Category Archives: Shooter

REVIEW: Zombie Purge

Doubtless we’ve all had our fill of zombies in one form of media or another1. Not enough to go ‘cold turkey’ and disavow them altogether, mind you, but enough to start turning away the newcomers that are (very) late to the party. From the developer of all those ‘creepy, plastic-looking women set on a mysterious island‘ games, Zombie Purge ($1.00) falls into that unfortunate category.

Zombie Purge - Screen

Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before; a twin-stick shooter where you take down a horde of bloodthirsty zombies in a wave-based format, the difficulty and enemy numbers increasing as you— oww, what was… okay, okaaaay, you’ve heard it before. And, as cut-and-paste as that gameplay already is, Zombie Purge commits the further deadly sin of doing absolutely nothing new with the idea, beyond dragging its set of plastic characters into the mix.

Each game starts off with two walls of sandbagged ‘defenses’, which amounts to your objective. Survive the wave, and prevent them from completely destroying your barricades. Failing to do either will result in a ‘game over’. You have limited ammo, but can pick up more in-wave, and as a bonus for scoring the highest in that round. Explosive barrels? Check! It does allow local co-op for up to four, too, but the odds of anyone wrangling enough controllers and gullible players to pull that feat off would be pretty rare.

Zombie Purge - Screen2

Gratuitous crotch and ass shots of the female characters? You bet.

You’d get the feeling I’m unnecessarily dumping on the game, but I assure you it is that underwhelming. Sure, the usual ‘indie’ problems surface; the animation is stiff (…um, eh, no pun intended), the solitary arena gets old fast— as does the gameplay— but there’s nothing mechanically ‘wrong’ the game. To its credit, it works as advertised.

There’s just no reason to waste your time here when so many other alternatives exist. Alternatives that are better built, and give you more things to do than mindlessly shoot or ogle at a few pics. Zombie Purge is just that; too little, too late to the table, too simple-minded and too dull to offer up even a modicum of fun.


  1. So much, in fact, that I know I’ve used that line before. Seriously, I’m running out of ways to say it! Developers, please, ‘Enough with the zombie games, dammit!’ 
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REVIEW: Assault Ops

Playing at war online can be a lonely place on XBLIG. Pick any game and it’s an epidemic, even for new releases. The majority of the service’s already-infinitesimal audience is scattered between a handful of popular titles, with the rest of the online games left to fight for stragglers, or, sadly, abandoned altogether1. Rendercode Games‘ newest, Assault Ops ($1.00), is no exception.

Assault Ops - Screen

Not that you’re missing out on much excitement here. Assault Ops is a twin-stick online shooter, featuring your typically-generic combatants / weapons, but an atypical isometric view. You can choose from a handful of soldiers, with only slightly-varying stats. One might have more agility, while another boasts higher firepower. Really though, the differences are cosmetic, as they (and the guns) all play the same. Defeated foes drop health packs and ammunition, ensuring you’re always topped out after each confrontation.

The online component is a nice option to have, but it’s exceedingly-basic and as generic as its character choices. It supports up to eight players, in a Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch scenario. Tweak the score conditions for victory, or the amount of time on the clock for each round, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, you’ll likely never find a match or other players online2. The game does offer A.I. bots in place of human competition, ranging from Easy to Hard, and this will probably be your only means of trying out the game.

Assault Ops - Screen2

Four soldiers on-screen at once!? Never happens.

Assault Ops has just one arena, albeit a very large one, with plenty of buildings and and corners to peek around. Of course, that size works against it as well. Given the length of the map, and the pseudo-intelligence of the A.I., you’ll wander for a bit between the (almost entirely) 1 vs. 1 firefights, eventually stumbling onto an opponent, or they you. The isometric camera doesn’t give you the longest of sightlines, either,  making it hard to spot threats until they’re practically on top of you.

You may prefer those odds in a straight fight, but don’t expect any massive battle of wills or heavy firepower. Otherwise, Assault Ops plays fine, and controls well enough. It just doesn’t do anything new or interesting, at all, and the complete lack of a community means you’ll be fighting this war all by yourself.


  1. I used to fault indie games for ignoring online components. Now, I can completely forgive them for it. It no longer pays off. I’m no fan of local multiplayer either, but it’s certainly the safer bet these days. Sad state of affairs, my friends. 
  2. I tried on four occasions, different times, weekdays and the weekend. Not once did I find a single game, and no one ever joined my hosted match. A shame, but to be expected. 

REVIEW: PLARINET

From the developers of ‘that strange symbol game about tree masturbation (…I think)‘ comes their next game… the not-as-strange or as obtusely-named PLARINET ($1.00). Oh, and you’ll be pleased to hear it’s an actual game this time around, not some interactive nature porn. In fact, PLARINET‘s actually quite good fun. I dare say developer HITMARK BROTHERS has— if you’ll excuse the easy pun— hit the mark with this one1.

PLARINET is an arcade-ish / shooter game set in hostile space. As an astronaut with his very own shuttle, you’ll be exploring the galaxy on a single screen, rocketing or space-walking to various planets that suddenly spring up from the ether. Once there, you’ll mine these planets by hand— an impressive feat— collecting various items that represent all of Humanity and its body of artistic merits (sports, music, entertainment, …nudie magazines?), in order to form an ‘Akashic Record’2. Which is… Er… Just…. just know that you’ll be collecting a lot of stuff, and working towards a high score.

Of course, your work has not gone unnoticed by the local alien population, which either hates Humanity, or things like Basketball… …it’s probably Humanity. Out on your own, exploring / mining, you are vulnerable to enemies and passing planetoids, as well as the resulting explosion / vacuum that each planet leaves behind once it has been completely mined. Your shuttle, however, works as both a means of transportation and as a weapon, allowing you to shoot at said aliens that inhabit any given planet and spawn repeatedly.

This trade-off in mechanics presents quite the conundrum, you see. While you can only ‘dig’ as the astronaut, you need the ship to survive and fend off enemies. Killing those enemies drops food, which the astronaut needs to refill his health, but this uses the ship’s power, which is replenished by batteries you unearth during excavation (the universe is made of energy, after all; why not fill the planets with batteries?) It’s a vicious— albeit clever and fun— cycle, forcing you to manage fuel and balance between work and necessity.

PLARINET - Screen

Possible premise for Dead Space 4: Instead of cracking a planet and digging up a religious ‘Marker’, the USG Ishimura discovers a ‘Tiny Boy Pissing’ statue instead. The narrative will never be the same.

PLARINET certainly keeps things fresh and challenging, constantly randomizing new threats and rewards, like derelict vessels to explore for items, giant UFOs hiding inside planets, rogue spaceships, or a rainbow-spewing comet that drops multiple items (and some potentially rare ones) for you to scoop up. Those items can and will repeat, though, with no clear way to force new objects to appear. Thanks to that same random nature, you can play forever and never get the specific item you need to complete the game3.

Luckily, the game and its mechanics are interesting enough that total victory isn’t important. It’s the journey, man, the journey is what makes the trip worthwhile, and as a pick-up-and-play arcade type with a style of weird all its own, PLARINET delivers.


  1. A ‘Happy Ending’ for all, and no shame the next morning! 
  2.  According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘a compendium of mystical knowledge supposedly encoded in a non-physical plane of existence known as the astral plane.’ Far out, brother. 
  3. I once survived for close to forty-five minutes, never finding the final three items to complete my deck. I was a sad astronaut. Space was angry that day, my friend. 

REVIEW: Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra

It’s not every day your Bullet Hell stars a super long-nosed demon that’s been asleep for a few thousand years, only to be immediately thrust into a long-brewing battle upon waking. Oh, and your lady fox1 has been kidnapped. That’s bound to make anyone cranky. Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra2 ($2.99) gives you a shooter steeped in Japanese mythology, in particular the Tengu and a war with the Yōkai (all of them folk / supernatural beings). The game features a gorgeous watercolor art style, with pretty transitions and effects within the stages themselves. It’s quite beautiful to look at.

Shame you don’t get much time to admire the scenery or listen to the music tracks, as something is usually trying to kill you… with an excessive amount of bullets. The Yōkai foot soldiers come in many flavors, but the real focus (and challenge) is at the end of a level. The game’s mini-bosses and main bosses can be a tough match-up for Tengu-man, tossing out thousands of bullets for you dodge. Like most Bullet Hells, though, your character has a very distinctive hit zone (belt buckle), allowing you to wade through a sea of fire and still manage to come out on the other side unscathed.

This is, of course, provided you have quick reflexes and know how to break shields / direct fire back at the enemy. Nandeyanen!? is more than a mere shooter, as its successful completion will require you to get acquainted with some basic mechanics, like bullet-canceling bombs, a reflective counterattack, and using your loyal familiars (spirits) to attack stronger foes and / or collapse their shields, making them temporarily vulnerable to your fire. If that sounds overly-complicated, I assure you it’s not.

The game is a still a shooter underneath, a matter of following patterns and noticing the routes you need to take. Yet its character shines through in the environments and enemy design, in bits of brief dialog before each fight, to give some ‘meat’ to the otherwise breezy events. If you’ve collected all of a given stage’s ‘runes’ (dropped by defeated enemies), you can save yourself some trouble and knock off a chunk of the boss’s health beforehand. These battles can get a little hectic to say the least, with several volleys of bullets to carefully maneuver through and simultaneously return fire.

Nandeyanen - The 1st Sutra - Screen

Unfortunately, the impressive visuals and ample challenge mask an extremely-short adventure; just three stages in total. It should run you no more than a half-hour of playtime. There’s no real reason to repeat the game either, unless you want to try another difficulty level or shuffle through some lovely concept art. To be fair, The 1st Sûtra marks the, ah, …first ‘chapter’ of the game’s story, but at $3, the asking price may be a bit much for the content it delivers. It remains to be seen what the cost of future3 chapters will be.

Frustrations with its brevity aside, Nandeyanen!? – The 1st Sûtra is still one of the better Bullet Hell shooters I’ve played on the marketplace, especially for the rich visual style and folk history. Developer Tchagata Games could have just as easily thrown together some hasty art and backgrounds and called it a wrap for its first project; the fact that they didn’t proves they respect the genre and the material. I look forward to seeing what comes next. It’s off to a strong start.


  1. She literally has fox ears …and a real problem keeping her shirt on and / or buttoned. 
  2. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  3. The developers have stated this is only the beginning for Tengu-man, but how many chapters there will be in all, or if there’s a concrete release schedule for the rest, was not given. 

REVIEW: Santa Slay

Depending on when you’re reading this article… Happy Holidays! What? It’s not? Oh, I mean… er… well, you know. I’ve got a very narrow window of opportunity for this thing. Carry on, then. September is probably a little early for spending sprees and gift-giving (just don’t tell that to this consumerist economy of ours), but that hasn’t stopped Santa Slay1 ($1.00) from getting its holly-jolly party started before the credits have even started to roll on Summer.

Santa Slay - Screen

A side-scrolling shooter with South Park-ian2 visuals, Santa Slay has old St. Nick returning home from a test run of his experimental sleigh to find his entire workforce of elves and reindeer slaughtered, the apparent work of (maybe) terrorists hell-bent on the annihilation of the holiday spirit. That storyline, as ludicrous as it is, is humorous enough3 to carry the otherwise pedestrian shooting, with Santa and his chief elf taking on hordes of enemies from every walk of life, from aliens to bloated helicopters, and a giant snowman.

Fictional holiday figures fighting each other to the death aside, it’s the typical shooter setup— one hit equals death, kill everything that moves, a boss at the end of each level. Some strategy will be necessary. You can’t strictly hold the trigger down to ‘spray & pray’ throughout, as doing so overheats your guns, but you get the idea. Powerups come in the form of packaged presents, and include the usual staples of shields, advanced weaponry, and extra lives.

Santa Slay - Screen2

Boss fights are a highlight, and can be tough. And no, I have no idea what this thing is supposed to be.

Despite the simplistic hook, Santa Slay does hide a fairly significant challenge. Your pool of extra lives is shallow, and a lone sleigh drifting among a sea of very tiny bullets means you won’t see everything coming. There’s no continue system or saved game option either, though most shooter fans shouldn’t have too much trouble in completing the game’s half a dozen stages, including a multi-part finale against another holiday mascot, pissed that his holiday is relegated to being a ‘crappier version of Halloween’.

Humor may or may not be enough for you, and Santa Slay offers nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s rather short4, rather basic, isn’t going to make anyone’s ‘Best-Dressed’ list, yet it is strangely amusing. I realize that’s hardly a solid vote of confidence, but this is a Christmas-themed game released in August; I’m doing the best I can with the material. So… Happy Holidays! No? Still no? Ah well, one of these days it’ll be applicable.


EDIT 9.7: A recent update to the game now gives you the option to increase the amount of extra lives to 20 or 30. One could argue this would make the game too easy (and it does), but hey, at least we all get to see the ending now.


  1. I have no idea why the developer used these screenshots for the marketplace. The game’s actual display fills the entire screen, and the colors are not washed out, as they appear here. Still not much of a looker, but these shots aren’t helping. At all. 
  2. Formerly known as ‘Microsoft Paint’ visuals. Makes it an easier pill for Developers to swallow, less of me dumping on their artistic skills. Thanks Soosh! 
  3. At one point, Santa sounds more than a little bitter discussing his divorce from Mrs. Claus. Given how many varied opponents he faces throughout, Santa Slay really could have used a level where he faces down his ex-wife. DLC or a sequel, perhaps? 
  4. Twenty minutes, if you’re good enough.