Get My MicroBrits Gaming Book For Free!

Oh yeah, you read that headline right, I’m giving one of my books away for free. Now, I am aware of the date, it is the 1st of April as I publish this, but this is no April Fools joke.

See, I’ve recently written a new gaming book, that’ll be released on the 1st of June. More details to come soon on that one. But in the meantime, I thought I’d give my first gaming book away for free… if you own a Kindle that is. From today, 1st of April until Monday the 5th. You can d’load my MicroBrits book for nothing, anywhere in the world for your Kindle.

MicroBrits takes a look at the British game industry, but told with a bit of a twist. The book looks at the many interweaving stories of some of the biggest names in the gaming industry. Studios that shaped British gaming for decades. From the birth of the bedroom programmers, making indie games in their spare time to the massive studio that is Rockstar North. Tales of interesting partnerships, back stabbing buy outs and so much more. All with some cheeky humour.

Oh, and a grand finale looking at one of the most controversial British figures in the business. The entire career of Peter Molynuex is covered. From the failure of his first game, to baked beans salesman, to becoming one of the most loved and loathed game designers on the planet.

Again, it’s 100% free to anyone with a Kindle. So why not give it a read and ready yourself for my new book, coming this June. Free sample and link to get your free copy on Kindle bellow.

IT’S FREE!

My Personal Gaming History

Whenever I write articles on this site, be they retrospectives, histories or whatever. I always look at the games and companies behind those games. It struck me a while back that I never explored my own gaming history. The consoles and computers I owned and played on, the games that shaped me into the gamer I am today. So I thought, why not take a trip through my own personal history of gaming? I actually started writing this article in late 2019. It is now (as of publishing) March 2021, so why the huge gap? Well, I’ll answer that at the end.

The first console we ever owned was the all-time classic, the Atari 2600. That wood-finished beast was a gaming cherry taking machine that a lot of people my age grew up with. Now, I can’t remember the first game I ever played, but the 2600 came bundled with a copy of Combat, so I’m assuming that was my first ever gaming experience. But I also remember playing Pong, Space Invaders and Asteroids on the console very early on too.

PONG

It was actually getting hold of games back then that was a big problem. Video games were a new ‘fad’ and many people didn’t think they would last (flash forward forty-years to a multi-billion dollar industry). Shops just didn’t stock any games like today. Now, you can get hold of the latest titles with ease. Digital stores, ordering online to have games delivered to your door, you can even get games in supermarkets these days. Pop out for a loaf of bread, some milk and the latest game release at the same time. But back in the ‘good ole days’, we didn’t have that luxury. Gaming shops hardly existed and if they, they were always several miles away, down a dodgy backstreet in a village several dozen miles away from where you lived. The post was another way to buy games. Send a postal order or check to an address at the back of some low-quality gaming magazine and in a short two to three weeks later, you’d have a copy of the game.

Anyway, the games I played on the 2600 were where it all began for me. Arcade classics such as Frogger and Pac-Man to some truly revolutionary titles like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pitfall! Just going back to Raiders for a second, that game really was ground-breaking at the time. You have to keep in mind that we were used to (often) single-screen, arcade-like games in which all you had to do was try for a high score. But then along came Raiders of the Lost Ark and everything changed. We had this open-world-like game with multiple screens, there was a plot to follow and even an actual end to the game too. It was packed with puzzles to solve and you really had to use the old noodle. Raiders was the bridge between those more simple arcade games and the more complex games we have today.

RAIDERS COVER

While we only had the one console to play on back then, fortunately, we had friends and neighbours who owned one of the other machines. So quite often, we would swap game consoles for a few days or weeks. We as a family may have only had an Atari 2600, but I got to play on pretty much all of the main consoles back then. We know someone who owned an Intellivision and a ColecoVision as an example, so I got to play on those too. Even though most of the main games were ported to each of the game consoles, there were a few exclusives the Atari 2600 never had or games that were just better. Games like Demon Attack, Dracula, Diner (an unofficial sequel to Burger Time), Turbo and Jumpman JR to name some of the best.

When the Atari 2600 was getting a little too old in the tooth, Mum bought me and my brothers a Commodore 64 in 1986. I’ve told the story of the first time I ever played on a C64 in my book MicroBrits, available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle. But there were so many other games worth looking at. For me, it was the C64 where gaming and I grew. While there were still plenty of amazing arcade-like games, developers really began to push what games could do. Innovation in gaming really kicked-off. Paradroid from the legendary Andrew Braybrook as an example, a game with highly unique gameplay. Wizball’s strange but wonderful take on the side-scrolling shooter. Or even the surreal The Sentinel from Geoff Crammond. The C64 years really opened my mind to more creative games outside of arcade ports. And again, thanks to friends, I got to play on all of the main machines back then.

C64 AD

We had a neighbour who owned a ZX Spectrum, so I got to play games like Skool Daze, Atic Atac, Knight Lore, Manic Miner and more. Then another neighbour had an Amstrad CPC and yes, I got to play games on that too. I really was quite lucky in that I was surrounded by gaming back then. I mean, one school friend owned a NES, while another owned a Master System. So I got the best of both worlds, I got both the computer and console games to play and was really spoiled for choice. When my older brother got his first job and his own money, he bought an Amiga 500 in the late-eighties. That jump from the 8-bit to 16-bit era was astounding and the newer, more advanced hardware brought plenty of new games with it. In fact, I think those Amiga years were perhaps my favourite of my entire gaming history. I still remember seeing that iconic Tutankhamun mask made using Deluxe Paint and being blown away by how real it looked. It was a huge leap forward from the C64.

KING TUT

Then there were the games. Of course, there were plenty of arcade ports as always, but it was when devs really pushed what the Amiga could do that impressed. Titles like Populous really got me into strategy games, Defender of the Crown opened my eyes to cinematic storytelling. The Secret of Monkey Island was and still is one of the finest adventure games ever made and then there was the mighty Lemmings, a simple puzzle game that was fiendishly tricky and addictive. I could fill up an entire article of Amiga games.. and I may just do that in the future. But for now, there are so many more machines and games to cover. Of course, as is tradition, I knew someone who owned an Atari ST back then, as well as having access to the Mega Drive and SNES too. I was neck-deep in games back in the nineties. My brother eventually upgraded to an Amiga 1200 a few years later, but the time of the home computer began to dry up as consoles became ever more dominant.

My older brother eventually moved out of the family home, but we remained close and I would often stay with him. And yes, there was plenty more gaming, especially by the mid-nineties. My brother bought both a Sega Saturn and a PlayStation as well as owning a gaming PC too. So I got to play pretty much everything. I remember playing Doom for the first time on his PC, it was awesome! I played Doom on his Saturn… and on his PlayStation too. I played Doom a lot, I still play it now. But aside from Doom, games like Virtua Cop, Duke Nukem 3D, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Panzer Dragoon, NiGHTS into Dreams, Tenchu, Tekken, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and so many more great games. We’d moved by then and I was still living with Mum at the time, so I was no longer surrounded by the neighbours who had other machines I could play on. But I’d left school by then and was earning my own money and the first console I ever bought with my own money was the Nintendo 64. I had an old school friend who owned an N64 before I got one myself, so I got to play on  it quite a bit before I had my own. Oh, how I remember late-night sessions on multiplayer GoldenEye (and other great Rare titles), the sublime 3D world of Super Mario 64 and the countless hours poured into Mario Kart 64 and so many more.

N64 GAMES

By the late nineties, I’d moved out of the family home (or more accurately, my Mum moved away) and shared a flat with one of my elder brothers, not the one who bought the Amiga and all that before, my other brother. Anyway, joining my N64 was a Dreamcast my brother bought, along with a PlayStation (before upgrading to a PS2 a few years later) and a PC too. Once more, I had plenty of games to play over multiple consoles. Eventually, me and my brother went our separate ways in the early two-thousands and got our own places. I tucked my N64 away in a cupboard and made way for a PC of my own and a PS2. It was when living in my own place with my own machines when I really got into some serious gaming. I guess I could tell the story of the first time I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Living in my own place with my own stuff was quite liberating. I had pre-ordered GTA: SA, the first of the very few times I ever pre-ordered a game. The postman came in the morning and posted my copy of GTA through my letterbox, the noise of which woke me up (my bedroom was directly opposite the front door in my flat at the time). So I dashed out of bed, grabbed the package from the doormat and hurried into the living room. Oh yeah, I was naked at the time too, no time to dress when there was some Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to play. I tore open the package, pulled out my shiny new copy of GTA: SA and began to rip away at that annoying cellophane. Finally now free of its packaging, I opened the box and took out the DVD, pressed the eject button on my PS2… nothing. I pressed the power button… nothing. I pressed both the eject button and power button over and over… nothing. My PS2 had died on me.

GTASA TITLE

So there I was, naked, with a copy of the newly released  Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas around my index finger like a ring, while my other finger kept tapping away at the buttons on my dead PS2. I almost cried. Thankfully, there was an ASDA superstore a literal five-minute walk up the road. So off I went (after a quick wash and getting dressed) and bought a brand new PS2 just so I could play GTA: SA. 

The next generation of consoles came around in 2005-2006. But I was quite happy with my PC and PS2, I didn’t feel any need to jump over to the next-gen for a while yet. But when I did, and despite not liking the original beast that was the Xbox, I went for the Xbox 360 over the PS3. Even now, the Xbox 360 is one of my favourite game consoles. It was also then when I upgraded from a standard TV to a lovely new HD one. That jump between resolutions was unbelievably impressive. I remember playing Dead Rising on my 360 using the older TV, then playing it on my new HD TV. It looked like a completely different game. Man, I loved that 360 console, despite the fact I got through four of them in total. You know…

RED RING

Anyway, I stuck with the 360 for a good while, even after the launch of the next-gen. By then, I’d met my better half and we moved in together, so I wasn’t quite as ‘free’ as I used to be when living on my own. It was around 2015 when I began to think about upgrading to the newest generation of consoles and I was genuinely undecided between the Xbox One and PS4. It was after E3 2015 when two things were announced that helped me make up my mind. First, Fallout 4 was revealed as to be coming out later that same year. A quick aside, Fallout 4 is the only other game I’ve ever pre-ordered other than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Also at that same E3, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing backwards compatibility to the Xbox One. That’s really what sealed it for me, I could still play (some) Xbox 360 games on a new console and not have two machines under my TV. So I ordered myself an Xbox One directly after E3 2015, a copy of GTA V, Batman: Arkham Knight and pre-ordered Fallout 4 (still not finished it even now). The just sat back and waited for my new console to turn up. 

I’ve been enjoying the Xbox brand since then too. I upgraded to an Xbox One X on launch day, then got myself a Series X on launch last year. Which all brings me up to today. I don’t think of myself as an Xbox ‘fan’, it’s just more a case of certain circumstances that led me to sticking with the brand. I don’t really have that much time to game these days (family life, I have two young kids now, I write this blog and books, etc), so owning multiple machines as I used to is pointless. Then there’s the fact that the Xbox offers backward compatibility, so I can play older games without having multiple consoles under the TV. It’s more of an ease of use and accessibly thing over any brand loyalty. But that is (pretty much) my entire personal gaming history. From the Atari 2600 in the late-seventies/early-eighties right up to today. I’ve owned and played on pretty much all the major computers and consoles over the last four decades and enjoyed hundreds, thousands of games over that time too. And I never even got into arcades, that’s another article altogether.

And so after that trip down memory lane, on to why this took me around a year and a half to finish and publish. Well, it was while I was making a list of games I wanted to mention in this article when I came up with an idea for a new gaming book. A book I’ve been writing since the end of 2019. I’ll be published this June and available to buy from Amazon. Don’t worry, I’ll be making a post when it’s out and give more details too.

Game Review: Kill It With Fire

Pop quiz hotshot, there’s a spider in your bath. Do you:

  • a) Do the glass and a piece of paper trick to trap and then release the little blighter?
  • b) Turn the taps on and try to drown the eight-legged monster?
  • c) Be one of those insane people who pick the arachnid up in their hands and gently place it in the back garden.
  • d) KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!

From developer Casey Donnellan Games and publisher, TinyBuild Games comes a new first-person shooter/action game, that correctly chose to answer d) to my little question. Kill It With Fire does exactly what you think it does just from reading the title. Or, as described on the official website:

The common spider – mankind’s most ancient and deadly nemesis. As a licensed Kill It With Fire exterminator, it’s your duty to fight back! Gather your arsenal and hunt the eight-legged menace on a journey across suburbia…and beyond!

To defeat spiders you must exploit their one weakness: FIRE. Or bullets. Or explosions, throwing stars, gettin’ smushed by stuff… OK, pretty much anything, really. But that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be easy – first you’ve gotta find them. Utilize state-of-the-art spider tracking technology to pinpoint your prey’s location among hundreds of potential hiding spots – then light everything on fire and smash it with a frying pan after it runs out. It’s the only way to be sure.

The game really is as madcap as it sounds. You play as an exterminator working for the Kill It With Fire company and you have to kill spiders…. that’s about it. Your job is to kill those arachnids, but not (as the title suggests) just with fire, with anything that works. The premise deceptively simple, just kill spiders, but there is a little bit more going on that adds quite a few layers to the basics of the gameplay. The game takes place in a small town, and each of the levels is a locale in that town. You start in a house with very little else to really see and explore. There’s the main living area and several locked doors, to unlock those doors, you need to kill a certain amount of spiders. So let’s say as an example, there’s a number five on the door to the bathroom, then you need to kill five spiders to unlock that door. Other doors require more dead spiders to unlock, kill enough spiders and you can unlock the main door to progress to the next level.

KILL IT WITH FIRE TOILET

Killing all those eight-legged monsters is as easy as it is hard. Sometimes, you’ll just see one of them walking across the floor, so you squish it. However, other times and the spiders will be hiding, you can hear them moving, you know there’s a spider nearby… but you don’t know where it is. This is where the interactivity of each level comes into play, as you can pick up pretty much anything you see and examine it. See a bookshelf and think there could be a spider there somewhere? Pick up the books, turn them around and just maybe… there might be an arachnid hiding around the back… KILL IT! The little bastards hide any and everywhere too, under toilet seats, in bins, behind TVs and more. This adds a layer to the game that requires you to be pretty thorough as you explore each level. What I thought was going to be a fast-paced action romp of a game is actually more of a slower-paced, leisurely explore and investigate type of game. But it is how you do choose to kill those spiders where the over the top gameplay begins to come into play.

KILL IT WITH FIRE CLIPBOARD

You start with nothing, only to find a clipboard on the first level. This clipboard is actually very handy as not only does it list your level objectives (more on those later), it can even be used as a weapon to squish spiders. After a while, you’ll begin to find ever increasingly more powerful and fun weapons to use. Soon enough, you’ll get your hands on an aerosol can and a lighter that you can use as a makeshift flamethrower (it’ll do until you get an actual flamethrower later), a handgun, an assault rifle, C4 explosives, Molotov cocktails and so many more means to dispatch all of those spiders. There’s also a very helpful spider detector that you can use to help in the search of the ever hiding arachnids. There’s even an upgrade system where you can learn new skills and beef up that spider detector too… you can put a freaking laser on it!

Oh and about those previously mentioned level objectives. Aside from the killing of spiders, each level has a selection of alternate and completely optional little objectives to complete. Those objectives range from things like killing multiple spiders with one shotgun blast and solving various puzzles to finding secret rooms and even blowing up a gas station. And if you do complete all of the objectives on a level, this unlocks the ability to take part in an ‘Arachno-Gauntlet’ type challenge, and each level has its own unique challenge to try and beat. As an example, the first level has you having to kill five spiders with a six-shooter pistol in a strict time limit… oh and you can’t reload the gun either. So you can only miss once.

As simple as Kill It With Fire is (and it really is), the levels are wonderfully varied and there’s plenty to do along the way. But there are some negatives. It is a rather short game, I got to the end credits in around three hours or so. Granted, I didn’t finish all of the secondary objectives, find all of the upgrades and weapons, but still, three hours is a fairly short game. The spiders can’t harm you at all, you are essentially invincible from the only enemy in the game. There are various types of spiders, little white baby spiders, your standard black house spider, queen spider who when killed births several baby spiders, jumping spiders, zombie spiders, radioactive spiders and even exploding spiders…. but none of them can hurt you. So, there’s very little challenge from the game in terms of trying to stay alive if you can’t actually die. You’ll instinctively back away from an exploding spider even though it can’t harm you.

KILL IT WITH FIRE SHOTGUN

Still, I have to admit that even though I did get through the game in around three hours, I’m really aching to get back into it and mop up all the little things I missed. I really want to go back and do the optional objectives I skipped over, I want to unlock all of the upgrades and weapons I have yet to do. The gameplay here is simple, but it has also drawn me in via its addictiveness. It may be a small-ish game, but there is still a lot here to keep you entertained, there are several secrets yet to find even though I have seen the ending.

Already released on Steam several months back now. Kill It With Fire sees a launch on the 4th of March for PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch. And there’s currently a 20% off offer if you pre-order before release. With a £12.49 price tag (£9.99 with the discount), I think the budget price suits what the game offers very well indeed. Arachnid murder has never been so much fun.

Game Review: Speed Limit

I do love me some indie games. I often find they are more creative and interesting than your average AAA title that gets released. A small team of dedicated developers seem to push original ideas more and further than those big name studios who, more often than not, fart out endless sequels of tired old franchises. Which all brings me to the latest indie game to be discovered. Speed Limit from developers Gamechuck and published by Chorus Worldwide.

Now, from the title alone, I’d be expecting some kind of arcade OutRun style driving game. But what Speed Limit actually is, is so much more. I’m not even sure which genre to define the game as. Is it a driving game? Yeah, kind of, there certainly is some driving in the game… But it’s also an action-shooter, a platformer, a genre bending and blending title that melds various game genres into one. This is how developer Gamechuck describe the game on their site:

Speed Limit is a super-fast-paced tour through a variety of retro action genres, set to beautifully animated pixel art. The difficulty curve ramps up to breakneck levels while you run and gun in a side-scrolling shooter, weave through traffic in a faux-3D bike racer, dodge incoming missiles in an isometric shoot ’em up, and more!”

First, the story. Well, I’m not a really sure there is one to be honest. The game just starts with your character on a train and some ‘random’ guy handing you a gun. Then you are hunted down by men in black types. From that point on, Speed Limit is a non-stop action romp until the end credits.

I guess I should explain how Speed Limit actually works as a game. Split into five different gameplay styles, each style has its own level and each level features an increasingly faster form of transport. So, you start off on a train and this level is a side-scrolling shooter/slight platform game. You have to make your way from the back of the speeding train, to the front while being chased by enemies. Armed with a simple pistol, you can shoot the bad guys, jump and duck obstacles and shoot even more bad guys. Get to the front of the train and you move onto the next level and gameplay style.

SPEED LIMIT TRAIN

Next, you find yourself in a red sports car and the action shifts from a side-scroller shooter to a top-down driving game. The bad guys are now in cars, trucks and on bikes as you speed along a multi-lane freeway with oncoming traffic and roadworks to dodge. Thankfully, you are still armed with your gun, so you can take out the enemies with relative ease by shooting them… Or ram them into oncoming traffic and such. Get to the end of this one and an enemy bike rides up next to you. That’s your cue to jump from the car to the bike and start the next level.

SPEED LIMIT CAR

Now on a more powerful motorbike, the game changes once more to a third person, pseudo-3D perspective. Tearing along the road, there’s more traffic to dodge and more bad guys to shoot, all while being chased by a juggernaut of a truck ready to run you down. Here, not only do have to contend with the usual obstacles and bad guys, but if you go too slow, then that massive truck will catch and plough over you. You have to maintain a decent speed while still dealing with everything else thrown at you. Survive this and there’s an attack helicopter at the end wanting to take you out. Use specially placed jumps to leap into the air on your bike and take out the pilot. When that’s dealt with, you do one final jump and leap from your bike into the pilot seat of the attack helicopter.

SPEED LIMIT BIKE

So we’re now on level four and the action shifts once more. You’re now in an isometric shooter flying over water. The helicopter is armed with a machine gun you use to take our ground targets as well as missiles you shoot at air targets, like other helicopters and fighter jets. Throughout the level, aside from the enemies (that attack from both in front and behind) there’s a steady flow of obstacles to fly around and under. Rocks, lighthouses and bridges have to be avoided along with taking out bad guys. Get to the end of this level and you face a red fighter jet, only you don’t shoot this one down. Oh no, you shoot yourself on a missile (stay with me) toward the jet, to take over as the pilot.

SPEED LIMIT HELI

And then you’re on the fifth and final level of the game. Now in a red fighter jet, the game becomes what could be described as a reverse Tempest crossed with After Burner. You fly into the screen with other planes trying to shoot you down following behind. Here, you need to deftly use the speed to slow down and get behind the jets giving chase. Once on their six, you can shoot them down pretty easily. Take out all the other planes and it’s on to the final boss. A stealth bomber with multiple individual areas that need to be destroyed before you can finally blow it out of the sky. A very tough challenge right at the end of the game.

SPEED LIMIT JET

So there you have it, that is how Speed Limit works and plays. Five distinct and different levels (each level split into two stages, ten stages in total… With an extra stage when playing on the harder difficulty) of intense, non-stop action and varying gameplay genres. The way the game transitions from level to level is seamless. The action never stops, there are no breaks (except for the few seconds as the game shifts between levels). It’s all out action form start to end and Speed Limit hardly gives you a chance to breath. This is old school arcade action in its purest form, just given a unique and modern twist. As you can see from the trailer and pics here, Speed Limit also uses a pixel art style for its graphics. They look great, beautifully animated and full of little details. It really is a great looking game and does the pixel art style proud.

Right from the off, Speed Limit is hard. You will die… A lot, even on easy mode. This really is a game of trial and error, you have to pay attention and learn each level, each gameplay style as each level changes genres. That difficulty only gets increasingly harder as you progress too. Yet, the difficulty curve of Speed Limit is absolutely perfect though. It throws you in at the deep end as soon as you start and you’d better learn fast if you want to see the end credits. Each death you suffer, you learn something new, where a enemy will spawn from and when. When to jump, duck or dodge at the absolute pixel perfect moment and more. Speed Limit really took me back to gaming in the arcades in the eighties. Really tough games that were designed to swallow your coins as fast as possible. Thankfully, Speed Limit doesn’t require you to throw fistfuls of coins in order to play. The difficulty here, while rock hard from the very first second of gameplay, is still extremely well balanced and each level features a generous amount of checkpoints that make the huge amount of deaths you will most definitely incur a lot more reasonable. Die, try again and die again. But you’ll still make steady progress despite the game’s rock hard difficulty.

SPEED LIMIT AGENT

Now, while I thoroughly enjoyed playing Speed Limit… There is a negative. It’s just too damn short. I mean, I received my review code on Friday the 22nd of January and the embargo for reviews, etc was up today on the 8th of February. So that’s a little over two weeks. My first playthrough, I finished the game in a little over forty minutes on easy setting. My second lasted just under forty minutes on normal when I understood the game more (side note: finishing the game on normal does answer the a rather big question asked at the start). A little over an hour and I had seen the whole game, I really didn’t need that two weeks. Now to be fair, there is an unlockable infinite mode where you just keep playing the game on a loop and you can unlock a time attack mode too. But the thing is, you are still just replaying those same five levels over and over. There’s very little more to the game than those five levels, as great as they are and as much fun as I had with Speed Limit, there’s just not a huge amount of game here. You unlock some art when finishing each level on normal difficulty… And that’s about it. Now of course, Speed Limit is trying to emulate old school arcade gaming of the past, and it does precisely that, really damn well too. But gamers just expect a bit more game for their money these days. Speaking of money, Speed Limit has a price tag of £7.99/$9.99/€9.99 and that makes this one of the hardest and most frustrating reviews I’ve ever had to do. That’s a great price point for sure, a low budget cost which certainly takes out some of the sting over Speed Limit’s lack of content. Plus as I said, the gameplay is really bloody great… But personally,  it still feels just a bit too pricey for what the game offers. I do love this game, but it really does need more meat on the bones.

I guess value for money in this one really boils down to the kind of gamer you are. I think speed runners will get a real kick out of this one. Each level is timed and so is your overall play from start to end. I can see speed runners really enjoying this and pushing themselves to beat their best times. But for me, I’m just not a speed runner gamer, so that aspect just doesn’t appeal to me. I finished the game on easy and normal difficulty settings in a little over an hour, and that’s about it really and I don’t think the infinite loop and time trial modes really add anything of value. I can’t honestly say if I’m sure I’d come back to Speed Limit now I’ve finished it. I’ve had the game for over two weeks and just not felt the pull to play it again since finishing both difficulty settings in just over an hour and dabbling with the infinite mode. In fact, it’s taken me longer to write, format and edit this review than play through Speed Limit… Twice.

So, the big question. Is Speed Limit worth buying? This is a lot harder to answer than it seems. Look, I love this game for what it is. The gameplay is amazing, the mixing of genres is brilliantly done, the difficulty is hard but very fair. The game really captures so much of what I love about old school gaming. All in all, Speed Limit is a wonderfully created title that really took me back to my childhood, and I have to thank Gamechuck for that. But I just can’t dismiss how short it is, I mean, there’s an achievement/trophy for finishing the game in under thirty minutes. Yet its got a reasonable price point that I can’t ignore. Still, I feel I do need to get across that as great as Speed Limit is, it is a very, very short-lived experience. How much mileage you’ll personally get out of the game really boils down to the type of gamer you are. If you’re someone who’s obsessed with beating your old times, if you’re a speed runner, then I think you’ll get a lot more out of this than I did. But for me, this was very much a one and done experience. I loved every second of it too… But there isn’t enough game here to me to really get my teeth into and I’m not feeling that Speed Limit is doing much to pull me back in now I have finished it.

I do think people should buy it. The team at Gamechuck really are onto something here. I’d love to see them expand and build on this concept. Maybe a sequel, maybe an all new game with similar ideas and themes. Buying Speed Limit is a sure-fire way to show support to the devs and get them working on more titles. So yeah, definitely give it a go (try the demo first), but I guess you need to decide if the price tag is worth the amount of game you get. I recommend the game, but with the caveat that it’s is a short lived experience.

Speed Limit is coming to PS4 on 15/2, PS5 on 16/2, Steam on 17/02, Nintendo Switch on 18/02, and finally seeing an Xbox One & Xbox Series X/S release on 19/02.

Game Review: HyperParasite

Well this is it, the start of a new year. A quick outline for 2021 from me before I get into this review. I have quite a lot planned for 2021, more books, with a new gaming book to be published this summer. My first gaming book, MICROBRITS is still available on Amazon. More articles, including me finishing my gargantuan GamesMaster retrospective that I started last year. More writing in general. I’m also currently messing around with giving this blog a facelift too, a new design just for a change, which (when I make up my mind) will be ready in a week or so.

But my first blog post of 2021 is a game review… a game that is several months old already as it was released back in April of 2020. I do have a reason why I’ve only just gotten around to this though. The truth is that I never really intended to review HyperParasite at all. In fact, I never even really knew about it until my pal Badger over at Stoffel Presents (his review is right here) kept going on about it. He reviewed the game back in April, 2020… that’s how behind I am with this. Anyway, I kept seeing Badger talking abut HyperParasite on social media, and his continual praising of it. As of writing, I’ve not even read his review yet, I want to get mine done first before see what Badger thinks. But as for the last eight months, he has been lauding the game a lot, even calling it the best indie game of 2020. So, I just thought that I may as well give it a go myself. With that out of the way, on with my review.

As I get older, I find myself less drawn to the big AAA games released today. Instead, I find most of my gaming enjoyment comes from smaller indie titles. I mean, the side-scrolling, action rouge-lite game, Dead Cells was released in 2017, and I’m still playing it today. For an indie game, that’s a hell of a lot of longevity. There are some really great games in the indie market (some not so good ones too) that often get overlooked, but is HyperParasite one of those great gems?

From developer and publisher Troglobytes Games comes this fast-paced, action packed shooter with a very eighties flavour. Using the now very much ‘on trend’ rouge-lite gameplay mechanic, HyperParasite is a top-down, twin-stick shooter where you play as a parasite. Basic? Yes. But like an alien taking control of a human, there’s a lot more going on under the skin.

So the plot for this is (as mentioned) you playing as a parasite, an alien with the ability to take control of humans. As the alien is pretty weak (one hit deaths) you seriously need those human host bodies to complete your mission. And your mission is it to take control of the POTUS and then press the ‘big red button’ to take out the human race. Oh yeah, you’re the bad guy… or bad alien. With this being a rouge-lite game you will die… a lot. That is the very nature of the sub-genre, you die, you make a little progress, you die, you learn more of the game, you die, you get a new upgrade, you die. Rinse and repeat… and die. It is this trial and error gameplay mechanic that turns a lot of people off, if they don’t understand what a rouge-lite game is like. It can be frustrating, it can be annoying and many games in this sub-genre get the balance wrong between being frustrating but also fun. Thankfully, HyperParasite strikes that balance right, almost perfect in fact.

If you’ve ever played a twin-stick shooter before, then you’ll know what to expect. The controls are simple, one stick moves your character, the other aims your weapon, then you have a button to shoot. But don’t let that simplicity fool you, cos HyperParasite is tough, very tough. Every time you die (and you will), you go back to the very start of the game. There are no save states, no checkpoints, this is permadeath territory. So this is where the whole being a parasite comes in handy as every time you take control of one of the humans, that acts as an extra life. Each of the humans have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own unique weapons and stats too. This element of taking over humans adds a wonderful element of strategy to the game. Do you go for a long range human, who will be less accurate with their attacks, or do you go for a close range/melee and stronger attack putting you closer to the danger? Then you have to take into account you target’s speed, some humans are quite nippy, others lug about, but may have other talents that will prove helpful. Then there’s the luck stat, as the higher the luck is, the more likely they are to find decent loot, loot that will come in very handy. I love this aspect of HyperParasite, this level of thought instead of just running around gung-ho. You really do have to think about which human to take control over for specific situations, be very aware of each of the character’s unique skills. For instance, I tend to like using the fast ninja character with high luck to get my hands on some much needed in-game money. But his attack isn’t great and going up against an end of level boss with the ninja will often result in death, so I’ll swap out with a more robust and weighty character for a big showdown.

HYPERPARASITE TITLE CHARACTERS

Aside from the basic shooting and taking over humans, there are a few other tricks at your disposal. You can dodge, use special attacks (when in control of a human) and more. There are upgrades to be found or purchased from the in-game shop. It is also this shop where you can unlock new humans to take over. You start out with only four, but as you massacre your way though the areas of each stage, you’ll find the brains of those you have killed dropped by stronger versions of those characters. Take said brain back to the shop and that will unlock that human, but you then have to use in-game money to buy the human to make them available to take control of. You can also store up to three human bodies at the shop for use later (see my swapping out the ninja point above). This is an extremely handy feature as you can keep hold of some of the harder to find characters for use when needed. Speaking of the humans, I think this is a good time to talk about the game’s setting.

As I mentioned at the start, HyperParasite is set in the eighties… and it’s not shy about that either. Aside from the very neon looking 16-bit stylised graphics, there’s also a rather impressive electronica/synth-pop soundtrack, it sounds like something from a Chuck Norris/Cannon, direct to VHS film… and it’s glorious too. Then there are the sixty-odd humans in the game you can control. Some of them are fairly generic, but a lot of them are obvious (but non-copyright infringing) eighties pop culture character references. Each of the five acts in the game have their own unique setting and graphics. As an example, the first being ‘Downtown’ with its grimy and sleazy back streets, where you will cross paths with the likes of Delivery Girl (Paperboy from the game), Ghost Hunter (Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters) and Drug Lord (Tony Montana from Scarface) to name a few. Each act has three sub-bosses that needs taking out too, and yes, these are also eighties pop culture references. Just sticking with the Downtown area for this bit, you will have to face the likes of an off-duty detective (John McClane from Die Hard), a Rocky Balboa parody and my personal favourite sub-boss character, Michael Jay Wolf, and if you need me to point out who that’s supposed to be, then you didn’t grow up in the eighties. The eighties references even extend to the background details, posters on the walls parody famous films of the decade, there are some really cute little details in the in-game shop from eighties toys to film and gaming references.

HYPERPARASITE TITLE CHARACTER ALMANAC

Being a rouge-lite game and the fact you will die… a lot, could begin to grate after a while. But like all good rouge-lite titles, every time you do restart, everything is procedurally generated. So each time you play, you play a different game. The act layouts are different, the items found are different, upgrades are different, the stock in the shop is different, the sub-boss you will face is different and so on. What you basically have to do in HyperParasite is it make your way though the acts, which are split into multiple different areas, kill all humans in an area and move onto the next. Clear all areas, all humans and the sub-boss character to go onto the final area, which will be the main boss of that stage. Kill the end of act boss and move onto the next act… simples. But you have to lose to advance, it’s straight up impossible to go from the start of the game to the end on your first try, it’ll be pretty damn difficult to do it on your hundredth try to be honest. I’ve lost count of how many times I have died and restarted, and I don’t even care to be honest.

With five different acts to clear, each with their own set of unique characters to unlock based on each act’s setting. You’ll find yourself going from Downtown with it’s grimy back street look to Chinatown with a certain Kurt Russell film influence (and yes, Jack Burton is even in the game… sort of) and an Industrial area where you’ll meet a Robocop, Mario and a Toxie The Toxic Avenger parodies… and I don’t know what the last two acts are as I’ve not got to them… yet. But I can use the in-game almanac to see the characters you’ll meet. There’s Crocodile Dundee, Rick Deckard, Xenomorph, Ash Williams, Mr. T, John Matrix and so many more fun eighties pastiches to unlock. It’s also worth reading their bios for some funny references and jokes. Each of the five acts also has a loads of secrets to discover along the way, like underground areas and hidden upgrades. There’s plenty here to keep you coming back an exploring, even if you are playing the same (procedurally generated) areas over and over again. 

HYPERPARASITE ACTION

Well now I’ve got how HyperParasite works out of the way… did I enjoy it? Let me put it this way, when I got my review code, I put it on for an hour just to see what it was like. Played that hour and that was it, I got an idea of the game. The next day, I played for another hour and that’s when I began to get a feel of the whole rouge-lite mechanics and unlocked a few more characters. The next day, I told myself I’d play another hour then begin to outline this review. I began this hour long play at 8PM, the next thing I knew, it was 3:30 in the morning. HyperParasite is one of those ‘just one more go’ games that sucks you in, and that ‘one more go’ often becomes several dozen more goes, and an hour becomes seven hours. Since getting my review code, I’ve been playing the game every day, hours at a time… I’m officially hooked. Even more so, though I was given a review code for the Xbox (thanks to Troglobytes Games), I still bought the game on Steam regardless. I tend not to buy games that I’ve been given for free as there is little point, but I have with HyperParasite because I really want to support these guys and hope to see more from them in the future… and it means I can have a cheeky play on my laptop when I should be working.

I adore this game, adore it. Seriously, I have fallen in love with this beautifully crafted piece of software. It is sublime, balanced and frustratingly hard… in a good way. I mentioned my friend Badger at Stoffel Presents at the start of this review, he has said that HyperParasite is the best indie game of 2020 (a lot) over the last few months. That’s a statement I simply can not argue against, but I’m willing to go one better. I think it’s the best game I played in 2020, indie or otherwise. If the team over at Troglobytes Games can keep updating this with new features, areas, weapons, enemies, etc, then just maybe this could be my new Dead Cells and I’ll still be playing it three years later?

I may be late to the party with this one, but it’s a hell of a party to be at. My only niggle is that I had to stop playing HyperParasite to review it. A niggle I’m going to rectify as soon as publish this.

HyperParasite is fast, frantic, frustratingly-fun, frolicking fare. A must buy for anyone who enjoys a good, well balanced rouge-light game. Just buy it now.