REVIEW: Chasing Styx

Chasing Styx ($1.00) is an RPG-like bullet hell shooter featuring a screen-full of bullets at every turn and a humorous tale concerning Cerberus (three-headed guard dog of the Underworld, if you please) falling asleep on the job, only to let a pack of cutesy bunnies slip into the realm of the undead and subsequently upset the fragile hellish-to-adorable ratio they’ve got going on there. But really, it’s an entertaining excuse to kill and / or re-kill several demons, multiplying slimes, and other abominations.

Though that distillation doesn’t exactly do the game justice. ‘Shooting’ represents Chasing Styx’s core idea and minute-to-minute gameplay, but it does much more than simply give you targets to shoot. To put things in a larger scope, Chasing Styx is an a retro-looking adventure game with RPG elements that just happens to be a shooter. Cerberus and his extra heads form your ‘ship’ (complete with a center ‘heart’ vulnerable spot), while the River Styx functions as your hub world, letting you do business (i.e. earn and trade upgrades) with vendors and catch a ride with that old jokester Charon to half a dozen lengthy stages1.

Chasing Styx lets you tackle those challenges in any order, with the second half unlocked once you’ve acquired coins found in previous lands2. Said stages offer an overhead view and open floor plans, letting you choose your route at some points. This goes beyond simple choice, however, offering multiple paths that can lead to shortcuts, stiffer challenges, or traps that require careful navigation whilst dodging enemy fire. Each of the levels also contain a handful of hidden secrets and treasures, which are key to acquiring game-changing abilities and attacks. Some grant you things like additional hearts (your HP), an extra primary attack slot, or new weapons.

You’ll need them, too, thanks to the frequent battles that keep you on your toes. With smart (and sometimes re-used) enemy design and some equally-great boss battles, you’ll have to make judicial use of your special abilities and know when to strafe or ‘blink’ through bullets to escape tight quarters and an advancing enemy. It’s stressful but satisfying stuff when you pull it off.


Which is both a gift and a curse. It’s mainly a single player experience, though you can do everything cooperatively. And that’s the thing; while the local co-op would (presumably) make things easier, playing it solo can occasionally be a frustrating experience, mostly due to the lack of mid-stage checkpoints (you do get to restart from any boss fight, albeit with the health you reached that point with3). Spending twenty sweaty minutes just to get to a boss you have no serious way of beating is not a very good feeling.

Still, the game is far too well done to stumble over the small things… like you dying repeatedly. If anything, it forces players to be wiser, and the in-depth ability and perk tree is there to let you find a winning combination. In summary, you’ve got a fantastic-looking shooter that’s fantastically designed, with a really stellar soundtrack to boot. Chasing Styx might very well be the last great XBLIG4, and you’d be doing yourself a big favor by picking it up.

  1. Don’t let that number mislead you. All told, you’ll spend at least 4 to 5 hours completing the game, even more if you’re trying to collect everything. And after that, you’ve got Boss Rush and Survival modes to conquer, as well as additional ‘costumes’ for Cerberus to unlock. 
  2. Everyone knows you’ve got to pay your way in the land of the dead. Rides aren’t cheap, and Charon doesn’t do charity. 
  3. Which really is a slap in the face; what the hell am I supposed to do up against a boss with a massive health bar when I’ve got one heart? Answer: Lose repeatedly, until I’m forced to exit in shame. I mean, at least give me half-health, let’s make things interesting. 
  4. Certainly the last great XBLIG shooter, and hey, you can always pick it up on PC, if you prefer to game on a service that isn’t newly dead. 

19 thoughts on “REVIEW: Chasing Styx”

  1. Thanks again for the review, Tim. Although the ship has sailed for updating the XBLIG version of Chasing Styx, I’m still listening to input and working to improve the PC port. The latest PC update makes easy mode easier with more level checkpoints and a minimum respawn health of 3.

    1. Hey, no problem whatsoever on the review. Always appreciated giving you guys some exposure (most times good, sometimes bad, depending on the quality of the game). I’m sure that the folks on PC will be well pleased with that update. 🙂

      If anything, you could now advertise the XBLIG version as being the ‘hardcore’ way to play. If anyone ever complains it’s too easy on PC, tell them to deal with a bullet sponge boss with approximately one heart left! Not easy, let me tell you.

  2. RIP XBLIG PS: can you play through some of the best xblig like: bleed, survivalist etc, and record it on YouTube? I’d love to see that

    1. Man, if I had the setup for recording, had started maybe three or four years ago, I’d say I would definitely have considered it. But now that XBLIG is only a storefront for the next year or so, the audience has steadily dwindled. I just don’t think there’s enough people / interest out there anymore. Certainly not to start now and try to generate interest. Sadly, that time has come and gone.

      That said, there’s a few people that have done recordings for XBLIGs, including the ones you mentioned. I don’t have specific channel names / links, but they’re up on YouTube.

    2. Tim if u can’t record, please instead of just letting your website die what I think you should do is maybe review the XBLIG you still haven’t reviewed, and after that you can start reviewing indie game’s on steam

    3. @Bob & Chris: Oh yeah, nothing’s confirmed yet as to what I might do after. I’ve still got to finish reviewing the games that came out in the last week of XBLIG (both Destiny‘s new expansion and some family stuff have prevented me from doing that), and I still plan to do a ‘Best Of’ post for the top XBLIGs people should buy before the shutdown. After that though, yeah, the site is probably going to go dormant. That’s just the way it is.

      It wouldn’t make much sense to go back and review older XBLIGs. If the past few years here have taught me anything, it’s that people have moved on from the service. I started off getting 20 to 30 views on reviews here in 2012, and it’s now come full circle back to that total in 2016. The audience just isn’t there anymore, and I don’t think YouTube would help when the service is effectively ‘dead’ already. I’m better off to re-brand, I think, than to continue on with ‘theXBLIG’ and start up with old reviews or reviews for games on other platforms. We’ll see, but as of now, it’s not something I’m looking at.

      If I am going to move on to Steam or something along those lines, I’d probably invest in a proper setup for recording. I’ve started doing videos for Destiny, as that’s pretty much all I play these days, and as of now I’m just relying on the PS4 / Xbox One’s own internal recording. Not ideal for the quality, but it’s a poor man’s way of doing it for the time being.

  3. I bought this one yesterday after having read your review, and it doesn’t disappoint! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    One thing though, did you have any problems with the game occasionally leading to dead ends when you played it? I’ve had it happen a couple of times in the 2(ish) hours I’ve played where I’ve taken a path that’s lead me to an area where I can’t progress forward and it won’t allow me to back track.
    Apart from that, the game’s a lot of fun. So, if this does end up being the last new game I buy on XBLIG, I’d consider it a good send-off.

    1. No problem! That’s my job, to spread the gospel!

      Hmm, I didn’t have that issue, but… I will say that there were one or two times (I can’t remember the level or the location… maybe stage 3?) where I thought the same thing, only to find a spot in the environment where I could pass through. A lot of 2D games have that thing where you’re sometimes not sure where the barriers start and where they end, because of the objects in that level, or similar colors, etc. That could be it, or maybe it’s a bug related to not killing all the enemies in a given encounter before advancing? Maybe? Or, it’s just a route you took that I didn’t, and therefore I never noticed it.

      I’m not sure if the Dev is following post or not, but if you know the exact location / stage where it happens, I could always shoot him an email to see if it’s something there’s a workaround for.

    2. I’m afraid I don’t remember the exact locations (somewhere on stages 2 and 4 I think). Both were locations where there was a hole in the ground that I couldn’t get across. I’m guessing that either I missed something (quite possible) or that a bridge appearing event didn’t trigger for whatever reason (on both occasions I’d killed all the enemies).
      Thanks for offering to contact the developer, but I think my information is way to vague to warrant it.
      I’m going to have another go tonight and I’ll try to pay closer attention. It’s most likely me missing something, so hopefully that should solve it.

    3. Ohhhhhh, I see! The good news is, I think I got you covered on this one (hopefully). Those gaps in the floors can be crossed with your ‘blink’ ability, the one that lets you skip forward with a trail of flames through a wall of bullets to avoid getting hit (the ‘X’ button, if I’m remembering correctly). It also works for blinking across those holes in the floor, it seems. Not sure if the game points that out either, and there’s usually enemies shooting at you as well, so it’s easy to miss.

    4. Haha, no, you’re not anywhere near that title. I’m pretty sure it got me a few times before I caught on to it, so don’t feel bad. I was trying to think of another game that uses that mechanic, because that’s what tipped me off, but I’m drawing a blank. Hey, all’s well that end’s well, right? 🙂

  4. Want to play as a three-headed dog rounding up multi-colored bunnies in the underworld? Of course you would! I don’t even have a response for the person that says no.

    Thanks to developer ForepawSoft, I have ONE copy of Chasing Styx to give away. Do the reply thing to this comment, and the game is yours!

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