Released: May 8, 2019
With big triple-A games being the center focus of the gaming world, there's been a recent rise of indie developers numbering in the single digits that have taken on noteworthy concepts and delivered with some interesting results. The pair of gents at Dark Blue Games Ltd. decided to come together for their fourth project in order to create a very distinctive beat ‘em up title - one that is jampacked with loot, buckets of blood, and absolute insanity.
Infected Shelter is a randomly generated RPG rollercoaster of craziness, set within a post-apocalyptic world where the Infected roam and eat and the military is trying to subdue the situation. It starts off with a comic book-esque intro where essential NPCs are captured by raiders in Mad Max style and you are prompted to the startup campsite, where you can select from three different fighting classes that range from: Smiling Soldier, a grinning and disabled bro who walks with a deadly walking crutch that can split enemies in half through executions; Grandpa & Granddaughter, a dynamic duo where the elder is wielded like a weapon as his daughter's daughter takes charge of his wheelchair and swings away; Guitarist Girl, a rockin' n' rollin' slayer babe who uses her instrument to wipe away the dirt off the street. A few outfits for each class can be chosen from as you select from one of the three. The Chief asks you to journey on and save the kidnapped individuals while also collecting loot and critical blueprints that will have a huge impact on future runs through the streets.
Upon the initial run, I encountered several different Infected, while also picking up dropped blueprints, weapons and food before the 2D world would transition into the next room you proceed to. The second loop within the first run led me to more blueprints (this time more Improvements, which are permanent upgrades that can be used for all future runs within your save file), mini-bosses such as a mutated giant with a horrendous yet deadly arm, Skills that are actually special abilities that you can use through a fixed set that you assemble on your own throughout the run, and attire with traits that I could switch out of if found on the battlefield. Sadly, my first character was killed by one of the game's bosses, Mutant Bison. After my bloody encounter with the creature, I was prompted back to the campsite to select another character for the next run. It was here that I checked to see if I truly had all my gathered upgrades from the previous go; I did. I unlocked a few weapons that can be randomly dropped throughout the run from enemies and crates and some Improvements to strengthen the next character, and I was able to defeat the Bison thanks to my progression stats and goodies that I fought for not too long ago.
Least to say, the gameplay is extremely addicting and is just so much fun to play. Every hit is bloody and responsive, despite the lack of creative combos that can be thought of when it comes to this realm of gaming. Temporary Pendants can be picked up to increase current stats that effect your playstyle (increases in areas such as Luck, Unarmed Damage, Skill Recharge, etc.), while Skills can help a great deal when a horde is coming your way. Pick up one weapon at a time to bring a world of pain and misery upon your opponents with a big menu of weapons to play with, executing your enemies with glorious fashion. Although the whole run routine gets too familiar after killing the main bosses, each run is at random with generating loot and enemies, with each one bringing new challenges to the table, until you've unlocked a killer weapon that rains hell and guarantees victory. It's a great kiss to beat ‘em up games with a dash of Castle Crashers and a sprinkle of Happy Wheels. If you want absolute mayhem in a 2D beat ‘em up world, this is the one.
While there is basically no huge narrative to provide backgrounds for these characters, their personalities and purpose are clearly shown through their little gestures and acts of kindness as they defeat enemies in order to save the captured NPCs, who are residents of the campsite that can provide you with some handy equipment. The campsite will grow as you progress through the runs, with more weapons, drinks, and skills being unlocked with each completed run. Did I mention you can also recruit hovering tiny animals to aid you in combat? Baby Piggys, Snakes, Rams, Dogs, and the like can shoot projectiles at your enemies for an extra advantage.
The sound and music go together quite nicely with the atmosphere of a world going crazy and so will you. Many of the sound effects are a little bombastic, with some interweaving with others to create a cluster effect that drones out the music and grunts from punching and slicing and shooting. It's appropriate for the game's direction of craziness. The blood sound effects are a sure winner for this game - they're crunchy, they're wet, and it sounds like you're biting into a very juicy burger, all while you watch their eyeballs roll away and their brains being splattered against the ground. And the music (composed by Attila Héger, who might also be the campsite's guitar player who sits by the campfire, Jenny) incorporates a lot of riffs and loops from acoustics to heavy guitar usage, creating a sound that I don't think I have heard before. The composer conjures up these magical heavy melodies that fit in almost seamlessly with the action; violins with horror-sounding patterns, and chants of warriors mixed with intense drums and wild guitar slaps.
For a title in Early Access, there are bound to be some glitches and/or bugs in the game. Luckily, I've run into only two that disrupted the flow of the game, and they were very minimal when it comes to Early Access games. The 2D rendering as a whole works almost flawlessly, with minor framerate drops when the crazy gets too unhinged for the screen, such as enemies being on fire while you call in a storm of fire arrows because you're surrounded by mutated animals and trigger-happy soldiers. It's colorful and pretty to look at; a lot of the level design may be more basic by ordinary standards, but the game's backgrounds, layouts, and character designs are made with passion and focus that ring familiarity and pay homage to classic beat ‘em ups. The battlefield may look simplistic until you start swinging and changing the color of the concrete to a red hue.
All in all, I think this indie title is one that many players should try out at least once. It's got the important ingredients to a bloody good time, and you can play in the same room with your mates in 4-player co-op. I find myself going through each run with a fresh set of enemies and loot that I can experiment with to see what sorts of ludicrous goodness I can get into. It's easy to get passed the minor glitches and spelling errors when you're carrying a golden shovel that can summon the Shovel Knight to smack and stab a foe to the ground.
The true aesthetic of this game breathes through the moment where the camera zooms in during an execution to mildly slow down and glorify the slaughter as your mini army of pets hover behind you, looking all cute and adorable with blood being splattered on the screen.