Sitting at the intersection of glitchgoth and cybergoth, Glitchangels is Berzerk reimagined as a Nuclear Throne-alike. Throw out the unending maze of the arcade classic, replace it with discreet rooms with tight corridors, clear the enemies to open the exits, paper it with Droid Assault inspired art – strip out the Paradroid elements, keep the store and upgrades.
Glitch everything, movement, firepower, everything. Play the videogame as VHS, make a mistake, rewind and forward your angel to safety. It’s weirdly now. It could really only collect all these things together and vibe like it does in the now but yes, it’s an EBM arcade dancefloor Robotron.
What a heady mix for a twin stick shooter all this makes. Instantly familiar to anyone who’s even mildly been paying attention in our post Geometry Wars world and it’s not like the game makes any effort to hide or obscure its influences anyway, quite the opposite. It’s there in the credits, it’s there the moment you spawn into the first screen. 40 years of twin sticking, goth’d up, glitched up.
Buy it on Switch, grab a cider and black and sit in a tree to play it, preferably in a graveyard. In Whitby if you need to. Maybe get the flourescent gear out, meet the game on its terms, you know? Sod it, chuck a glowstick or two in your bag whilst you’re at it. If you know anyone with a dry ice machine, I’m not saying it’d complete the vibe but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Or, y’know, grab it on the PC or Xbox. Whatever works. But really, do grab it. It’s good. I’ve been having an absolute ball with the thing.
Fight. Die. Glitch. Win. It totally does what it says on the tin.
Whilst I don’t entirely understand the internet fixation with either Tesla or Lovecraft, or why they seem to go together like Cannon and Ball, Rod and Emu or Andy Crane and Edd The Duck, at least it’s led us to perhaps my favourite 10tons game yet. For that, I’m grateful.
If you’re new to the 10tons formula, it’s twin stick blasting mixed with ridiculous upgrades – never *quite* game breaking upgrades but certainly for a few moments each round, there’s invariably some ridiculous level of things blowing up or going splat happening.
In Tesla Vs Lovecraft’s case, this comes courtesy of Tesla’s mech. Once or twice a round you’ll find yourself having collected all the parts of a mech, summon it up and it’s time to tear through absolutely everything in sight. It’s remarkably satisfying.
Most games would be content with just providing a mech and being all “alright, that’s plenty” but that’s not the 10tons way. In-between rounds, it’s time to start levelling up and kitting out Tesla with even more firepower, even more armour and stuff and things that glow and go bang.
There’s a silly amount of customisation in there, well above and beyond the call of duty and because in Tesla Vs Lovecraft, power ups all stack, it won’t be long before the screen is a blur of glowing lasers and the innards of whatever old gods popped by to cause trouble. I love it! It’s just so unecessary and so over the top, I can’t help but grin at it.
You’re already handed some firepower fairly quickly but there’s movement upgrades for good measure too. Tesla can ‘teleport’ in Dishonored-Blink fashion beginning in one of the very early stages so a good part of the game is spent shooting stuff then *pop* blinking to safety (or as is more likely, into an even bigger throng of suit wearing frog things).
Once you’re a few stages further and you start racking up upgrades, new inventions and perks, it’s just flat out silly. The good kind of silly, obv. A very neon good kind of silly. My kind of silly.
There’s a bit of story and a vaguely roguelike structure glueing everything together, not much in the way of surprises in that regard. Travel from start to finish on the map, there’s a few different tasks to be completed depending on what location choose but eventually, it all comes down to exploding cosmic nasties using glowing neon laser beams in some fashion.
There’s also a couple of difficulty levels to progress through. They’re less about whether you prefer the game easy or difficult and more about finding the most enjoyable pairing for whatever your current Tesla is kitted out with and amount of things you fancy shooting.
I wouldn’t recommend going straight to one of the higher levels without grinding some power ups and perks first though, when the bulk of enemies work on the Gauntlet ghosts principle of “loads of the buggers running at you at once”, it’s wise to be prepared.
So yes! Tesla Vs Lovecraft is fantastic. I’ve been returning to it every couple of months for a fair while now for when the more sedate and methodical Neon Chrome and Jydge just won’t do. It’s 10tons doing what they do better than most teams in the business and whilst their twiddling with the formula doesn’t always land (Undead Horde), when it does it’s magnificent.
If anyone prefers something that leans ever deeper into the roguelike structure, has co-op multiplayer and just generally more of that than vaguely linear, Tesla Force is everything that’s great about Lovecraft Vs Tesla, plus all that stuff.
It’s good! Just, you know, I’m personally a lot happier and more relaxed around the Lovecraft Vs Tesla progression. I do like to feel like I’m working towards an ending of some sort so a lot of the roguelike structures in games now do very little for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Go on, give it a go. It’s available on nearly everything at this point! I’m most at home on the PS4 (as ever) but aside from a bit of trickiness with the teleporting, the mobile version is great too.
Look, I’m not sure how I managed to make it through to 2020 and have nothing on here about Assault Android Cactus before now but it’s clearly incredibly slack of me because Assault Android Cactus is wonderful.
It’s been pretty wonderful for the near five years it’s been out there now too. I’ve been enjoying it on and off for most of those five years as well.
I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been slacking here. Five bloody years! Molyneux save me. It’d be excusable if it wasn’t one of my favourite things.
To be honest, I kind of know why I’ve been putting it off. It’s an easy game to do a mammoth injustice to because when you write it all down it’s easy to go “so, err, what?”. It’s an intimately familiar looking, familiar feeling videogame. It’s born of purest Dreamcast, not the Sega Blue Skies of a thousand UK Resistance dreams but the final gasp of the arcade at home before digital downloads changed so much. It *looks* like a Dreamcast game too, though obviously more as my memory would like to convince me of what the games looked like than what they really did. It’s got a vibe. It’s good. It’s committed. It deserves the right words.
There’s so much game there too. It’s positively abundant. Ridiculously so! Full on call the cops and arrest these people for making the rest of us look like we don’t put enough game in a videogame stuff. I’m not sure I’ve played a twin stick shooter that crams quite so much in and where so little of it feels superfluous.
Some of it is unsurprising – multiple characters with different weaponry, ridiculous cosmetic tweaks (normal head mode! JJ mode for when you need so much lens flare you can’t see the screen! More!) – it’s a lot but it’s kinda an expected lot.
What isn’t quite so expected is the amount of videogame scenes the game runs through. At times it feels like an A-Z of arcade videogame levels. Never pastiche, never a nod and a wink, videogame levels because there’s something the game can do with them. It reminds me of Mutant Storm Empire in that regard though much, much, much more focused.
Early on you find yourself riding a very videogame lift, you know the kind – it’s in a hundred or so FPS, a multitude of top down shooters, it’s in Valve’s Alien Swarm, even Destiny couldn’t resist the lure of riding a lift whilst aliens hem you in from all sides. Then before you know it, it’s a stage where robots are pouring out of the floor, there’s lasers everywhere, flames, bullets, pick ups and there’s a stage where the room is built around you and then and then and then.
It’s like the team responsible wanted to cram every idea they had for games into one game. It’s astounding. More so when you realise how normal this sort of thing used to be, how arcade games at home would let themselves spiral outwards rather than just retain a really narrow focus, done well. I didn’t even realise how much I missed that but I do. I really do. It makes me feel spoilt, ruined, like you can’t possibly be giving me all this? Seriously, you are? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Oh, there’s local co-op too because of course there is. Why leave any stone unturned?
It’d all be for nothing if it didn’t play so well, obviously. Which it does! It plays wonderfully, always pushing you into the swarms of killer drones rather than running backwards, rather than the circling of Geometry Wars. Wade in, knee deep in roboguts, needing to grab batteries to make it to the end of a stage alive. It takes no time to find the rhythm the game wants you to fall into, alternating between primary and secondary weapons, rushing for power ups, aiming for that ever enticing higher score.
Gosh. I love Assault Android Cactus so much, you know? There’s few games I’d use the term masterpiece for but in this case, Team Witch Beam have worked for it and earned it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the right and proper good stuff. It’s an arcade game, a not Dreamcast really but totally Dreamcast videogame that the best part of five years on still excites me.
Which, let’s face it that’s what you want from an arcade game. Okay, okay, it’s what I want anyway. I genuinely couldn’t ask for more. Well, except maybe for some fish but that’s just me. Maybe the next one, eh?
Like I wasn’t going to give a game called Inksplosion that looks like this a try.
You know, me liking colours and all that.
Let’s just stop for a second again and do another screenshot (all pics here taken from the Steam page because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the ones off my PS4, sorry)
Yeah, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this pass me by.
Just look at those colours, they’re fantastic. Go on, let’s do one more picture.
It’s some sort of visual hybrid of (my own) War Twat and the all time greatest Asteroids game of all time, Spheres Of Chaos. That’ll do me.
Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I’m okay. I haven’t been this excited about colours in a game since Ultralight Beam. It’ll pass in a second.
Anyhoo. As twin stick shooters go, there’s probably few surprises here. You’re faced with a jumble of waves and each wave finds you having to use a different weapon to clear the screen. Clear the screen, move on to the next wave. You now have a different weapon. Shoot those baddies! Clear the screen! And so on.
There isn’t really that much to distinguish each weapon from the other and as far as I played, not much to distinguish each enemy from the other either. But that’s okay, yeah? I’m not playing this for mechanical marvels, I’m playing this because I really really like watching colours explode across the screen and Inksplosion does that perfectly.
Inksplosion is, primarily, a game about making things explode to smear colour across the screen. Every thirty seconds or so the mess will be cleared up and you get to do it all over again.
My only real gripe is that the announcer that declares each weapon you find yourself suddenly equipped with comes across more Viv Stanshall On Tubular Bells than befitting of an arcade game but I’ll freely admit that I have very, very specific ideas of what speech in arcade games should sound like. Also, I dearly love a lot of Bonzo stuff but Tubular Bells brings me out in hives. Not sure I can put the blame for that on Inksplosion, really.
Phew. Got a bit lost there, sorry. Anyway. Inksplosion set me back about four quid and I don’t regret a penny of it. I plumped for the PS4 version but other formats are available.
It seems kinda fitting that after a fairly lengthy enforced absence from playing much in the way of videogames, the first game I want to post about is by Tom Sennett, author of the last game I posted about.
Ultralight Beam is the perfect distillation of the be-positive-scribblepunk aesthetic Tom’s been working with for years and as aesthetics go, it’s definitely one of my favourites. Combine that with an arena collect ’em up? Yeah, I’m down for that, alright.
Look, you just collect stars and avoid monsters, right? There’s not really that much to explain.
But sometimes you don’t need much more than collecting stars and avoiding monsters.
Because sometimes avoiding monsters and collecting stars feels really fucking good.
And when the game looks and sounds really good too?
Don’t look at me to go picking at it, wondering if and where it could be better.
Back in glowing arena shooter territory (you know, for a change), I’ve been playing a fair bit of Funtime recently. It’s enjoyable!
If you’re already well acquainted with Geometry Wars RE 2 then the arcade modes will be fairly familiar. You’re plonked in the middle of an arena, glowing things are going to attack you, you shoot them before they kill you. Videogames!
I’ll be honest, that was all I really wanted from it and it acquits itself well in that department. I’ve easily sunk a few hours into it and been really happy, all told. Would recommend etc…
It’s worth noting that the survival modes (as they’re known) come in three flavours too, each presenting a different sized arena. I found the initial survival mode a bit too cramped and the third choice, “open”, where the game moves to an infinitely scrolling asteroid field, a bit too much. Large, on the other hand, is where I’ve settled.
There are other modes, mind. The main attraction is a colour switching dodge and shoot variation, navigating the arena requires a lot of button pressing to ensure the player is the right colour at the right time and constant movement is a must.
Not going to lie, I couldn’t play it. That’s not really a slight on the game, I’m just older and more sore these days and my ability to rapidly button mash is not what it was. I genuinely couldn’t tell you if that aspect of the game is any good, so I won’t! It looked nice, if that’s any consolation.
Dragging the game back into more familiar territory is the waves mode requiring the player to clear one wave of baddies, then another, then another.
There’s a few walls placed within the arena to shuffle things up a bit and I’ve churned through around 20 of the 50 possible stages so far and it does get pretty frantic. I wouldn’t even consider ducking in to this mode until you’ve unlocked the maximum level of firepower, the friendly drone and have a few bombs under your belt unless you’re really good at this sort of thing though.
I’m not 100% sure but I think some of the later stages may be impossible to complete without either earning the colour switching or having some bombs in your inventory. It’s an odd thing to let you play unequipped but maybe I’m just rubbish and can’t see the way out! Can’t really rule that out with my attention span. I do have a really poor attention span. Did I mention I have a really poor attention span?
The final two modes, “Zones” and “Funtime” require colour switching so I can’t say I’ve been compelled to give them a shot for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I can’t really do them justice so no point really.
All told, that’s a fairly nice selection of modes to toy around with. Survival and Waves are enough fun that I really don’t mind there being modes I rather literally cannot play.
Oh! There’s also an unlock system where the stuff carries across all modes that I’m not entirely convinced has much benefit in being an unlock system (rather than just handing the player all the abilities from the off). But! I am the person who starts the player off overpowered in virtually every game I make so maybe don’t listen to me. Regardless, it’s not exactly a grind to get everything maxxed out so perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.
A few rounds before you’re a colourful death machine never hurt anyone.
Honestly, I think Ant Workshop, makers of Dead End Job, should be in touch with the Guinness Book Of Records because if they’re not the frontrunners, they’re definitely in with a shake for the Most Puns In A Videogame world record. In all my years (which are many), I don’t think I’ve ever seen the likes. It’s practically obscene.
Luckily, some truly rotten puns are a fairly good way to crack a smile out of me! The more of a leap, the better. Which pretty much means I spent way, way more time laughing at Dead End Job than is probably healthy.
Such a relief too because as much as I adore videogames, what passes off as humour in videogames is fairly often lost on me. For every game that manages to sneak a memorable joke under the radar, there’s a thousand where the joke is “I just said that thing off the internet” and oh, oh dear. Please, no.
So yeah, Dead End Job got more than its fair quota of laughs out of me. It’s also a really grand looking and sounding game. Styling itself around the idea of what if Ghostbusters arrived freshly formed as a nineties MTV-era cartoon, it doesn’t exactly pick itself an easy look to pull off. It does pull it off though, incredibly well.
Everything bops and squidges nicely, characters land somewhere between cute and grotesque in that oh so very nineties fashion, it even has title cards for the start of each mission! And it’s a small touch but one I loved, Dead End Job does that sort of “meanwhile, back at the house…” interstitial scene cartoons lifted from a myriad of sitcoms over the years complete with guitar break. Oh, and it has a theme song too because of course it does. If you’re going to do this stuff then might as well go all in and then some, eh?
It’s a pleasingly tough but not too tough twin stick shooter. You’re tasked with clearing an area out to earn money, each area is (as is oh so in vogue at the moment) made up of a shuffled around selection of rooms. Clear all the rooms, rescue a couple of folk on the way, get out and cash up then head onto the next bunch of rooms.
It’s a fairly routine set up made more interesting by having to work around incredibly cluttered rooms where things often have a tendency to explode, managing some (thankfully far, far from obnoxious) weapon cooldown timers and having to catch the ghosts with your ghost vacuum in fairly short order after hitting them with your definitely not a proton pack (honest guv) laser beam.
Everything is so big and chunky that there isn’t quite as much room to muck around in as you need so making space (by blowing things up) becomes a priority very quickly. Ghosts also have a tendency to leave slime trails behind them which should you try and wade through them, slow you down. There’s always plenty to be taking into account in order to make the space less cramped and more amenable to a bit of busting.
There’s a reasonably sized bestiary of ghouls and ghosts to catch, certainly far more than many games would bother with, and best of all the game allows you to rename each and every one of them. Not since Fable 2 have so many things found themselves mysteriously called Bernard by my hand. Look, I know it’s a problem I have, I’m trying to be better but gnnnnng BERNARD.
I really, really enjoyed myself with Dead End Job and it’s one I can see myself coming back to for a good few years. Helped, in no small amount, by it making me smile so much with its awful, awful puns.
Dead End Job is on Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Apple Arcade. It’s (wait for it) dead good.
As videogames go, I think we can safely say Bezier is a videogame. I mean, just look at that, right?
In some ways it is, visually, to arena shooters what Minter’s tour-de-force GAME FROM THE SPACE FUTURE Space Giraffe is to the tube shooter. A slightly raw, incredibly digital affair where you’re always uncertain what it’s going to land on you next.
But of course, there’s only one Space Giraffe and Bezier, whilst not pulling its punches in the visual department, it’s certainly a far more controlled affair. Then again, what isn’t a far more controlled affair compared to Space Giraffe, right?
It’s also some sort of science fiction synth-prog-opera made videogame. I know, it *is* though.
In other words, Bezier is absolutely the sort of thing that I’m going to fall in love with terribly easily.
I’ve been banging my head against a table and trying to think precisely what it reminds me of and I’m kinda glad to be drawing a blank in many ways.
It’s a little bit Buggles, a little bit Jeff Wayne, the videogame equivalent of an eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert and frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that Philip Bak (the author of the game) wasn’t really Philip Bak at all but in fact The Phantom Of The Paradise come back to haunt us but this time with videogames.
It could happen. I asked a policeman and everything and he totally said it could.
Thankfully, unlike Phantom Of The Paradise, Bezier isn’t a deeply cynical thing. It is however marvellously committed to its conceits. Chris Donlan covered the “Why Bezier?” stuff in his Eurogamer write up and that’s worth a quick scan over as always.
It’s a game where infusing Bezier curves in as many aspects as the game as possible is the least absurd thing about it. It wears the skin of a brutal arena shooter yet at the very same time the game remains remarkably accommodating to anyone who’s fairly not used to a twin stick set up.
It’s a game that manages to feel comfy and conventional whilst not really being either. It’s quite a thing.
If I were to sit you down and describe the game mechanically, I doubt I’d be able to get much further than “well, you move around an arena and you shoot some things” which may well show an incredible lack of imagination on my part but it’s also a very very accurate description of what Bezier is.
Of course, not all arena shooters are created equally or push players in the same direction.
Whereas something like Geometry Wars is all about chasing the high score, Bezier sort of has that but nudges it to one side in favour of making just playing the game being a thing you’d want to do.
It’s certainly in no particular rush to kill you most of the time unlike most arena shooters that build on arcade templates. A game of Bezier can go on for quite a while because Bezier wants you to see the game. And more so, Bezier really wants you to hear the game.
Which I guess brings us back round to Bezier being the videogame as eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert. Seriously, listen to the soundtrack and you’ll see what I mean.
Bezier is a game that demands to be heard. It’s not Jarre (far too film soundtrack-y for one thing), it’s very much its own thing but! once the soundtrack is heard inside the game it’s clear just how much Bezier shares the same deep love of bombast, lasers and robot voices that defined Jarre concerts in the eighties. You can feel it in your bones.
If only it were all that simple though, the game is married to a wonderfully ridiculous science fiction plot and there’s a giant smiley face that taunts you at the end of each round and you’re a floaty thing with lasers and there’s all the colour and and and.
I don’t know, maybe that’s acid house turning up to sign the death warrant of eighties synth pop or something. Maybe. I haven’t checked with a policeman on this one, sorry.
Regardless, it’s all makes for a captivating, unique and nothing less than remarkable experience. I love it so very much.