Imagine being dropped into the blazing Egyptian desert with just a baseball cap, a lumberjack shirt and… a potato launcher. Well, now you can face that reality, as developer Crema’s twitchy first-person pyramid-crawler, Immortal Redneck, breathes a colourful, comical breath of life into the old school, arcade shooter genre.
Standing boldly between you and bragging rights are a dastardly array of enemies that range from lava-belching toads to floating skulls.
To combat these blighters you’ll have to rely on two things - your rapidly twerking thumbs and a suite of over 50 inventive weapons, found scattered across each of the floors you’ll navigate en route to the Apex. Our hillbilly hero begins with just a basic pistol, but can uncover anything from an electric flamethrower to a wololo staff (you can decide what that means). Each weapon will put a massive smile on the face of any arcade action fan; the shotgun blast is suitably explosive, machine guns are frantic and noisy, and Grampa’s Blunderbuss is simply a great name.
With all that awesome firepower, it’s a shame the environments themselves contribute little to the overall experience. Despite doing their job in offing up mythical monsters aplenty, plus accommodating hunts for crazy weapons and madman levels of strafing, areas come up short. They start out large and sprawling, like an Egyptian multi-storey car park, and narrow as the difficulty spikes, with the only real design variation being a few random platforms, more ramps and a few spread out pillars. Alas, that’s the inherent danger in opting for procedural generation over human craftsmanship.
It goes without saying that fans of Serious Sam, Timesplitters and DOOM will no doubt find a familiar home in Immortal Redneck, but those who crave a more narrative-driven experience may find that they get bored long before they ultimately reach the Apex. Even then, it could prove fun to dip in and out of whenever you fancy getting some sand between your toes, and, of course, kicking seven shades out of cute looking rattlesnakes with a taser sword.
A runaway crowdfunding success story, Agony and its grotesque realisation of Hell recently made it to market with the help of nearly 4,000 passionate backers. While there are plenty of grisly sights to quench the thirst of the gore hounds amongst them, anyone looking for anything more than the modern interpretation of a cheap video nasty will be sorely disappointed.
Anyone looking for anything more than the modern interpretation of a cheap video nasty will be sorely disappointed.
Sneaking slows the trudging pace to an absolute crawl, which means you’ll inevitably get bored and make a run for it, almost guaranteeing that you get spotted and face swift murder. After succumbing to a screenful of bare busters, your soul leaves the body and you’re presented a window of time in which to possess a lesser thrall and pick up where you left off. Possessions are automatic on easy difficulty, but require input on normal and send you back to the last poorly-placed checkpoint in the event of failure.
Finding and eating Forbidden Fruit - or Fanny Smith apples, as we call them for reasons you can probably extrapolate - allows you to acquire and upgrade skills that’ll at least give you a better chance at survival. That’s assuming you actually want to extend the trip, mind, as masses of alternate endings and a couple of additional modes - one offering endless procedurally generated challenges and the other the chance to replay the story as a succubus - did absolutely nothing to tempt us into holding the controller for any longer than absolutely necessary.
You might think all that seems a tad harsh, but we haven’t even touched on the crippling technical issues yet. Agony’s frame rate is choppy at best, glitches prevented us from making progress on a few occasions, and the audio is completely bust. Diegetic sounds emanate from the wrong directions, while ambient effects and voice overs constantly cut in and out and jarringly loop back on themselves; missing dialogue makes the unengaging narrative harder to follow than it should be, but, more egregiously, deprives you of relishing every syllable of the hysterically awkward scripting and delivery.
Let’s not mince words here: Agony is a sub-par, early access product masquerading as a finished release. Patches can only hope to make it stably abysmal, as opposed to plain broken, so you should absolutely avoid the unnecessary agony it’ll so ironically impose upon you.
Bundling the base Aragami experience alongside its new Nightfall expansion, Aragami: Shadow Edition brings the eponymous shadow assassin and his stealth exploits to Xbox One for the first time.
It’s visually very Okami, which is just one of many classic inspirations that Aragami proudly wears on its sleeve.
Taking a risk and stepping out into the light - or, better yet, painting temporary shadows into the environment for concealment beforehand - will often reward you with a collectable scroll used to purchase from a range of upgrades. Included amongst these are powerful new techniques, which draw from a limited pool of charges, as opposed to your Shadow Essence, allowing you to turn invisible, mark enemies, perform ranged kills and much more.
More opportunities open up as your arsenal grows, making what was already quite an easy outing a veritable cakewalk. While being clocked by a foe will generally result in your death, avoiding that fate isn’t much of a challenge, due to easily manipulable AI and the general advantages you’re afforded on top of your supernatural powers. Being spotted isn’t immediate cause for concern, and neither is lingering in the enemy gaze long enough for them to make you, as you’re afforded a slow motion reaction window by default (though it can be disabled).
Cutting straight through early levels is a hot knife through butter, but as the opposing Army of Light grow in size and diversity - integrating ranged bowmen and soldiers with portable light sources - you’ll be forced into an ever-so-slightly more considered approach towards the tail end of the game. As such, stealth aficionados will want to jump straight in at the highest difficulty setting to sharpen enemy wits and bolster their numbers.
Though we did crave more of a challenge - which a scoring system looks to provide, but there’s little motivation to get involved in the absence of leaderboards - there’s definitely satisfaction to be gleaned from playing the ultimate assassin, requiring only a small time investment to plot and execute a swift and deadly strike, erase the evidence and disappear without a trace.
Though we did crave more of a challenge, there’s definitely satisfaction to be gleaned from playing the ultimate assassin.
While improving your letter grade likely won’t draw you back for a second playthrough, achievements and skins awarded for completing polarising lethal and pacifist runs might just do the job, across both the main game and its Nightfall expansion.
A prequel story featuring two new playable characters, each equipped with a condensed set of fresh abilities, Nightfall spans four of the strongest chapters found in the Shadow Edition. Whether you choose to play as Shinobu or her sensei, Hyo, you’ll traverse complex new environments littered with debuting enemies and obstacles that, combined with the more limited array of shadow powers on offer, inject an engaging level of challenge that the main game mostly lacks.
It’s very apparent that Lince Works put a lot of time and effort into Nightfall, making it a rare example of an expansion that surpasses the game it’s attached to. Concise diary entries flesh out the narrative and offer a subtle guiding hand, while the buddy dynamic between its leading duo contextualises the game’s cross-platform online co-op, rather than just cloning the protagonist without explanation.
Clearly then the development team have learnt a great deal in the nearly two years since the original launch of Aragami, which has us eager to see what they might come up with next. When it comes to their current product, while a mixed bag, many will rightly be tempted by the prospect of playing as one of the industry’s best-realised ninjas in terms of pure, death-dealing gameplay. It’s just a shame that this power trip can come at the cost of your overall engagement, letting you breeze through the beautiful environments with a nonchalant approach to stealth and story alike.
EVERSPACE finally made its way to PlayStation 4 this week, both standalone and bundled with a few extra goodies in the Stellar Edition; whichever version might take you fancy, picking up ROCKFISH Games’ space-faring roguelike is an easy recommendation.
EVERSPACE has a more developed narrative than we’ve experienced in any other roguelike.
As such, it’s important to pick your battles by keeping a distance and utilising stealth where you can. Entering into a smart engagement - isolating enemies, prioritising targets, managing your shield and knowing when to retreat - can be the difference between life and death. It is possible to play too cautiously though, as you’ll need fuel to safely progress between areas and additional resources both to repair your ship and craft or upgrade items, all of which are dropped by defeated enemies.
Valuable resources can also be gathered from mining spots and containers, or purchased via ports and traders, though a looming threat ensures that you can’t spend too long scouring any one area for booty. Enemy fleets will spawn and hunt you down should you allow them to triangulate your position, meaning you’ll need to keep a considered pace at all times.
You’re sure to meet an early grave with so much working against you, which, as you may have already gleaned from our earlier mention of runs - you clever thing, you - will set you back to square one. Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
Any credits you earn during a run can be siphoned into a vast range of useful perks and upgrades, or even additional ships, though you have to spend what you’ve gathered before redeploying. Not allowing players to save towards more expensive purchases might seem unnecessarily harsh, but this simple tweak ensures you’re always heading back out into the unknown vastness of space with an added in-game advantage and a little extra motivation to hit your desired figure this time around.
Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
If EVERSPACE is sounding too difficult for you, then opting for the easy difficulty setting is the way to go. It’ll tip the scales in your favour while docking 25% of your earnings, slowing the upgrade process in order to maintain balance. Similarly, the elite can opt for hard mode and boost their income by 25%, whilst the dangerous can ‘enjoy’ a separate Hardcore game type that eliminates persistent forms of progression whilst throwing you the odd bone.
Whatever way you play, procedural generation will keep things varied and interesting between runs, subtly randomising area layouts and spawns. More significant are the occasional prerequisite area objectives and visually stunning weather anomalies that impact play, while the Encounters expansion (included in the Stellar Edition) makes an even greater impact by introducing numerous random character encounters that blossom into persistent quest lines.
Not only that, but Encounters adds a powerful new ship with an arcing lightning cannon and disabling EMP blast, loads more gear to kit yourself out with, new enemies to test everything out on, and even more, all while seamlessly integrating into the base game experience. It’s a no-brainer at just £7.99, which means the same can be said of the Stellar Edition, which offers a couple of premium themes and a digital soundtrack at no additional cost to buying EVERSPACE and Encounters separately.
Its sharp assets and striking juxtaposition of colours make the game really quite beautiful, especially on Pro hardware, where players can enjoy checkerboard 4K as well as the standard HDR support. Really then, EVERSPACE - Stellar Edition is the full package: challenging, tactical, highly customisable, rewarding, almost endless, and pretty darn gorgeous.
Unless you’re averse to taking to the skies, or refuse to succumb to your mortality at the hands of permadeath, you won’t regret climbing aboard the good (space)ship roguelike.
Having hit HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift late last year, Killing Floor: Incursion has finally made the transition to more budget-friendly hardware in the form of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Bringing the Killing Floor series’ gory brand of sci-fi horror to a new dimension, Incursion is a mix of old and new that achieves varying degrees of success.
An annoying cooldown feature disallows teleporting multiple times in quick succession, wasting no time in convincing us that free movement was the only way to go.
Fortunately, the game fares better at instilling chills in other areas. In spite of some graphical pop-in and general fuzziness, the largely dark and moody settings make for tense and grimly detailed places to explore, aided every step of the way by incredibly effective use of 3D audio. The sound works best in confined spaces, which also happen to be locations where the aforementioned cheese strategy won’t do you any favours, making for a potent mix.
While the campaign is relatively brief at around four hours, bringing along a friend for co-op and/or graduating to the higher difficulty level are motivators for at least a second playthrough. That said, most of your time with Incursion will likely be spent engaging with Holdout mode, which is more the survival onslaught you’d expect going off Killing Floor’s past form.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering it centers on the series’ bread and butter, Holdout is the highlight regardless of relying on such a prevalent trope. Playable solo or two-player, just like the campaign, the mode introduces a range of power-ups and an over-the-top announcer that grows more and more excited as you build a score multiplier by chaining headshot kills.
Here any semblance of ambiance is dumped in favour of piping in Killing Floor’s signature heavy metal soundtrack, its breakneck tempo mirroring the frantic pace at which you’ll need to physically swing melee weapons or dual-wield firearms in order to survive the intensity. Two Move motion controllers are required to play, which you can do either seated or standing, and they mostly do a sterling job of keeping up with the frantic flailing as you make use of the game’s narrow selection of murder implements.
The overwhelming nature of Holdout’s pulse-racing encounters can easily get you flustered, causing you to fumble the somewhat button-heavy controls as your brain struggles to process inputs on top of inputs, inevitably seeing you mobbed and mauled by the ugly enemy troop with no concern for personal space. It’s here a few desperate weapon whips, punches or pushes come in handy, but not nearly as much as having a co-op partner capable of a well-timed rescue.
Holdout mode dumps any semblance of ambiance in favour of piping in heavy metal, its breakneck tempo mirroring the frantic pace at which you’ll need to act in order to survive the intensity.
Combat is satisfyingly visceral as standard, though there’s something supremely pleasing about cutting the arms off an enemy that’s reaching out to grab at your teammate; it’s also hilarious when said teammate then picks those severed limbs up and wiggles them around like wet noodles… Puppeteering the sagging jaw of a decapitated head for one another was a similarly macabre hoot, though more human interactions like simply reciprocating a wave to an online stranger or swapping weapons with one another is pleasing in itself.
Unfortunately, our time online has been hampered by spotty connections, which, coupled with a sparse selection of just five small maps (one of which is a timed PS VR exclusive), calls longevity into question for all but the most ardent highscore chasers.
When a simple horror shooter in the vein of The Brookhaven Experiment would’ve fallen so easily into place with the Killing Floor property, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Incursion go the extra mile and prove an adventurous experience more akin to Arizona Sunshine. Despite the comparisons, Incursion carves out it’s own niche by translating the Killing Floor series’ dark humour, heavy metal stylings, and sparing use of slow motion to highlight its most gloriously gory moments to a new format. On the whole, it’s an enjoyable VR shooter that unfortunately finds itself in the middle of a very crowded market.
Everyone loves a bit of Norse Mythology, right? Whether you’re enjoying the new God of War or cheering on your chisel-jawed hero Thor in Avengers: Infinity War, there's something particularly epic about that pantheon of gods.
Unlike the other titan-toppler we played this week, Extinction, there's plenty of variety on offer here.
While keeping the challenge level high might goade some players on, this combined with the limited dodge range of your character (in fact the dodge itself is almost as slow as normal movement) can start to see frustration build.
Other times, the beautiful hand-drawn art style and animations can prove to be a hazard, as enemies fall and catch you in their wake when you feel as though you should be free and clear.
The final twist of the knife is the camera, which often zooms far far out, to Below-esque levels of distant appreciation, to show you the points of interest in the scene, but, again, often at the expense of your character's wellbeing.
All in all then, the intrigue of Jotun will keep pulling you through, and, being a portable game on this particular platform, finds itself well suited for quick bursts while trundling along on a train. There's little to bring you back once your quest is done, with only the extra hard Valhalla mode left to tax the most dedicated players. At journey’s end your character might not have much of an emotional arc, but there's variety here to keep you occupied without outstaying its welcome.
There’s no hiding the fact that Bombslinger is heavily inspired by Bomberman, at first glance even appearing as little more than a Western reskin of the classic series. Whilst the serviceable Battle mode doesn’t do too much to dispute that, its roguelike Adventure mode blasts Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
Its roguelike Adventure mode propels Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
While not as complex as the likes of The Binding of Isaac, which can be pretty obstructive to newcomers, the occasionally clumsy four-directional movement in Bombslinger will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins. You’ll very frequently need to duck around a corner to avoid the blast radius of a bomb, but every so often you can be slightly off centre to the gap you’re attempting to squeeze through and end up taking damage as a direct result of the fiddly correction process. Considering that this has the potential to put an end to a run, it’s far from ideal.
It’s not such a problem in Battle mode’s lower stakes skirmishes, though that’s not to say they’re easy - the AI takes no prisoners, yeller belly! DeathMatch and Last Man Standing game types can be played across 12 maps, with the former a frantic race to the frag limit and the latter a more considered bout for survival.
In familiar fashion, you’re placed into a maze filled with a mix of destructible and non-destructible obstacles, as well as power-ups and power-downs, with a mad scramble ensuing as up to four bombers fill lanes with flames in an attempt to quell the competition. It proves tense, fast-paced and skilful despite the inherent simplicity, which makes the lack of online multiplayer support all the greater a blow.
A pick up and play nature makes Bombslinger ideal for gaming on the go, but, when it comes to local competitive matches, a big ol’ TV screen is the ideal way for everyone to keep track of what’s going on. This makes Nintendo Switch the game's ideal platform, offering up the best of both worlds and sacrificing none of the sharp retro aesthetic in the process.
The occasionally clumsy four-directional movement will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins.
Bombslinger’s tentpole is its excellent roguelike Adventure mode, which boasts a characteristically addictive gameplay loop that compels you to keep developing your skill set over time. Battle mode is very much a secondary distraction, though proves to be good fun when getting some local friends involved - it’s just a shame that the fun can’t be taken online when there’s nobody to hand, and that control issues can make a game with a consistent level of challenge stray towards feeling unfair. Still, if you’re a fan of the Bomberman template, Bombslinger is a game you probably won’t want to miss.
Puzzles are designed to make you think. Everything from putting together a 1,000-piece snowy scene with loved ones at Christmas, to collapsing into a heap as the clock ticks down in that escape room challenge your friend Dave insisted would be fun.
The game’s 80+ puzzles ramp up fairly gradually, reaching what may feel like a natural conclusion around half way through, only to open up to a far more colourful and interesting environment, though to share more would stray somewhat into spoiler territory.
The visual style is stunning, taking mechanically impressive creations and fleshing out the world with sleek design and quality textures.
Unfortunately, thanks to a lack of ability on our part, a single puzzle got the better of us, stopping our progress dead in its tracks - despite feeling like we were on the right track, our usual font of knowledge (the internet) wasn’t able to offer a way out ahead of release day. As a result, we weren’t able to discover the “devastating truth” hinted to lie at the journey’s end, but the mid-game twist alone takes the narrative side of the game up a level, giving an experience which would be perfectly serviceable without the extra flourish.
Particularly compared to the first game, the visual style which Toxic Games have delivered here is quite stunning, taking mechanically impressive creations and fleshing out the world with sleek design and high quality textures - certainly up to the high standards of current console heavyweights - made even shinier with full Xbox One X support.
While the game undoubtedly still owes some inspirational cues to Portal, with this sequel the team have more than moved past such obvious comparisons to deliver something with character and intrigue as well as solid, compelling gameplay that’s well worth your time and the somewhat chunky asking price of £19.99.
With a star-studded team of Rockstar and Bungie alumni at the helm, as well as a pint-sized protagonist that’s cute as a button, anticipation for PlayStation VR exclusive Moss has been riding high since it was unveiled. Now that it’s out, does the storybook tale of an unlikely heroine on a grand adventure deliver? Or does it not quite measure up?
Whether she’s offering a high five to reward a job well done, performing actual sign language in an attempt to communicate, or even chastising you for wasting too much time on petting her, Quill is an incredibly sweet and personable mouse who’s pretty much impossible not to love. I’m not the soppy sort when it comes to virtual animal companions (you could fill a pet cemetery with the Tamagotchis, Fable dogs and Mass Effect fishies I’ve left in my wake), which demonstrates the care and attention poured into bringing her very literal three-dimensional character to life.
Quill’s charmingly stout stature also serves to imbue locations with a mesmerising sense of scale, absolutely dwarfing her, yet at the same time being detailed down to the smallest minutia. Each exquisitely lit area, from lush forest to marble-clad castle, ties into a cohesive whole without sight nor sound of an intrusive loading screen or menu to hamper the presentation so painstakingly built. This is a colourful world in which mice ride tamed and saddled squirrels, but it’s so beautifully grounded as to be believable.
Environmental storytelling hints at echos of human habitation within the realm of Moss, as does the mechanical nature of many enemies you encounter; whilst no definitive answers to these sorts of larger contextual questions are offered, the whimsical soundtrack compels you to linger on them in humanity’s apparent absence. The game does reach a neat conclusion on the more immediate front, however, whilst also extending the tantalising promise that there's more from this world to come.
Quill is an incredibly sweet and personable mouse who’s pretty much impossible not to love.
More Moss is definitely welcome, not least because the three to five hour runtime will probably leave you wanting. Beyond the opportunity to spend more time with Quill, trophies and collectibles are really all that might serve to draw you back in for a second playthrough.
While it lasts, Moss is a charming, magical and gentle-natured adventure which establishes a compelling setting and an absolutely adorable protagonist that’ll bring a smile to even the sourest of faces. Though its simplistic gameplay sees the experience fall short of matching the Hylian escapades that inspired its core design, the team at Polyarc have brought a winning formula to virtual reality along with bucket loads of unique character. If that isn’t a strong foundation on which to build the upcoming sequel, we don’t know what is.
Upon discovering a planet with a biome conducive to habitation, Axiom Space Agency deploy a probe to scan the new world. They find intelligent life and decide it's prudent to observe this species before making first contact.
The messages are prominent enough to easily draw the eye, ensuring you won't miss a single one, whilst fitting in nicely with the game’s futuristic aesthetic. Visually it evokes a certain familiarity, contrasting dark blues and greys with stark, gleaming whites. Further accentuating this with bright neon hues makes the Espial feel like any of the other spacecraft we've served on throughout our gaming career, though a pervasively uneasy atmosphere does serve to set it apart.
The Station’s narrative is masterfully weaved, giving hints throughout to those with a keen eye.
Which brings us to the real draw: the plot. The Station’s narrative is masterfully weaved, giving hints throughout to those with a keen eye, but ultimately keeping you in the dark until it reaches its climax. Everything comes together right at the very end, which left us mentally replaying key moments and realising their significance as the credits rolled.
The accompanying musical score is barely noticeable at first, allowing you to fully concentrate on the audio messages and sounds coming from elsewhere on the ship, before building to a shattering crescendo as you approach the finish line, adding more than a note of tension.
You can expect the whole experience to last an hour or two, depending on how diligently you explore. Repeated playthroughs will cut that time drastically, though there's relatively little to draw you in for a second round.
Some slight control niggles, a somewhat awkward map and limited gameplay interactions don’t necessarily make The Station a great videogame. Its story, however, makes it a fantastic experience that couldn't be conveyed with as much impact in any other medium.