(Mini) Game Review: Gigapocalypse

Take the arcade classics Rampage and Cabal, throw in some kaiju and you’d have a game that plays a lot like developer Goody Gameworks and publisher Headup Games Gigapocalypse. A scrolling shooter where you direct a giant monster and destroy cities and all while killing plenty of people along the way.

“Gigapocalypse, a 2D pixel art destruction game, inspired by classical Kaijū movies such as “Godzilla” and “King Kong” and the game classic “Rampage”.

Gigapocalypse features a selection of different “Gigas” from the Prehistoric era, the uncharted outer space and the forgotten history. Each with unique skills, mutations and manifold skins that can be unlocked with level ups.”

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With Gigapocalypse, you don’t directly control your chosen kaiju. Well, you kind of do and you kind of don’t. The monster auto-walks from left to right and doesn’t stop unless there’s a big building in the way. You can destroy those buildings by tapping the short-range/melee attack or shoot it with your monster’s long-range attack, which you aim via a cursor on the screen. Each attack uses up your rage meter and once it is empty, you can’t attack. destroying buildings or killing people tops up that rage meter though. It also auto-fills up every few seconds. Though just waiting for it to auto-fill up is a surefire way to take some serious damage from the many attacking enemies.

Each of the kaiju (and there is a decent selection to pick from) have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own unique weapons and attacks. Though they all pretty much play the same anyway. Destroy a city, take on the boss and move on to the next city. The gameplay here is simple and basic, you just have to destroy the various cities. Each of the locations takes place in a different timezone too. You’ll go from a modern setting, to the Wild West, to a Medieval one and more. In between razing a city to the ground, you can pet, feed and clean up the poo of your kaiju. Yup, it’s a kind of mini-Tamagotchi thing going on too. Taking care of your pet earns you mutation points, which can be used to buy various upgrades. You also earn mutation points for destroying buildings and killing little peeps.

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There’s a multitude of things the unlock, skills, upgrades, skins, perks and even decorations for your kaiju’s home. You can even unlock and equip pets that offer various offensive and defensive bonuses. There is a Rogue-like quality to Gigapocalypse as in, you’re not going to be flying through the levels and will fail, earn mutation points and upgrade, try again, rinse and repeat. Each of the bosses throws a unique challenge and it’s not just about dealing as much damage as you can. For instance, the first boss you will face, in the midst of a fight, will give you some maths problems to solve. Nothing too taxing and he will (as an example) give you a ?+?=17 to answer and you just have to put the numbers in to make up the sum. Each of the bosses had its own thing that will break up the battle.

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£8 is what Gigapocalypse will damage your pocket for. It can get a bit repetitive, it can feel rather redundant and the gameplay is hardly deep or complex… but it kind of works. You’ve got your destroying cities, just like in Rampage. The moving of a cursor around the screen and shooting little people is just like playing Cabal. A pretty decent upgrade and skill system. Multiple different kaiju to play as, some unique boss fights and poo cleaning. All for £8. I think it’s worth a purchase.

Game Review: Hell Pie

Rare’s Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the N64 is a huge fan favourite, even now over 20 years later. It was a cute-looking platformer that was rude, violent, full of bad language, pop culture references and more. Conker’s certainly wasn’t your average cute platformer For two decades, fans have wanted a sequel and Rare have never delivered. Developer Sluggerfly and publisher Headup Games have answered that call with Hell Pie. Not a Conker’s sequel, but more of a spiritual successor this is clearly influenced by Rare’s classic and very adult title.

Hell Pie is an obscene 3D platformer that takes bad taste to the next level! The game sees you grab the horns of Nate, the ‘Demon of Bad Taste. He is given the honorable task of gathering the disgusting ingredients for Satan’s infamous birthday pie. To do so, Nate must venture out into the overworld and do whatever it takes to ensure those ingredients are secured in time, or there’ll be hell to pay!”

As that blurb says, this is ‘an obscene 3D platformer that takes bad taste to the next level’ and yup… it certainly does that and then some. Hell Pie makes Conker’s Bad Fur Day look like an episode of Peppa Pig. Playing as Nate the demon, you are tasked with finding the ingredients to make a pie for the Devil’s birthday, that’s the entire plot. This really is a loving throwback to a certain style of platformer from that mid-90s to the early 2000s period. You know the ones I mean, Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and of course, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Simple plots, a basic story told within 3D levels/worlds that are crammed with lots of platforming action and plenty of things to collect along the way.

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Where to start with Hell Pie? I really don’t know, how about the fact that your sidekick, a cherub called Nugget (who works as a grappling hook/swing/weapon), is naked and you can see his tiny cock? No, I wasn’t looking, that’s just how you are introduced to him. Yup, that pretty much should let you know the type of game you are getting here. Adult content from start to finish… but with a level of puerile and outright silliness. Do you want a serious platformer with a deep and evolving story? You’re not going to get that here. What you will get here is fart gags, used tampons as a food ingredient and more blood and gore then you’d see if you watched Peter Jackson’s Braindead on repeat for 48 hours.

The way the game works is that it is split into a number of semi-open world hubs and each of those hubs is themed. You can explore the hubs, talk to NPCs, find collectables and even a few of the ingredients that you need for Satan’s birthday pie. The hubs also contain levels for some classic mid-90s styled 3D platforming action and the odd boss fight too. The levels in these hubs really can be very, very tasteless. Just to give you a couple of examples. One level is based in a sewer, because of course it is. The main enemies that you face are literal shits, actual pieces of poo… that are dressed in (basically) SS Nazi uniforms. Another level takes place inside a whale, this whale is still alive too. Oh, and the local residents have set up an exclusive restaurant inside the whale where its patrons eat it alive from the indie. Bearing in mind, those are two of the tamest examples in the game and only from the first hub too. That’s before I get into a slaughterhouse that turns humans into food. So, SS Nazi poo monsters and eating a live whale from the inside is the standard of bad taste the game is boasting about.

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Nate and Nugget work well together and both have several upgrades. Nate has various skills to use via his demon horns and as you progress through the level, you obtain new horns/powers by pulling the horns off cute unicorn baby things. Your standard set of horns works as a kind of compass that points out places of interest, NPCs, etc. Very helpful for when you are exploring one of the game’s hubs. Others horns will allow Nate to run fast, fly and add many more abilities.

Nugget, who is permanently chained to Nate, is pretty limited, at first. You can use him as a grappling hook and swing over larger gaps, but only once and you need to set foot on the ground to recharge the use. Or you swing him around to be used as a weapon, which is very handy for smacking Nazi poo monsters. You can find tins of candy meat (I think it is made from puppy dogs) that Nugget likes to eat, find enough and you can buy upgrades for your little friend. Additional swings before needing to reset, improve your wall climbing, unlock new attacks… make Nugget fart. You’ll be searching every corner of the hubs and levels to upgrade your little cherub as much as possible.

The world that you find yourself in can be pretty interactive too. There are things to play around with that make no difference to the game, they are just fun. One of the first things you can interact with is a photocopier and when you do, it spits out endless pieces of paper with crudely drawn dicks on them. The kind of ones that you used to draw in the back of your school books complete with droplets of spunk shooting out. This is the level of crass humour you are dealing with folks. Or maybe you’ll find a nice desk chair and spin yourself around in it… just because you can. There is plenty of stuff like this that doesn’t affect the game in any way and is just there to make you laugh.

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Hell Pie is definitely not for the prudish and those easily offended. If this had been released in the 90s,  Jack Thompson would’ve had a heart attack. Farting, shit references, vomiting, nudity, blood and gore, etc No stone in the obscenity garden is left unturned. The actual platforming action is very solid and I really enjoyed using Nugget to swing around the levels and explore as much as I could. As I write this review, I am only 48% into the game and have not made it to the end credits yet. So I can’t tell you how long it takes to beat this one and can only say that I’ve spent a good 10-odd hours already though, mainly because I’ve been laughing and exploring the hubs way too much.

I did come across a few bugs though. One had me defeat a boss, only for the game not to progress and it just kept me stuck in the arena where the fight was. I had to reset the game and defeat the boss again, it worked fine the second time. Other bugs had me getting stuck in scenery and with another one, I fell off a ledge to my doom, only the game didn’t count it as a death and I became stuck at the bottom of an inescapable chasm. I’m sure these bugs will be ironed out with patches I hope they will be.

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£20 is how much this slice of disgustingly obscene pie is going to cost you and you really do get a lot of game for your money. There is plenty to see and do, lots to collect, unlockable costumes, a good progression and upgrade system and much more. The thing about the 3D platformer is that it a genre that I don’t have a lot of love for, I just prefer my platforming to be 2D. However, I did find Hell Pie really enjoyable. I love a good fart gag and Hell Pie is crammed with that type of humour. Film references, such as a funny Scarface one where you have to shotgun enemies who have taken over this game’s version of Tony Montana’s mansion. If you are a fan of the 3D platformer and are looking for an itch that needs scratching, left by the absence of a Conker’s Bad Fur Day 2, get a copy of Hell Pie and be humorously offended.

Game Review: Pumpkin Jack

Ohhh yeah. A cheeky little Halloweeny game review just in time for Halloween. This game just popped into my review list two days ago too. I’ve had to jump it up the queue of reviews to get it done in time. From developer Nicolas Meyssonnier and published by Headup Games comes Pumpkin Jack. Now, this was originally released last year but it has had a bit of an upgrade and released for the next-gen of consoles recently, just in time for Halloween.

So, what is Pumpkin Jack? I’m glad you (I) asked. What we have here is a spooky themed, all-out action-platformer massively inspired by the likes of the PlayStation 2 era of 3D platformers, with titles like MediEvil. You play as long dead and serving in hell, the famed scoundrel Stingy Jack. Now, Jack’s soul has been put into the body of a pumpkin… Pumpkin Jack, if you will. You work for the Devil himself and the big red as unleashed an evil horde on the Arc En Ciel Kingdom to destroy all human life. The humans have their best wizard working on stopping the evil horde and it is your job to stop the wizard. If you do, the Devil will grant your soul passage into the afterlife. 

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So yeah, you’re the bad guy here. I mean, you do work for the Devil and all. Gameplay-wise, this is all very (as I said) typical PS2 era 3D platforming action and if you were a fan of those games, you’ll feel very much at home here with Pumpkin Jack. Everything from the type of platforming, to the graphic art, all feels very 1998… and that’s not a bad thing at all. There’s something about this style of platformer that is dated, and yet it feels very warm and welcoming at the same time. Playing as the titular Pumpkin Jack, you’ll traverse the Arc En Ciel Kingdom meeting various characters such as an owl that kind of becomes your guide, a crow that works as a projectile attack and a merchant that sells you various character skins. Those skins are purchased with crow skulls that you’ll find hidden in each level. You can also find gramophones hidden on each level for some… dancing fun.

The levels themselves are this kind of linear-open thing. There is only ever one path to take and you’ll never get lost, but they still allow a little exploration here and there. Each level is littered with enemies to beat up using a basic hack ‘n slash type mechanic. Then, of course, there is plenty of platforming action too. Pumpkin Jack even throws in some variety with basic puzzle solving and even a bit of vehicle use. You’ll find yourself riding a minecart, (ghost) horseback riding and even a bit of water traversing heavily inspired by the myth of the River Styx. The game really offers up quite a lot of variety to break up the standard platforming action. Everything (obviously) has a very spooky theme and playing it at this time of the year as we fast approach Halloween really does add a layer of immersion.

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While Pumpkin Jack doesn’t do anything new, it never really needs to, to be honest. This is a title that knows exactly what it is and never tries to be anything other than a very typical platformer. Everything is so ‘standard’ in terms of gameplay, you go through the levels, beat up bad guys, jump on platforms and fight a boss with an attack pattern at the end. However, that ‘standard’ gameplay just works so damn well. Like putting on an old comfy pair of slippers on a wet and windy Autumn night, Pumpkin Jack is just so familiar to the point of making you feel very comfortable.  

The graphics and art style is wonderfully vivid and very Halloweeny indeed. Bright and bold with very heavy use of orange, green, purple and blue colours to really hit that spooky theme home. Each of the levels looks distinctly different from each other too and all offer something rather unique about them. If I do have any gripes about Pumpkin Jack, then those are that I felt the game was a bit too easy. I never felt challenged and the only times I did die in my playthrough was due to some mistimed jumping. Never once did any of the enemies in the game trouble me and all of the bosses were a bit of a walkover once you learn their attack patterns. Selectable difficulty levels would’ve been a great idea. Also, you can get through this game in around 5-6 hours. There’s really nothing to drag you back into it either. There is the finding of all of the hidden crow skulls and gramophones I guess, but I never really felt the need to do so myself.

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Still, the negatives for this game are greatly outnumbered by the positives. Pumpkin Jack really is a wonderful throwback to that late-nineties and early-noughties platforming age. What is even more impressive is that the game was the work of one person, Nicolas Meyssonnier developed Pumpkin Jack single-handed. I do have a major soft spot for indie gaming and I love it when a small team knock out a great title. For one person to make a very playable game alone, that is just masterful work and a real showcase of dedicated talent that I can’t help but admire.  

Well, it’s time to wrap this one up and I always like to look at how much a game is being sold for and tell you if I think it is worth it. For Pumpkin Jack, you are looking at spending around £25… though it is on sale for Halloween depending on the format (Steam, PS and Switch are all 50% off right now, as of writing). With a £25 price point, I feel that’s a tad too much for what you do get, £20 seems fairer to me. As great as Pumpkin Jack is, it is still a simple and basic action-platformer that doesn’t do anything new, plus that 5-6 hour playtime and lack of any serious difficulty does make the game feel just a little bit ‘lesser’. If you’re a huge fan of that era of platformers, then I say go for it regardless. This is a damn great game and plays very well indeed. Still, if you can get it in the sales currently on, for 50% off, Pumpkin Jack is a must buy and really suits a play through about now as we get closer to Halloween. 

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Pumpkin Jack is a wonderful and loving throwback to an era of platform games that has long passed and often forgotten. Solid, no-nonsense gameplay with a very nice spooky aesthetic that is just perfect for Halloween.