Back in the 1990’s the genre of side scrolling beat-em-ups (BEU) had truly hit its peak with games like Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, X-Men and others. Now in 2019 it’s pretty rare to see anyone developing such a game, but Dark Blue Games is giving it their best shot while adding some rogue-lite elements along the way. Set in a post-apocalyptic world rife with zombies, you must survive and thrive either by yourself or with up to three more kooky characters in your team using any weapons you can find.
The zombie hellscape drama has been kind of done to death lately, but you don’t see it usually in this kind of genre where local coop is involved. I really appreciate the emphasis on couch coop especially in the wildly saturated online play only world we live in. While having a lot of appeal to multiple players, I was pleasantly surprised when they had a full campaign setup for those that just want to play on their own and destroy the zombie horde solo. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much story to speak of at all to help you get started in your journey. Some Mad Max rejects attack your base and you have to get your people back safe and sound. This is all done in comics type panels, but it’s done so suddenly with no notice or explanation that it really goes too fast to get the whole picture. One of the important parts of a story, especially one in which the settings is destroyed to build any kind of empathy or bond with the characters, and that’s just not present here.
You do have a lot of choices for characters however, and while they have pretty different and cool designs, which offer a lot of different play styles, it’s annoying that there’s no backstory to anyone you choose. The characters themselves are fun, and have different powers, strengths, speed, and because of the play-die-repeat aspect of the game, you can really mix and match your play style, especially when playing with friends. The attacks are inventive and fun, like hitting a zombie with an old man in a wheelchair, or summoning eagles from nowhere to attack someone, but the animation for those movements is severely lacking. The models are fine, but the way they move is so stiff and slow and it really takes you out of the flow of the fight. Instead of a smooth attack, it feels like you’re playing a weird version of QWOP, where each limb sort of flails in the direction you need it to.
The whole game has this feeling that it’s running 25% too slow to be truly fun, so the enemies and characters seem like they are moving through sand to get to each other, when a BEU should be all about getting across the screen easily. The saving grace of this movement is that there are drops of every shape and size everywhere for you to get to. So many weapons are available, along with lots of support items and collectibles to help you build cooler stuff later. It is like a collecting game and a brawler had a kid, and that kid was super into Dark Souls. The artistic style is sound, but only when looking at a frame, and is ruined when things start moving, drastically affecting gameplay. It’s too bad, since the characters, enemies, weapons are pretty great with each getting a very unique design. But, if you love BEU’s and you don’t have a lot of money to spend, than you should check out Infected Shelter.