Thursday, February 17, 2011

Devblog: "Come At Me Bro!"

Haven't posted anything about the game I'm developing, Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl, in a while, so I thought I'd just post something from a quick cutscene that precedes a "brawl" style battle:

What I mean by "brawl" is that, instead of the normal "hero vs. monster" setup, there are instead two different groups of enemies who are fighting each other as well as fighting the hero. This means that the player will be able to make the fight much easier on themself if they work out which of the two sides is stronger and whittle them down first. 

Personally, I think that this is an interesting dynamic, especially because Riot Grrrl is a single-hero game, so I'm looking at retrospectively adding more of these fights to the first two levels of the game*.

*There already is one that some people might've come across in the demo, dependent on their actions/fighting style, but I definitely need to add more!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Review: Rework The Dead

Title: Rework The Dead
Developer: Beaker
Genre: Shoot'Em Up/Platformer
Program: Sphere

Rework The Dead is the latest offering from the same developer (team?) that released a game named Jack a couple of years ago. Much like Jack, Rework The Dead is incredibly violent, featuring unique gore-mechanics that exist both to splatter the screen with blood and to encourage the player to kill their enemies in as violent a way as possible. The difference, however, is that Jack is very much a beat 'em up whereas Rework The Dead is definitely a shoot 'em up: I suppose that if you have more choices of weapon then you have more methods for splashing blood around, right?

The premise of this game is really simple; you're trapped in a city infested with zombie-esque creatures called "reworks" and the military are going to blow the city to smithereens in two hours. Because of this, you're trying to get to the safety of a bunker deep below the city. So, all you need to do is make your way through the military bunker, shoot some zombies along the way (I will be calling them zombies from now on) and relax until everything passes over. Sounds simple, right?

Rework The Dead is certainly not for the weak of heart...

First of all, this game is beautiful, which doesn't surprise me at all having previously played Jack. Each sprite is incredibly detailed, especially when it comes to the game's bosses, the environments around the hero are stunning and all of the menus are really slick. The game also has a series of animated cutscenes and splashscreens, for which the artwork is amazing, adding even more sugar to the eye candy on offer. However, it's the little things that lift the graphics from "good" to "amazing", like the plethora of different weapon animations available, the spray of empty cartridges and shells that occurs when you take shots or reload and the range enemy animations based on how they're trying to attack you or how they're taking damage. A lot of games like this are incredibly lazy with their animations, but Rework The Dead certainly isn't. It makes for compelling viewing.

It's the gore system that I mentioned earlier that really brings out the best in these detailed animations. The zombies can be torn apart or damaged in a variety of different ways and each has their own death or damage animation; shoot a zombie's arms off and they'll be left with a bloody stump but shoot away their legs and they'll crawl towards you instead (generally, though, you'll always be wanting to aim for the head). 

The blood splatters also work well because they give you a real feel for how much damage you're dealing to an enemy. This is really helpful when your unsure of a bosses weak-spot, for example. The blood's also helpful for navigating some of the later levels, which can become positively labyrinthine, as if there isn't any blood on the ground then there's a good chance you haven't been there yet! 

Can't miss its head now it's crawling along the floor!

Rework The Dead does well from a musical point of view as well. Each track has just enough pace and drive to push forward the ultra-violent gameplay whilst also being haunting enough that it keeps you on edge. Combine this with the variety of different sound-effect triggered gameplay events (enemy ambushes are often indicated by their distant howling, for example) and you have the perfect recipe for tense gameplay. I can't really have many complaints with the way this game plays out from an artistic point-of-view, so how about the gameplay?

The main feature of the gameplay is obviously the shooting and it works as well as mouse-based click-and-shoot can. What I especially liked, as hinted at in the above picture, is the range of different damage you can deal to your enemies. This isn't a game of "x shots kills enemy y" because where you hit the enemy matters and, even if all you really need to do is aim for the head every time, it's nice that the game acknowledges the fact that other body parts exist when you occasionally miss the cranium. Besides, sometimes you just feel like taunting an enemy by letting it crawl around a bit! 

I guess that the secondary feature of the gameplay is platforming, although there aren't many sections where you need to focus on "traditional" platforming like precise jumps or immaculate timing. Instead, the levels allow you to make use of jumps and drops to trick or trap your enemies should you want to save ammo or avoid engaging a particularly tough enemy head-on. For instance, some enemies are quite large and can't fit through smaller spaces, so if you can get them to a choke point then you can get them stuck whilst you blast them away from a safe distance. Using the level's architecture to your advantage like this is really fulfilling, certainly much better than getting frustrated at difficult jumps!

Another feature of the gameplay are the boss-battles, which tend to switch things up a little compared to normal combat. It's nothing special compared to other games in this genre (the boss has an attack pattern you need to work out and exploit in order to deal damage), but they're generally fun and run by fairly smoothly. Personally, I thought that some of the later bosses could've done with a little less health because the battles became a little bit monotonous once I'd worked out the boss's pattern, but it's not really something worth moaning about. It certainly wasn't detrimental to the rest of the gameplay on offer.

There are a few frustrating features present in the gameplay, though, with the most prevalent being the annoying adrenaline/health-recovery system. Basically, you can use adrenaline shots to help recover your health and to have unlimited stamina for a small amount of time. This is all well and good, but the amount of time it takes to recover your health is ridiculous. I spent way too much time waiting around for my health to recover whilst playing through this game and there wasn't really any reason for it. I get that instant recovery may make some battles a bit too easy and so instant recovery may not be ideal, but there's no reason for it to be ultra-slow either!

Overall, the game i-

Oh, I almost forgot! The gameplay becomes ridiculous through the final levels when you get your hands on a sword. That's right, you play through the whole game with revolvers, shotguns, rocket launchers and railguns and end up discovering that the ultimate weapon is a freakin' sword! Admittedly, the level where you use the sword is incredibly entertaining due to how stupidly overpowered the sword is, how fun it is to use and how well the enemies and terrain are grouped together, but that doesn't make a sword being the most powerful weapon any less silly. At the end of the day, I guess guns really are worthless!

Holy balls, look at those enemies explode! How awesome is this sword!?

Rework The Dead is an entertaining romp through blood-and-guts soaked levels that looks amazing and plays even better. The story has about as much depth as an action movie's, but who really cares? 9/10.