Category Archives: Game Reviews

Akane

akane-gameplay-screenshot-1Sometimes it’s nice to get dropped straight into the action in a game. Little to no preamble explaining the protagonist’s motivations, story trickled in only as necessary. Put the player in an arena with a few weapons, then begin the unyielding onslaught of enemies. This is what players can expect from Akane. It’s a very straightforward overhead view arena battler in a cyberpunk setting.

Taking place in Mega Tokyo in the year 2121, players control Akane as she fights hordes of yakuza, street thugs, and hitmen. She wants out of the street life she’s been stuck in. However, she’s going to have to fight for that future.

With that, players take on wave after wave of bad guys. Akane is equipped with a katana and pistol, so there are a few ways to deal with them. She definitely leans toward her sword due to limited ammo and reload times. However, slicing up enemies speeds up reloading. As such, there’s a symbiotic back and forth between Akane’s melee and ranged attacks.

akane-gameplay-screenshot-2As the game progresses, the number of enemies increases, requiring players to be on their toes. It will get to the point where Akane is being chased by dozens of yakuza, street punks, and the like. When this happens, it’s best to find ways to herd them such that they bulk up. When this happens, either turn around and slash them up until Akane’s stamina runs out, stay back and open up with her pistol (you’ll get about ten shots before she’s out of ammo), or, if there’s enough meter, use Akane’s special move. This will cause her to instantly charge through a huge swath of enemies slashing them to pieces all at once.

She won’t always have this luxury, though. Often the game likes to throw a spanner in the works by spawning priority targets. Some of these are very large enemies that Akane doesn’t want to get near. In this situation, she cannot use melee attacks on them because they’ll just grab her and beat her to a pulp. As such, she needs to keep her distance and use her pistol here. The other troublesome enemy is a hitman. Players will know one has spawned because they will see a retical over them. When this happens either take cover, dash in and kill the hitman right away, or start swinging Akane’s sword to deflect incoming bullets. When all of this happens at once, things get very intense.

As Akane defeats enemies, a counter at the top of the screen keeps track of this. Once the player has hit a certain number of kills, the boss will spawn. His name is Katsuro and he’s a cyber ninja. Players will fight him over and over again, and he’ll evolve with each subsequent fight. He’s not too bad at first, but will get pretty tough later on.

The game itself is actually quite difficult as Akane can be killed in one hit. As such, players need to be very careful. It’s not hard to come across the game over screen if one gets overly aggressive. Then again, if you pull off a really in-your-face set of attacks, it’s extremely gratifying.

akane-gameplay-screenshot-3While all of this slashing and shooting is going on, players will have a bunch of goals presented to them. These can include reaching certain kill string counts, katana accuracy, number of enemies shot, and so forth. When players achieve these, new gear will be unlocked that can Akane can equip. As more items are unlocked, players will have more and more options in terms of their loadout. Equipment includes obvious stuff like new swords and guns, but there are other interesting bits like gloves, boots, and different brands of cigarettes for Akane to smoke.

The game’s aesthetic is simple, but gets the point across. It has a nice pixel art visual style that does a decent job of capturing the gritty neon look central to cyberpunk. Music, though, is very repetitive, so players may want to consider muting it and putting on their own stuff if they are planning to play for a while.

With all of this, Akane is the sort of game that can be enjoyed in both short spurts and marathon sessions. Whichever way one goes, the combat is very enjoyable, and people who like unlocking new equipment will have a lot to sink their teeth into. Better still, the game is super cheap at only around five bucks, making it a nice distraction for cyberpunk fans.

Akane is currently available on Steam.

Way of the Passive Fist

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-1Beat ’em ups are a genre of game that really took off about 30 years ago. Games like Final Fight, Streets of Rage, River City Ransom, and scores of others were being devoured by people who couldn’t get enough of punching and kicking baddies in the face. Then the genre fell off the face of the earth for a while. In recent years, these games have enjoyed a bit of a return to glory. All sorts of passion projects have come along reminding people how fun it is to clobber virtual street thugs.

As entertaining as all of this is, Way of the Passive Fist takes a very different approach. Here, players don’t punch and kick their way to victory. Instead they block and and dodge attacks until enemies become exhausted. When this happens, a simple poke is all that’s needed to defeat them. The game very much takes a “the best offense is a good defense” approach to how it plays.

The game takes place on the planet Zircon V. It attracted a lot of ambitious colonists eager to strike it rich mining up all of the planet’s valuable resources. However, there were some who warned that the planet was too close to the sun. As such, they feared that this would create incredibly harsh conditions on the planet. Upon arriving, colonists were greeted with the hard truth that Zircon V is a desolate wasteland and living there will be tough.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-2Amidst all of this, the player takes control of a legendary hermit known as the Wanderer. He’s been living by himself in a remote part of the planet and is known for his unusual defensive fighting style. Only now has he emerged to fight the various raiders and other troublemakers of the planet in an attempt to make Zircon V a slightly less terrible place to live.

The art style in Way of the Passive Fist is somewhat reminiscent of cartoons from the 70s and 80s. Character designs have a fairly Mad Max-like look to them. Meanwhile, levels themselves are varied ranging from deserts to mines to exotic jungles among other locales. The sprite work in the game is quite nice, and it manages to set itself apart from other games that use a pixelated presentation. The soundtrack is also very well done with much of the music being guitar-driven. Listening to the music, it feels just like something one would hear from an arcade beat ‘em up circa 1990.

Actual combat is the meat of the game, though, and as was mentioned earlier, it is very unique. While standard beat ‘em ups commonly have crowds of enemies swarm players, this isn’t the case in Way of the Passive Fist. Doing so would break the game. Instead enemies will take turns trying to attack the Wanderer. With that, they’ll give audio and visual cues that they are about to attack, then players need to block and dodge appropriately. As the game progresses, these enemies get smarter and will try to fake out the player. This usually happens with an audio cue, but a delayed attack. So, players need to watch out for this. As attacks are avoided, a stamina bar above enemies’ heads is depleted. Once it is empty, they are exhausted and all the player need do is poke them once to defeat them.

way-of-the-passive-fist-gameplay-screenshot-3Even though players largely deal with enemies one at a time, they need to keep an eye out for ranged attacks and environmental hazards. These can still happen, and may require dashing away in order to avoid being hit by something, breaking a parry chain. These chains are important because they build meter. As the meter fills, increasingly powerful special attacks become available. With them comes a risk-reward system as players need to decide when best to utilize these attacks. These attacks are also necessary for inflicting damage on bosses, so building and maintaining parry chains is very important.

At its core, the game has a 10 chapter story mode. However, there are also additional chapters that are unlocked after completing the main game. Completing the initial game also unlocks a roguelite mode. There players take on all manner of additional battles, surviving as best they can.

As unusual as Way of the Passive Fist might sound, the game is a ton of fun. It takes some getting used to blocking and dodging attacks. There’s a bit of a learning curve to get used to the cues and adjusting as enemies try to confuse the player. Once the player gets a handle on this, blocking and dodging one’s way to victory is quite enjoyable, not to mention a humorous change of pace from basically every other beat ‘em up on the market.

Way of the Passive Fist is available for Xbox One, PS4, as well as PC.

Downwell

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-1Boots have always been popular attire in video games. Often times they have special abilities imbued in. They might let players do all sorts of things be it walk on ceilings, or jump super fast, or run faster. One type of boot that never really got explored was one with a gun on it. Sure, it sounds good on paper. However, the practicality of such a wondrous device was always a question.

So, when Downwell came along it turned a lot of heads. It took a simple concept and made it extremely fun. Players would control their little on-screen dude as he jumped down a well, blasting monsters in his way with his trust gun boots. Gun Boots! They just make sense in a game that has nothing but vertical environments.

Basically, players want to get to the bottom of the well in order to win. So, from the surface they jump down and begin their journey. As they continue to plummet downward, the denizens of the well will begin to attack. Controls simply allow for moving left and right, jumping, and firing the gun boots. As such, players will leap from ledges and rocky outcrops, then either attempt to maneuver through all of the monsters trying to attack, or blasting them to bits with their boots.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2At first, things aren’t too hectic, but after a few stages the pace really picks up. Players begin to strategize on the fly, figuring out the safest path to fall, when to go on the offensive, constantly monitoring how many charges the boots have left. The last bit there is important because if players are trigger happy, the current clip of ammo in the boots will run out. When that happens, players won’t be able to shoot again until after they land on a ledge. At that point, the boots automatically reload.

Downwell has some roguelike qualities to it as well. Each playthrough, the stage layouts are a little bit different. There are themes to different sections of the game, which remain consistent (the first few stages are caverns, followed by catacombs, etc), but where the ledges, bonus rooms, shops, and monsters show up change with each run. At the end of each stage, players will also get to choose from three power-ups to help them on their journey as well. These can range from health boosts, to improved accuracy, bullets blasting out of bricks that are destroyed, and a bunch of others.

With each playthrough, progress points are accumulated and as milestones are reached various goodies are unlocked. Some of these give players new styles they can utilize in the game. For instance, one causes far more weapons to spawn in a run, but reduces the likelihood of shops appearing. Another gives players more hit points, but there will be less power-ups to choose from between levels. It’s also possible to unlock new color palettes over time. These give players all sorts of options for how their game can look if the red, white, and black default isn’t to their liking.

downwell-gameplay-screenshot-2Aesthetically, Downwell goes for a very simple, retro look. Stages have very catchy chip tunes playing, and the visuals have a fairly minimalist pixel styling. What it lacks in fidelity, the game more than makes up for in personality. The way players’ character waves its arms around trying to stay balanced on the edge of a ledge is adorable. Meanwhile the game’s shopkeeper comes off as quite cordial in a way that makes it clear he’s happy to take your money.

Since the game first released in 2015, it has gradually been ported to a number of different platforms. It is available digitally for the PS4 and soon the Nintendo Switch as well. There are iOS and Android versions, and the game is also available on Steam, of course. Downwell takes a very simple, but also very unique concept that makes for an extremely enjoyable experience. It’s great for both people who just want to kill 10 minutes and those who want to get sucked into a game and lose themselves for an hour or so.

Distance

distance-gameplay-screenshot-1After all these years, Distance has finally been released. At first, the game’s developers turned some heads with the game’s predecessor, Nitronic Rush. It got people taking student projects a lot more seriously. Before this, game design schools were still in their infancy, and the few that did exist quietly pumped out graduates without drawing much attention to themselves outside of their regular ads in game magazines.

Then Nitronic Rush came along and showed a large audience what these places were actually doing. It was a really fun, futuristic racer with its high tech cars, towering skyscrapers, and dazzling neon lights. Folks who took it for a spin wanted more.

So, now out of school, the game’s developers got together and launched a Kickstarter all the way back in 2012. Their goal was to make a bigger, better version of this game. They wanted to make Distance. So, here it is. Six years have passed, the game spend quite some time in the oven, it’s finally out of Early Access, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Right out of the gates, it is clear to see that this is a very pretty game. The folks at Refract Studios took everything that made Nitronic Rush look so good and cranked it way up for Distance. The level of detail has been ramped up considerably. Lighting is extremely vibrant without becoming a distraction. There is also an excellent sense of speed. The game just looks fantastic with its futuristic cities and cars. It really drives home that this is intended to be much more of an atmospheric racing game.

distance-gameplay-screenshot-2Meanwhile, it also has a very nice soundtrack. It’s all electronic music, so no wheels have been reinvented in the creation of Distance‘s soundscape. There’s just a nice mix of catchy tunes that add a lot to the experience, getting players pumped as they soar down the game’s highways in the sky.

There are actually a number of different game modes available. These include a story mode, arcade mode, and a track editor. Story mode has a couple of different narratives. After players complete the first, which consists of a little over a dozen tracks, a new story is unlocked. There isn’t much too them, but they do touch on virtual realities and simulation theory with interesting little things the game does to drive the story as players are driving. In this mode, there aren’t any other cars on the road. As a result, the game feels more like an obstacle course than an actual race.

As such, there is a certain degree of trial and error as players get used to a course layout and how their futuristic car functions in different areas. The tracks can get pretty crazy with lasers, buzzsaws, and other obstacles that must be avoided. Meanwhile, there are areas where players must rotate their car 90 or even 180 degrees to ride the walls and ceilings. Then there are other sections that require the vehicle to sprout wings and fly. So, there is a lot to deal with just trying to get to the finish line.

distance-gameplay-screeenshot-3With that, players will quickly notice that their car has a lot of thrusters on it. These allow it to jump, rotate, push itself into the ground, and, of course, there is also a big one on the back of the thing for a speed boost. These provide quite a lot of additional maneuverability, open the door to tricks, and need to be constantly monitored so not to overheat the engine, destroying the car.

All of these flips and barrel rolls that the thrusters provide also come into play with some of Distance’s arcade modes. Some of these modes are very straightforward. For instance, there’s sprint. Here players just try to be the first to the finish or challenge mode which is more obstacle courses. Then there is stunt mode with tracks specially designed to accommodate particularly death defying maneuvers for big scores. There is also a neat mode where players can type in any word they want. The game will take this and generate a track based on it.

Due to all of the maneuverability of the cars, solid controls are important. With that, Distance is very responsive, but most players will likely go through a bit of a learning curve getting used to things. There are a lot of thrusters to deal with and it’s not exactly intuitive given how novel these vehicles are. So, players shouldn’t be too surprised if they spend their first hour or so in the game crashing into walls or falling off of the race course. Everything is going to feel a bit weird at first. It’s not the end of the world, though. Once everything clicks, it’s extremely satisfying nailing particularly tough parts of a given track, shaving seconds off of one’s personal best time.

distance-gameplay-screenshot-4If the modes and tracks that the game provides aren’t quite enough, there is also a level editor. Here players can design tracks to their heart’s content. It also means that people can download tracks from a massive database of user-created content. As such, there are a ton of tracks to fiddle around with for those so inclined.

Regardless of what mode one plays, there is just so much to enjoy in Distance. It looks and sounds fantastic. There is lots and lots of content. Then, once players get used to controlling the cars, it’s super rewarding nailing difficult tracks. It’s been a long time coming, but the finished version of Distance is here and it was definitely worth the wait.

Distance is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam.

SHINKENDO

shinkendo-gameplay-1There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned sword fight to bring people together. Two opponents facing off with their elongated stabby tools of choice can manifest itself in so many ways. In the case of SHINKENDO, it was an entry for GBJAM5. GBJAM is a game jam where entrants’ games must meet certain technical specifications in relation to the original GameBoy. These include a maximum resolution of 160px x 144px and using only four colors. As readers will see by the screenshots, this leads to a very minimalist approach to presentation for the games submitted.

However, not only does this game’s aesthetic abide by a very simplified approach, but the gameplay also follows this ethos. Players control a samurai and fight a rival on a bridge in medieval Japan. It’s a very typical setting for this sort of thing. It looks good, gets the point across and is very functional.

There are only four buttons to control the person. One for moving forward and another for moving back. Another button is for an overhead slash, while one final button does a slash that sends the sword in a sweeping, upward movement.

Despite there being so few buttons, there’s a lot that players can do with their little samurai. The movement buttons can actually be double tapped to dart forward and back, and can even be used to cancel attacks. This turns combat into a bit of a mind game as combatants try to trick each other into committing to an attack. Because actual sword swings are a fairly involved process, if one of these samurai miss their attack, their opponent cant capitalize and land a blow before the other person has a chance to get their defenses back up.

shinkendo gameplay screenshot 2Of course, if the first player actually manages to cancel an attack, the tables could also be turned. The person looking for the opening may wind up exposing themselves instead. There is a constant back and forth like this as players look for openings while feigning to lower their defenses.

It’s possible to play against the computer or to go with two-player local coop. The CPU is pretty manageable for the first two or three fights, but after that difficulty ramps up quickly with the opponent getting much more aggressive. Also, the stage is the same, as is the rival, each fight. This is a game jam entry after all, so this sort of thing is to be expected.

Those interested in the two-player local coop mode will have a lot of fun. The only concern here is that both people need to use the PC’s keyboard while playing. This will leave folks playing shoulder-to-shoulder and makes for a tight squeeze.

SHINKENDO captures a lot of what makes fighting games great: the mind games. Stripping away so many buttons and tossing fancy inputs by the wayside keeps the game very pure. Players will spend their time trying to get in their opponents’ heads reading their moves while trying to trick them into making mistakes. This is a game that both fans of fighting games and those who have never played will enjoy.

SHINKENDO can be downloaded at the game’s Itch.io page.

Roguelight

roguelight-gameplay-1There can never be too many rogue-likes out there. Well, there probably can be, but if they’re good ones, then the more the merrier. Roguelight was released by Daniel Linssen a few years ago and it brings its own set of features that help it stand out from the crowd.

The game is a side-view action platformer. In it players control a green-haired girl exploring some caverns. As one might expect, caverns are dark places and it’s tough to see in them. In order to address this issue the girl is carrying a bunch of fire arrows with her. These can be used in a few ways. The most obvious is to fire them at oil lanterns conveniently strewn around the levels. This will ignite the lantern and illuminate quite a bit of the surrounding area.

She can also simply have an arrow drawn and use it to temporarily light the area immediately around her. This only lasts a short while, as the arrow will eventually run out of fuel and go out. At this point, it is only useful for killing enemies and players won’t be able to see around them anymore. Finally, it is also possible to fire a burning arrow into the ground or a wall, with those areas being illuminated for a short time.

With that, players do have a few options for how they can light up their surroundings.  Even with this, they still need to be careful, as they will only have a limited number of arrows. If one gets trigger happy and runs out of ammo, they are going to have to wander around and find more arrows.

roguelight-gameplay-2Once they do, they may not even have the option of lighting more lamps. They may have to focus on taking down enemies instead. The caverns have various denizens lurking about, some more dangerous than others. If our green-haired hero isn’t careful, she may be killed by them. Taking them down first will yield coins and extra arrows, though, so hunting these things down is well worth the effort.

Early on, this will be a big priority for players. Collected coins can be spent in a shop after each death. Here one can improve their character in various ways for subsequent trips into the cavern. Upgrades include items that give more health, extra arrows, enhanced arrows, and various other doodads that will make life easier for our green-haired protagonist. So, it will make a lot of sense to unlock things that increase the speed with which one gets coins. From there, go with whatever upgrades best suit one’s play style.

It feels like Roguelight‘s developer really likes the GameBoy Color. The game’s aesthetics are very reminiscent of titles in that system’s library. The game has a very lo-fi pixelated look to it with minimal detail, while the music and sound effects very much come off like something one would hear on Nintendo’s classic handheld. The simple look and feel certainly have their charm. People who are fans of these retro games will enjoy the aesthetic and it also enhances the sense of mystery in the game. It’s already hard to see much detail far off from the lanterns, and this simple 8-bit graphical style makes it all the more difficult to figure out what might be lurking in the shadows.

roguelight-gameplay-3At its start, the game will be pretty tough. There will be frequent deaths as players get a feel for things. However, once people have gotten the hang of balancing lighting their way and killing baddies, things should progress far smoother. From there it is simply a matter of making the game’s heroine stronger. Then she can delve as deep as possible into the cavern with a much higher chance of survival.

There are a ton of rogue-likes out on the market right now with more and more on the way all the time. Roguelight does a good job of setting itself apart from the crowd with its light mechanic. People who are curious about the game can download it for free at Itch.io (and possibly donate a few bucks to the developer if so inclined).

Door Kickers: Action Squad

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-1Door Kickers: Action Squad has turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise. With the original game being a much slower-paced, tactics-heavy experience, this arcade-styled spin off has shaped up to be a very nice stab at doing something a little bit different.

In the game, players will have five sets of 12 missions, with each set having its own theme. This includes going up against organized gangs, radical terrorists, cartels, and the like. With that, players will choose which squad member they wish to use. From here they proceed to infiltrate whatever house, apartment block, or other nefarious facility that these evildoers happen to be evil-doing in.

Busting down doors and capping criminals is the name of the game. It’s oh so very satisfying to burst into a room full of crooks and gun them down before they realize what’s happening. Even better is that there are five different characters to play as while doing this. First there is the Assault who uses a semi-automatic rifle. He has the most accuracy out of everyone in the squad. However, it’s not advised to just lay on the trigger. His gun does have a decent amount of recoil. Doing that will result in him spraying bullets everywhere as he loses control of his gun. Just a quick pop-pop-pop is all that is needed, then wait a moment before firing again. That’s the way to keep his aim on point.

Next there is the Breacher. This is a no nonsense, shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy. His weapon of choice is a shotgun, and he likes nothing better than to kick in some doors, and mow down whatever baddie he finds on the other side. His guns are quite powerful and can take down multiple enemies in one shot at close range.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-2Almost acting as a counterpoint to the Breacher is the Shield. She carries a large, heavy shield that protects her from incoming fire while shooting back with her trusty pistol. She takes a slow and steady approach to clearing rooms. Her shield is pretty heavy after all. While it reduces its user’s speed, it more than makes up for this with the added protection. She still needs to be careful though, because despite being able to block bullets, the Shield is extremely vulnerable to melee attacks. As such, she needs to prioritize particularly stabby enemies before they get too close to her.

Taking an even more cautious approach to things is Recon, who relies more on stealth to get around. Several of his guns have suppressors on them so as not to draw unwanted attention. He also has devices that help him to see what is happening in locked rooms. This allows players to see its layout and what sort of enemies are in it. He is very squishy compared to other members of the squad, though. As such, the element of surprise is of the utmost importance in taking down criminals before they all gang up on him.

Finally, there is Agent Fergie from the FBI. She’s an extremely aggressive character to play as. Armed with a pistol as well as knives, she’s the only member of the squad with both ranged and melee weapons. She can take a bit of a beating, but needs to get in fast and dispatch of enemies ASAP in order to survive. Agent Fergie is much better suited to people who want to play with the pedal to the metal and be a lean, mean killing machine.

Those wishing to take this approach, may want to wait for subsequent playthroughs of each mission, after they’ve had a chance to familiarize themselves with the stages. This is because despite all the crooks players will need to put bullets in, there are also a lot of hostages on most of the stages. If players aren’t careful of where they’re shooting, or are not cognizant of which criminals don’t care about their hostages well-being, then there may be a bunch of dead hostages by the end of the stage. This is bad because then the player won’t get a three out three star rating at the end of the level, and who doesn’t want a three star rating? Stars can be used to unlock new weapons and items. This stuff is important! There’s probably some moral argument in there for saving hostages as well, but come on! Power-ups!

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-3With that, despite the strong action elements in Door Kickers: Action Squad, it still tries to stay somewhat close to its more tactical roots. A lot of times, players can see in surrounding rooms before busting down a door, so judgement calls need to be made. Would it be best to coax enemies away from hostages? Are there any highly explosive substances around, and if there are should they be avoided or taken advantage of? Are there particularly troublesome enemies in there? Should a sniper strike be called in? It’s not just wanton death and destruction. A certain amount of planning is still often required.

Players even need to consider resource management. The last thing someone wants is to be caught reloading while several enemies are bearing down on them. Also, whenever an enemy is killed or a hostage is rescued, a meter at the top left of the screen fills a little bit. The more full it becomes, the more options the player has for calling in useful items. Cheaper items include body armor. A little farther up is health packs, followed by extra lives. Then there are special moves at the high end of the meter. Most players have overlapping specials to a degree with the ability to choose between a couple while selecting loadouts at the start of a stage. These include the aforementioned sniper strike, while some people get access to small automatic weapons, and Agent Fergie gets a particularly badass special.

It’s important to manage this meter because it’s not uncommon to completely fill it up, so the player needs find ways to use some of it so that they aren’t just rescuing hostage and killing baddies without receiving the benefit of more meter. Doing otherwise is basically leaving money on the table so to speak. So, at the end of the day, there’s still a lot to think about while playing this game.

Action Squad is also pretty challenging. Early on there is mostly cannon fodder that is simple enough to deal with. As the game progresses, though, there are particularly violent enemies that won’t hesitate to use hostages as shields or perform reprisal killings if pushed into a corner. These guys are tough to deal with for players who want to minimize civilian casualties.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-4Then there are the worryingly large enemies that one can tell mean trouble. These guys have large clubs, flamethrowers, and the like combined with body armor and large hit point pools that guarantee they’ll be a huge pain to take down. By the time players get to latter levels, they’ll also have to deal with mad bombers that have explosives all over the place rigged up to a remote control. These guys are especially troublesome. Sometimes they’ll have bombs strapped to hostages. If you shoot these crooks, they’ll try to detonate their explosives with their dying breath. Fun times!

So, the game gradually becomes more difficult the further along one gets. However, there are some slight spikes in this later in the game. At that point, some particularly tough enemies get dropped on the player with significantly greater firepower and body armor.

Thankfully, the game provides two-player coop (both local and online). So, if things are starting to get dicey, players can bring someone else along to help. This makes taking down baddies all the more exciting while opening the door to interesting combinations of characters that can play off of each other’s strengths.

door-kickers-action-squad-gameplay-5Unfortunately, despite all of these criminals to shoot, tactics to use, and squad members to play as, there isn’t much in the way of mission variety. The vast majority of the time players’ main objective will be to rescue hostages. A distant second to this are kill missions. Here all one has to do is slaughter every crook in the building, due process be damned. After that there is the occasional bomb disposal mission, and these are actually quite intense. Then once in a blue moon players will be asked to arrest a person of interest. These individuals must be taken alive. So, in terms of objectives that will be presented to players, there isn’t a whole lot on the table. Thankfully this lack of variety is overshadowed by all of the good things that have been mentioned up to this point in the article.

Aesthetically, the game went with a 2D pixelated look. It won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but there is a decent enough amount of detail to the levels. Rooms are well furnished and buildings set the tone for each stage. Enemies are easily distinguishable and have a bit of personality to them. Meanwhile, Action Squad’s soundtrack feels like something straight out of a 1980s police TV program. A lot of the game’s music would be right at home in something like Miami Vice. The pieces are well put together and add to the excitement. Also, they are regularly rotated while playing so as not to wear out their welcome.

Action Squad is a spin off that no one asked for but it sure is nice that it came along. Who would have thought that its developers would come along with an action packed, arcade-y reinterpretation of their tactical strategy game? It really does a wonderful job of capturing the thoughtfulness of its predecessor.  Meanwhile it injects a more cavalier, guns blazing attitude that both fans of action and strategy games can enjoy.

Door Kickers: Action Squad is currently available for Windows on Steam.