Category Archives: Shoot ‘Em Up
The Steam Summer Sale is currently on, running until July 5th, so another 10 days or so from this post, which means plenty of time to grab some bargains.
When 25 of my wishlisted items appeared on sale in my inbox, it was both a blessing and a curse for my wallet. I mean, sure, I spent a lot, but at these savings, it’d be losing money not to buy… uh, right? Double-mortgage aside, given the massive number of games on sale I thought this would be a good time to shortlist a few New Retro Games Staff picks.
Thimbleweed Park (40% off, ~12EUR)
An old-school adventure game throwback by Monkey Island brigand Ron Gilbert himself, Thimbleweed Park kind of gets thrown as Maniac Mansion meets Twin Peaks. Perhaps not totally inaccurate, but… to me, it feels a bit more like Zakk McKracken meets Twin Peaks.
The general impressions of the game were positive, and although while perhaps not hitting the highs of his earlier affairs, Thimbleweed seems to be offering some solid adventure so far. It sports some damn beautiful classic pixel artwork, and the five character + inventory swapping puzzles and bizarre town make it worth the discounted price for sure.
Cosmic Star Heroine (50% off ~8EUR)
I took a look at Cosmic Star Heroine back in Jan, and while I did enjoy it, I also had somewhat mixed feelings about it. A callback to 16-bit SNES rpgs brimming with modern potential, CSH had an interesting fast-paced battle system and creative cast, each with their own unique skillsets, but it tended to burn through everything so fast that it was hard to really dig in to. I finished it, including every side quest and achievement, in 17 hours, and that was at a relaxed pace. Still, sometimes we don’t want to invest 100+ hours into a game, and for less than a tenner, it’s pretty cheap.
Darkest Dungeon (70% ~7EUR)
This is a game I’d been on the fence about for a long time, persisting through numerous sales. The game brings some richly artistic flair to your dungeon crawling, mixed in with Dark Souls level punishing difficulty. As a fan of old-school dungeon crawls like the Gold Box games or even Nethack, this can be a good thing, but I also don’t quite have the patience I did those days. Nevertheless, at 70% off this sale convinced me to take the plunge and I can confirm that I have been enjoying the self-flagellation so far. Even playing on the (later patched in) easier mode, I find myself taking careful steps in combat and each trip feels suitably risky, yet rewarding. Worth the admission price, I think, even if you end up only spending 10 or so of the potentially dozens of hours the game offers.
Dungeon Warfare (66% off, ~3,50EUR)
Dungeon Warfare is a relatively simple but strangely addicting reverse dungeon crawler/TD-style game. Being some sort of sentient evil entity, you decide to fill your dungeons with an assortment of traps to put a stop to the encroaching horde of money-grubbing do-gooders from the inconvenience of killing you. Where the game really excels, however, is how well these traps work together in unison, whether it be pushing peasants into spike pits or pulling knights into an endless pit. Playing with combinations is fun by itself, but the game actively rewards you for doing so, and it gets addicting fast.
There’s a disappointingly increasing trend for browser games and mobile games to try and go big time by releasing a PC port. However, most of the time the leaving in of a horrible UI, dumbed-down gameplay and, in some cases, confounding “freemium pay-to-win” model in the game smells richly of cash grab. Luckily, this is not the case for Dungeon Warfare. It did indeed start as a free browser game (and is still available), and the Steam version simply adds a bit of extra polish and content. This may seem “low effort”, but the game itself is solid, so while technically you can get enough enjoyment from the free version, for me this really was a case of throwing a few deserved bucks the developer’s way.
Legend of Grimrock 2 (60% off, ~9EUR)
I bought this game for full price back in the day and still don’t regret it, even though it took me about 3 years to get around to finishing the thing. Grimrock 2 is an expertly-done modern take on the classic Dungeon Master crawl formula, and is also basically an improvement on its prequel in every way possible. If you like this sort of game at all, and don’t mind square dancing with giant turtles while unkillable air elementals push you into the water where a sea monster blocks the ladder while you drown to death, then hey, there’s no real reason not to get this.
Z-Exemplar (50% off, 2,50EUR)
Taking the spot of one of our games of the year back when we did that sort of thing, Z-Exemplar is a solid, if sometimes unforgiving, classical horizontal-scrolling shoot ’em up harking back, as the name would suggest, to the days of the ZX Spectrum. What helps the game stand out from its inspirations is its solid weapons system, with tons of combinations to choose from, all characteristic from branching vines to lasers to orbs of death, and all upgradable. Better yet, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and sports a lovely british sense of irreverent humour. There are also over 900 levels to non-linearly explore. They are all very short, taking around about 1 minute to beat, but goddam if that’s not insane. I am still nowhere near finishing the game.
Phew, that’s enough for now. I might try to throw together another list in a few days, because hot dam, if this isn’t a disturbingly enticing sale I don’t know what is.
Last year was a good year for old school shooters – with Z-Exemplar, Zenodyne R, Arengius, and Xydonia, among others emerging in either completed or demo-based flavours. Hawking suggests that 2017 will be no worse off, providing yet another new 80-90’s style arcade experience.
That made for a perfect time to step in the cockpit and head out for some old fashion galaxy conquering, and see how the full experience stacks up to the demo. Are the 900+ levels too much? How do the large variety of powerups fit into the experience? And did it land the right balance between old and new? Mostly, yes. Despite some rough patches, Z-Exemplar is very much worth its meagre asking price.
Tujate is an old school arcade shooter, that shares more than a passing resemblance to ancient arcade classics such as Choplifter, or console games like Phantasy Zone. But its a weird beast – its gameplay gives it an early arcade feel, but its ease of play and simple design gives it a early-mid 90’s shareware feel. Whatever it is, it’s not a bad thing: discovering Tujate feels stumbling across a pile of old dusty coverdisks, with retro games you somehow never knew you had.
These owls are a diverse lot. From wizard familiars and labyrinth overseers, to annoying dream guides or deadly laser beam shooting birds of prey – they’ve been around. Agony is firmly nesting in that last category, a fanmade 3D remake of Psygnosis’ classic Amiga shooter with no shortage of laser shooting owl action.
Burst Fighter is a slick looking indie effort that harks back to classic 2D shoot ’em ups of yore such as Raiden. The game was recently greenlit on Steam and we decided to hop in the cockpit and take the current alpha demo for a spin.
A few days ago – just in time for Christmas – we spewed out some of our best game picks from the blog. Now that the turkey carcasses have been picked clean and the hangovers have cleared (somewhat), it’s time to dip into Santa’s secret stash for more goodies from the past year or so…
New Retro Games’
Part 2: The Christmasing
Zenodyne R is a retro style 90’s inspired vertical shooter, where memorising bullet patterns is the order of the day. It’s highly derivative – following pretty standard conventions of the decade such as different ships to choose from, powerups and large boss encounters. And, apparently, starting the name of the game with one of last three letters of the alphabet (see: Xydonia, Z-Exemplar)
(like) Mad Max had managed to get himself out of the desert and into a macabre industrial plant; but you’re no savior. You will be the
judge, jury and executioner as you Khmer Rouge the last remains of humanity.
If you want a vision of Butcher, imagine a cyborg stamping on a human face for 20 levels. You may be a barely discernible slab of pixels, but there’s no meatbag you can’t tear limb from limb.