Budi's attacks deadlier, his energy recover faster, or buy special attack variants with fun animations for various effects. As for the mini-games? They are presented simplistically with the allure of tempting resource rewards in the form of money, but they often end up becoming button-pressing speed tests that, once again, are repetitive. You'll find mini-games that don't rely on button speed, but they still don't stand out. One mini-game involving birds that you have to control even feels impossible to complete and unintuitive towards the end.

Ultimately, Troublemaker's design foundation also ends up being unlike Bully or Yakuza, beyond the quality issues of these two popular games, which are notably higher due to their status as AAA games. What we're highlighting here is the absence of an open-world concept or even the semi-open-world concept offered by Troublemaker. The only location you can explore during the story is the school itself. You can walk around inside it, but there's no option, for instance, to take a parked motorcycle and escape from the school if you wanted to. Troublemaker is a linear game with a minimal open world, that's it.

What's even worse, the exploration process, which is usually the lifeblood of "open-world / semi-open-world" games, isn't even facilitated by this game. In between moments when exploration is allowed, you'll find that there are many things in the school environment that end up being mere "decorations." There are classrooms with open doors that you can't enter, a spacious cafeteria that you also can't enter without a clear reason, or various objects with minimal interactivity, apart from a ball that you can push around on the field. Even in some missions, you are "forced" to use a specific path to trigger a mission or cut-scene, regardless of the fact that you could take the opposite path to reach the same location. Clearly, Troublemaker doesn't come with a foundation of thinking and design that allows you to do many things within the school, which itself is designed to be quite small.


If there's one thing that's clearly evident from our playthrough session of Troublemaker, it's the bright ambition showcased by the development team, who clearly built this game with high enthusiasm, but it ended up being limited due to issues of impotence. It's clear that there's something special they wanted to create in this game, but it couldn't be realized due to various factors. What we got is a repetitive and bland action game filled with cringe moments rather than evoking emotions. What's being sold is absurd and trivial humor and conversations full of explicit language associated with "coolness." All built upon a plot that defies logic.

Yet, beyond all these shortcomings, we can at least say that we fell for the 2D Artwork team of the developer, who have done an excellent job. It's hard to imagine any positive aspects we could highlight if this element wasn't executed so well in our eyes. We even hesitate to recommend enhancing and refining it further as a foundation to expand Troublemaker's market into comics, whether physical or digital, given the quality of the artwork. There's great potential there.

With its status as an affordable indie game and the fact that it remains a playable product with minimal technical issues from start to finish, Troublemaker remains an interesting product to pick up on Steam, especially if you're curious about the quality it offers. Regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, it could become evidence for two extreme scenarios in the future: first, it's a stepping stone that helps the Gamecom Team learn a lot and eventually produces a 3D Indonesian game worthy of celebration and praise; or second, it's a case study of how a development team should learn to walk first after crawling before deciding it's ready to fly.

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