Category Archives: Action / Adventure

REVIEW: Loot Or Die 2

For me, the first Loot or Die was an enjoyable shooter that scratched a 2D Destiny-like itch, handing over generous amounts of loot in exchange for a run through simplistic space environments filled with various, spongy enemies. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Loot or Die 2 ($1.00) does all that again, and again cribs a little bit more of Destiny‘s approach to shoot and loot, with similarly fun results….. provided you still like to grind for hours on end achieving the desired statistics and perks for your armor and weapons1.

Loot or Die 2 - Screen

This game (as well as the first one) isn’t nearly as deep and grind-y as Bungie’s space opus, but it’s still has that familiar undercurrent that runs throughout. You can roll solo, or form a fireteam of four to tackle everything in co-op. Levels are straightforward affairs, Point A to Point B (save for the new ‘Patrol’ and Defend’ mission types, which are just glorified ‘kill all the enemies’ types), defeat a boss with an easily recognizable pattern to earn a loot drop, and repeat.

Which is fine, because Loot or Die 2 gives you what any good sequel should; more of what you liked about the original. In this case, it’s chasing new and improved armor, weapons, and runes (think special abilities) across several locales and planets, fighting numerous— albeit same-y— enemies and a handful of bosses. That idea of loot-based progress is fun, and felt incrementally, slowly building you up to take on the next planet’s deadlier (read: spongier) foes.

Similar to Destiny’s enjoyable leveling-up, you must seek out various materials to ‘mod’ your weapons and equipment, giving them new perks and increasing their effectiveness. They can range from granting you additional currency and materials, allowing you to use your abilities more often, or to being able to heal yourself faster and better, among others. Leveling up these attributes won’t (generally) break the game’s systems2 and make you an untouchable badass, but it does go a long way to convincing you can be, while letting you choose your preferred style of play.

Loot or Die 2 - Screen2

Other improvements include daily quests to complete for guaranteed high-level loot, a hub world for players to gather up and set off on missions, and a vault for storing and organizing your most precious loot. Granted, you can finish the game in about an hour, but there is no set ‘end’. The game’s new prestige mode effectively lets you play forever, scaling up the enemies and your weapons each time you reset the game world.

On the downside, the difficulty this time around isn’t as drastic (meaning the title of the game isn’t quite as literal); I was able to progress pretty far on subsequent planets just by using armor and weapons I found early on. Also worth noting, Loot or Die 2 doesn’t include a player-versus-player mode / arenas like the original game. The solid co-op makes up for that to a degree, but it would have been nice to have the option return for the sequel.

These are minor quibbles in the grand scheme, however, as you’ll be far too busy trying on new armor and testing out new weapons to care. If fun is the measure by which you judge something’s worth, this game accomplishes that mission easily. Loot or Die 2 doesn’t feel as fresh or as memorable as the first game, but it’s still just as satisfying to grind for the perfect loadout now as it was then.


  1. I know I do, because I’m a very sick person. I need help. 
  2. Unless you go with a build that lets you constantly regenerate health and steal health from your enemies, like me. Hey, it’s not cheating if the game allows for it! :) 
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REVIEW: Crawlers and Brawlers

As the old adage goes, if you’ve played one procedurally-generated dungeon crawler you’ve played all procedurally-generated dungeon crawlers1. You’d be tempted to think the same of Ugly Beard GamesCrawlers and Brawlers ($1.00). And you’d be right to, in a sense, yet also, not. The game reminds me— in a good way— of a handful other retro-ish hack n’ slash dungeon crawlers on the service, including games like Lootfest and the excellent Cursed Loot.

It’s certainly familiar in a lot of those usual, ‘bullet point on the back of the box’-y ways; archetypal heroes (think mage, knight, etc.), plenty of pixels, said procedurally-generated dungeons that task you with killing everything in sight and eventually toppling some big baddie end boss, all the while RNGeezus-ing you with new loot2 to build up your character and increase your base stats. Throw in a change of scenery and blocks of dialogue, rinse and repeat to the end, and hopefully you enjoy yourself along the way.

And you should, because the formula still works. Crawlers and Brawlers gets most of that right. There’s a decent range of attacks and magic tricks to use no matter what class you pick, tied to your character’s agility and an RPG-style leveling system that changes based on the gear and weapons you have equipped. The dungeons are linked together with a massive overworld that’s populated with NPCs (some that need your help, natch) and plenty of hidden nooks to explore by land and by sea. The game allows for local co-op, and there’s even an online multiplayer offering that lets you battle against others with your high-level characters (just don’t expect to find any matches, because XBLIG).

Sure, you’ve done the whole ‘land overrun by monsters and town held captive by evil-doers’ thing before, yet the mechanics here are solid. Though the trappings may be a tad unremarkable, the game’s story does its best to keep things fresh, including some unorthodox encounters and fights (there’s a ‘museum’ bit with the boss’s health tied to you breaking rare and precious artifacts that’s pretty funny).

Crawlers and Brawlers - Screen

Crawlers and Brawlers works best when it’s showing off that humor, and even better if you happen to have a buddy next to you for co-op dungeoneering. In fact, the lone mark I have against the game is the fact that the dungeons themselves can be a major slog to go through by yourself, punctuated by hundreds of dull fights and dead ends as you search for the next floor or exit.

That’s what you should logically expect with procedural levels, yes, but it’s still worth mentioning. So maybe don’t mind the repetitive battles (so much). Or maybe do, with the promise that there’s something better on the other side. It’s still a charming and well-crafted adventure from start to finish3, worth it for the unique boss fights and dialogue alone. And with XBLIG on its way out to pasture, you may not find another new game4 quite as good as Crawlers and Brawlers again. Buy it. Play it.


  1. Don’t bother googling that. It may or may not be an adage, and it may or may not go the way I say it does. Just go with it. 
  2. As a known Destiny addict, the game’s loot is even color-coded according to Destiny‘s rules; green for uncommon, blue for rare, and purple for legendary. Well-played, Ugly Beard Games, well-played. You know what’s good for me. 
  3. It’s a pretty lengthy game, by the way. About ten hours total in my playthrough; surprising for an XBLIG. 
  4. Well it was new, three months ago when I started writing this. Yeah, sorry about that. But hey, the game is still worth your while no matter what time you’re reading this. 

REVIEW: APOC TOWN

At outset, APOC TOWN ($1.00) seems to be on the right track. It pairs two of my favorite things; the visual style and general feel of the developer’s previous, Loot or Die1, and those always fun and rascally-ambitious enemy types, zombies. Granted, zombies have overstayed their welcome in everything that’s videogame and pop culture, but they’re hungry for flesh and dead already, making them the perfect antagonists for any project. Yet even with that can’t-miss pairing of ideas, the game isn’t very fun. Or forgiving.

APOC TOWN - Screen

Part of that is due to the apocalyptic setting and its approach to survival. Though APOC TOWN isn’t specifically what some would call a ‘roguelike’, it very much plays and feels like one in that you only have one life to live2, with your progress reset if you should die (or fail to save your game!). Despite its simple appearance, the game is much more complicated than it looks. Rather than going around wantonly bashing in skulls3, you must constantly be scrounging around for materials and ammunition, repairing or finding new weapons (because they will break, often), and crafting what you need in order to live to see another day.

You’ll occasionally get help. Similar to Survivalist (but not nearly as deep), there’s a heavy emphasis on community in APOC TOWN, slowly building up your initial starting point into a working enclave of A.I. survivors.  You’ll recruit others to populate your home base via a handful of preset mission types (rescue, hunt, mercy…), which in turn increases your available pool of resources. You can also find help from actual, breathing humans, as the game supports up to four players online (or via system link, if that’s an option).

And playing with others seems to be the route APOC TOWN wants you to take. Surviving in a zombie-infested apocalypse isn’t easy, naturally, but to make matters even more pressing, the game dials up the difficulty every ‘day’ you and your group survive, throwing even more zombified creatures (birds, dogs, larger zombies) and mobs your way. Given the scarcity of ammo, crafting materials, and medicine, it’s a hell of a lot to account for. If you’re going on alone, the game doesn’t really allow you to survive.

APOC TOWN - Screen2

If you’re seeing this on your screen, you’re lucky.

That isn’t so much of a problem if you have friends to share the load, but with XBLIG’s notoriously-absent online community, you’re never guaranteed to find anyone waiting in the co-op lobby4. Even then, the impetus to expand your base and find better gear is lacking due to the daily repeating objectives and the unrealistic amount of resources required to do so. There’s flashes of some interesting mechanics at work here, to be sure, but it’s not enough.

The resulting game is a mixed bag of genres and ideas, some that work… versus those that really don’t. On the one hand, APOC TOWN is a challenging take on survival horror, with a good amount of depth and too many intricacies to go into in just one article. And on the other, it’s a fickle and unforgiving game that basically refuses to be played solo. The TL;DR: Worthwhile if you have friends on standby willing to help, but alone, it’s far too frustrating to stick with.


  1. With touches of State of Decay and even ZombiU, among the usual ‘zombie game’ conventions. 
  2. Well, technically, that’s not true. Though your starting character can and probably will die, horribly, and losing all of his or her stuff, you will immediately take control of another survivor back at your camp. Assuming you’ve done your job and recruited survivors, that is. No man is an island. 
  3. Not advisable, since doing literally anything depletes your agility. Be very selective when bashing in skulls, my friend. 
  4. And I never did. 

REVIEW: Crypt of the Serpent King

Despite some stellar-looking titles in the bunch, I haven’t always enjoyed Rendercode Games‘ releases. They’ve occasionally been more about style over substance. But, generally speaking, each new title has been slightly better than the last in terms of its playability1. Crypt of the Serpent King ($1.00) is the developer’s swan song on XBLIG, and while it feels like the culmination of Rendercode’s work on the service, it’s still lacking in some spots. Important spots.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen

This dude is pretty and ugly. Pretty ugly.

Crypt is best described as a first-person hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, with some light RPG mechanics. Traversing a series of labyrinthian and randomized floors (don’t worry, the minimap fills in as you explore), you’re tasked with finding a certain number of keys to unlock a boss room, fighting dozens of baddies in-between. The RPG aspect comes in the form of gaining experience, used to level up your personal attributes such as health, melee attack power, and speed. Finding gold in chests scattered throughout allows you to purchase new weapons between stages, choosing from melee (sword, halberd2, etc.) and a pair of ranged bow options.

Depending on the level of difficulty chosen, you’ll find less food (recovers your health) and gold, which should force you to play conservatively and purchase new gear wisely. Then again, dying in Crypt isn’t as roguelike as you might think; you keep all experience and gold you’ve found even after death3, mitigating any disasters that might befall you. On the reverse side, ‘Hardcore’ mode attempts to please masochists, taking away the map and the chance to heal.

There’s enough variety in the enemy and boss types, to be sure, but the same can’t be said for the way you approach each of these fights. Essentially, so long as you start your attack animation and ‘walk into’ your foe by the time you’re swinging whatever weapon you have equipped, you’ll deal damage and avoid taking any yourself. This makes all basic encounters a cinch, and reduces every boss fight to a simple, repetitive exercise of attack and retreat, attack and retreat.

Crypt of the Serpent King - Screen2

Less tense than it looks.

And ‘repetition’ is the operative term in Crypt of the Serpent King, as each level looks and plays out exactly the same, regardless of the randomized layout you’re given4. There’s only a handful of room / hallway types, and the visual ‘sameness’ that greets you at every door opened and every corner turned begins to wear out its welcome by a few stages in. Add to this the increasing key requirements (each floor tacks on another missing key) and the requisite backtracking that implies, and you’re all set for tedium.

To be fair, messing around with different weapons can be fun, and Crypt of the Serpent King‘s art and enemy design may be impressive, but ultimately, the varying difficulty levels and only slightly-changing layouts can’t do enough to mask the game’s more serious flaw of repetition. As is, it’s merely a pretty and passable dungeon crawler that’s capable of more.

__

EDIT 10/16: There’s been an update to the game that addresses some of the issues I mentioned above, adding enemy spawns in the corridors between rooms, as well as a few tweaks to the flow of combat, which should make things a little more varied.


  1. There’s definitely been improvement if you’re counting from The Monastery (terrible) up to Assault Ops (decent) and onward, which I am. 
  2. My personal favorite. Excellent range, and the piercing attack is quick enough to stop most of the enemies’ attack animations. 
  3. Depending on who you talk to, this can either be a very good thing, or a very bad thing. 
  4. Enemies come in pairs, and are only ever found in ‘key rooms’, which basically takes away any tension or surprise that random exploration might have supplied. Even with the dull combat, random enemy placement would’ve helped to mix things up further. 

REVIEW: Loot or Die

I may get some hate mail / bewildered comments for this, but what the hell; in a lot of ways (and certainly in the spots where it really counts), Loot or Die ($1.00) could be considered a 2D Destiny. Yes, that Destiny. Granted, that’s not an absolute, end-all comparison1, and no one’s going to mistake the art styles from one game or the other, content, etc., but the idea of collecting better armor and weapons to take on tougher challenges is as important (and fun) here as it is in Bungie’s brilliant but flawed magnum opus.

Loot or Die - Screen

Chris Antoni’s newest (and certainly his most complete) game isn’t quite on that same level, but a similar logic— and gameplay mechanic— applies; you explore a series of planets / locations, defeating increasingly-tough enemies and bosses, with the hope that they will drop rewards, your only currency and means of countering later worlds and foes. It’s that simple. The game’s title says so, and makes it abundantly clear what its— and your— repeated objective is; you sir, must loot, or die trying. And oftentimes, that latter option is your only option, until the RNG Gods smile upon you and bless you with better gear and stronger weapons.

Thankfully, you won’t necessarily be going alone. Loot or Die allows you to form a fireteam of up to four, using a drop-in drop-out multiplayer in any of the game’s modes. Rolling with friends to tackle the game in co-op increases the challenge (enemies have their own attacks / patterns), but also your enjoyment. Even playing with randoms on earlier planets can test seasoned players, as your gear and items will smartly adjust to that planet’s difficulty.

Speaking of that gear, each item and weapon in the game carries stats that affect things like your total health, overall damage dealt, etc. Equipment ranges from helmets and chest pieces, to pistols, rifles, and machine guns, while special ‘rings’ will grant you perks when equipped, both offensive (doom blades!) and defensive (healing). There’s also a chance to find ‘epic’ versions of the armor and guns, imbued with an additional status bonus that can transform an otherwise regular item into a vital piece of armament.

It’s a nuanced leveling process, enabling those who take the time to study each item. On the flipside, those same items can lull you into a false sense of superiority. You can leave one planet / boss encounter feeling like a veritable badass, only to be immediately and decisively humbled on the next. Part of the fun is in dying though, and learning new tricks or testing out new combinations. Just be sure to leave extra room in your inventory at all times2, as each boss is guaranteed to drop an epic item of some sort.

Loot or Die - Screen2

Should you tire of the main game and have a competitive side, you can always take things to the PvP arena to settle any doubts about who has the best loadout / humblebrag3. Your stat bonuses attached to your armor and guns really come into play here, as you trade off between things like ring cooldowns, healing, or stealing life from your opponents as you deal damage. Regardless of loadout, it’s a chaotic battle royale for up to eight players.

Beyond that, there’s still plenty to do if you so desire. Much like Destiny, it’s arguable that Loot or Die is even better in its ‘end game’ than it is in its traditional ‘campaign’ mode. A sixth ‘planet’ is unlocked when you complete the game, putting you up against all of the bosses you’ve fought previously, in new, devious pairings, while ‘Defend The Flag’ functions as a sort-of ‘Horde’ setting with an emphasis on defense, having you outlast waves of enemies on a timer. Both modes offer up intense challenges, requiring effective teamwork but also rewarding you with some of the very best weapons and armor in the game should you succeed.

The good news is, you won’t mind the grind to earn any of those rewards or the grief from any of your potential failures. From start to finish, it’s all just… really satisfying. There’s very little to take issue with here, and the developer continues to tweak the game and add new content4 based on community feedback. Ultimately, you won’t play Loot or Die for its storyline (it’s nonexistent!) or its hyper-realistic visuals (or lack thereof); you’ll play Loot or Die because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And fun beats out everything else.


  1. See that there? That could be taken as immediate backtracking, rendering your hate mail / bewildered comments invalid. I don’t take a concrete position, and I win no matter what! Man, I love being the boss of my own site. 
  2. Something I wasn’t too good at keeping in check. I screwed myself out of some potentially cool rewards more than a few times. 
  3. Like, say, having a kickass gun named after you, one that fires the logo of your site as bullets. Yeah, that actually happens. Thanks, Chris! 🙂 
  4. An upcoming update will add even more ‘end game’ rewards / drops, increasing variety, …and giving you even more reason to grind out a few more rounds, natch. Happy hunting, and good luck.