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Bioshock: Challenge Rooms (PlayStation 3) artwork

Bioshock: Challenge Rooms (PlayStation 3) review


"Although it is almost completely lacking a story, the three included levels are fully realized and could be plugged right into the main game with very little fuss. Since a little more original style Bioshock was exactly what I was looking for, this was perfect."


For years I've seen Challenge Rooms on the shelves of the Playstation Network. It's always been tempting to try, but the $10 price tag and the thought that it might be garbage not worthy of the name of Bioshock always kept me away. This year I plan on playing Bioshock Infinite, and a little voice in the back of my head kept saying that I should try this DLC first to have one last round of fun with the original Bioshock before moving on. So I picked up the Bioshock: Ultimate Rapture Editon disc which has Bioshock 1 and 2 and all their DLC on it (I hope to check out Bioshock 2's Protector Trials very soon).

Fortunately, Challenge Rooms really does live up to the Bioshock name. Although it is almost completely lacking a story, the three included levels are fully realized and could be plugged right into the main game with very little fuss. Since a little more original style Bioshock was exactly what I was looking for, this was perfect. Like many DLC packs in this vein, I think it's best to have some distance between you and the main game before heading into extra levels. Being that I am a few years out from playing Bioshock 2, let alone 1, I really, really enjoyed it.

The three levels get longer, bigger, and more complex as you go. The first is a small area where you must figure out how to kill a Big Daddy with no offensive weapons or plasmids at your disposal. This level only has one solution, and it kind of leads you right along to it, but it is surprisingly fun. It teaches you some interesting techniques that would work well in the main game too.

The second level has you powering up a ferris wheel by electrifying its control panel anyway you can. There are many ways to make the sparks fly, and you'll have to use them all to get the thing spinning. This stage is set at a cool shopping mall that has a carnival attached to it. It's really fun.

The third level, Worlds of Hurt, is by far the largest. It's comparable in size to a main section of a level in the main game, although the layout is quite different. You start in a central room that hubs out into 8 separate areas that you must complete Mega Man style. Each of the eight areas features a different layout and mix of enemies, and they range in size from one small room to large open areas. After completing each area you get money and Adam to spend in the central hub. Each area also has a power to the people machine that lets you upgrade your favorite weapons. This level especially feels like it could have fit right into the main game. It feels like a set-up one of the sick-in-the-head bosses like Sander Cohen might have cooked up. It's really well balanced as you need to continually upgrade yourself and your weapons to take out the more difficult rooms, some of which contain some wild battles that feature enemy mixes not seen in the main game. The different areas and the whole set-up have a really menacing mood around them despite having no exposition going on. The terror and chaos of the setting really create a narrative in your mind as you play. As usual, if you have any Bioshock experience under your belt, I highly recommend setting the difficulty all the way up as knowing a lot about how to play the game can really make it too easy.

It won't take you long to beat these three levels, but fortunately the trophies offer up some really fun ways to play. First off, each level has a unique trophy. The first level trophy makes you be careful not to destroy certain things as you take down Big Daddy. In the second level, you need to find many extra ways to power up the ferris wheel beyond the required number to pop the trophy. It's pretty cool to see just how many sources of electricity you can find when you are forced to scrounge up so many more than you found the first time around. And the third level's trophy has you beat it without using guns, which is pretty fun, but not exactly challenging if you have a lot of experience with the game.

Each level also has a hidden object and time trial trophy. There are hidden roses in each level. And I mean really hidden. Unless you are planning on spending many hours searching high and low, the first level is probably the only one you can do without a guide, and I didn't even do that. While using a guide to grab hidden objects is not the most fun thing to do, it is cool to see just how creative the developers got with hiding them. I would have greatly preferred it if they gave off some kind of noise when you got close to them, or some other type of clue about where they are so that grabbing them all would be doable without a guide and enjoyable. Sly Cooper 2 and Quantum Conundrum both did this to great effect. Still it is fun to find a handful of these things tucked away in forgotten corners while playing through the levels for the first time and when seeking out the other trophies.

The time trial trophies are really fun. The first 2 are really like races to do the exact thing you need to do as quickly as possible. The third level is much more open and unpredictable as it involves extensive combat and allows for really varied approaches to completing it. With a few tips from a guide, I was able to complete it in the required 15 minutes (my original playthrough of the level took closer to 90 minutes).

While this DLC doesn't feature the trademark use of old-timey hits playing in the background, the music is still fantastic. Especially in Worlds of Hurt, the panic-inducing score that jumps out of the noise of the most chaotic battles really adds to the tension. The orignal Bioshock's graphics also hold up quite well despite its age; I was very pleasantly surprised by how good they are despite the improvements made for the sequels.

I also want to quickly mention that on this disc is a museum that you can walk through to look at concept art and even fully textured 3d character models that creepily hold still while you inspect them. This is a great way to do your concept art and show off un-used game assets that more games should do. I'm not sure if you get this museum if you buy this DLC on PSN or if it's just on the the Ultimate Rapture Edition disc or what, but it's pretty cool.

Bioschock's Challenge Rooms were a very pleasant experience for me. They really maintain the society raging out of control feeling of the original game along with its sense of dread and danger and homicidal insanity. The gameplay is interesting and different and really fun. For extra content that could have been phoned in, it's a fully realized and rich little experience and a great way to say “Hello old friend” to a great game I played so many years ago. It's a 9 out of 10.

4.5/5

Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (March 28, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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