Game Review: Ravenous Devils

Over the next few months, there are some really great looking and very intriguing indie games being released. I’ve been keeping a beady eye on quite a few and have built up a bit of a list. Ravenous Devils from developer Bad Vice Games and publisher The Troglobytes, is one of those games.

Now, I actually gave this a little preview a while back and since that tasty amuse-bouche, I’ve been hungry for the main course. Well, here is that main course in all of its gruesome glory.

A horror cooking simulator where the secret ingredient is crime. Improve your shops, buy new tools, expand your menu, and above all, make your customers happy.

Ravenous Devils tells the story of Percival and Hildred, who move to a new city and open their own business. You play as the couple of entrepreneurs to help them grow their new venture. Yup, this is very much a business-sim type of game. Only… it’s not exactly a 100 % legal business that you will be running. Ravenous Devils is very much inspired by the whole Sweeny Todd and penny dreadful styled stories of the 1800s and is dripping in a very authentic 19th century-like aesthetic. As you’ll be responsible for the murdering of innocent people and then turning them into tasty meals to be sold to the public. Oh yeah, human flesh is your main source of income that you’ll be managing as you try to expand and develop your tailor shop and pub.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 1

The game is really split into two playable areas. Percival takes care of the killing, whilst running the tailor shop upstairs. Hildred does all the mincing, dismemberment and cooking of the bodies in the basement. To then sell her meals in the pub that sits between the upstairs tailor shop and basement of horrors. Kill someone as Percival upstairs and throw their body down a chute, that leads to the basement kitchen. Here, Hildred gets the most out of the corpse, before turning it into several tasty meals. Which are then sold to the public for you to make some profit, which you can then put back into the business and upgrade your equipment. That is really the bare basics of just how Ravenous Devils works and what you will be doing for the majority of the game. Kill people, turn them into food, sell food to make profit and spend those profits on your business.

When I did my preview a while back, I played the game on my laptop. A game like this is perfect for PC playing, what with the fact that you control the game via the use of a lot of clicking and mouse pointing. However, for this review, I played Ravenous Devils on the Xbox. I wanted to see how the controls translated from the relative simplicity of a mouse pointer to the (usually) more awkward and frustrating use of a gamepad. I mean, we all know that these mouse-driven games always work best on PCs but perhaps don’t fare so well on consoles. I have to say that the controls actually work really well here. What Bad Vice Games have done is, they have left it simple. When you have a dozen or so buttons to press on a gamepad, devs often feel the desire to use as many of those buttons as possible when it is not needed. Here, you use the shoulder/trigger buttons to select one of the two characters/a floor of the building, the left stick is used to move the cursor and then you have a button to select items and equipment for use. The right stick moves and zooms the camera but to be honest, I hardly did that once I settled on a comfortable setting.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 2

Honestly, I was not expecting the controls to be as fluid as they are, when compared to playing this on PC. Yet, I felt very confident with everything within a few minutes. I’d still say the prefered method of playing a mouse-driven game like this would still be on a computer. But hey, I still need to applaud Bad Vice Games for keeping things simple and very effective when using a gamepad.

Outside of all the murder and cannibalism that is going on here, there is a story. Now, this bit isn’t a spoiler as it happens at the start of the game. In fact, it is the entire setup for the plot but… Percival and Hildred receive a letter that says the sender of the letter knows who they are and what they are doing. The mysterious letter is simply signed Mr J. Who is this Mr J and what does he want? Well, who he is remains a mystery until the very end of the game and I’m not about to spoil that here. What he wants, he tells you as much himself. In exchange for his silence and not turning you over to the police, Mr J wants you to kill some very specific people… and cook them up for a special banquet for him to eat. Yeah, this Mr J is as fucked up as Percival and Hildred are.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 3

The story is told to you via several of these letters as Mr J writes to you regularly to ensure you keep up your end of the bargain as he updates his hitlist with his latest meal request. In terms of the story of Ravenous Devils, I have to admit to really enjoying it. With every letter that Mr J sent, I kept looking for clues as to who he could be. Reading and re-reading each letter, I pored over every word to see if I could work out who Mr J was before the end of the game.

I guess I had better quickly go over just how Ravenous Devils plays and works, I mean, this is a review and all. So, as covered, the controls are simple as are the game’s mechanics. Someone comes into Percival’s tailor shop and goes into the backroom to be measured up. You click on them to kill them. When the deed is done, you then click on the body to pick them up and then on the chute to drop the body down to the basement. Still playing as Percival, you can repurpose your victim’s clothes to put on display in your tailor shop to make some coin. You’ll also need to clean up the blood before another customer comes in for a ‘measuring’.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 4

With the body now in the basement kitchen, as Hildred, you pick up the body and take it over to the mincer. Once you have some minced meat, you can combine that with flour on a work surface to make the pies. Then the pies need cooking, so you pop them in the oven and wait. Once cooked, you take the pies upstairs to the pub for customers to walk in and purchase.

Ravenous Devils starts out very basic and gently eases you into the killing, making human-based food and selling it. You’ll be continually switching between Percival upstairs and Hildred downstairs, trying to maximise the time you have to get as much done as possible, so you can make as much money as possible before the day ends. As Hildred is mincing up a body, flick to Percival and have him repair some clothing to be sold. Once that is done, switch back to Hildred and have her make some pies and put them in the oven. Then as she waits for those to cook, back to Percival and kill a new customer for more meat, etc. See, each in-game day lasts only a few minutes. So you really need to work fast to make the money you need to buy some upgrades.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 5

And about those upgrades. There is a lot to unlock like a better mincer so you get more meat per body and a faster oven so you can cook more quickly. You can upgrade the sewing machine to repair clothes faster and add more mannequins to the tailor shop so you can sell those clothes. As the game progresses, more and more upgrades become available. Add a sausage maker so you can turn the bodies into other meat and open up more recipes. Get a massive chopping station and you can turn your victims into steaks. Upstairs, Percival can get a garden up and running, where he can grow various vegetables. Tomatoes, onions, potatoes and even eggs. But for these to grow you need compost and the best compost you can use is… yup, more dead bodies. All of these extra ingredients mean you have more and more recipes to follow which then makes managing your resources and time increasingly more tricky.

By the time the game gets to the mid-way point and you have a few of the upgrades, the pace picks up as more and more people come into the pub wanting more, varied food. You can hire a helper to serve customers so you don’t need to worry about that anymore and can concentrate on all the bloody food preparation and cooking. Get tables put in the pub so you can then do table service, which pays better. By the time you get to the latter part of the game, you’ll really need to keep your wits about you as you juggle Percival, his tailor shop, the garden and all. Whilst also playing as Hildred and dismembering the bodies, turning them into various meat products, adding vegetables, cooking food and meeting your customer’s orders. It all gets much more hectic the more you play and that easiness of the opening of the game, to the tricker latter part of the game is a (for want of a better word) perfect difficulty curve.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 6

Then, don’t forget about the mysterious Mr J and his blackmailing you to kill certain targets for his banquet. While the gameplay mechanics of Ravenous Devils are easy, very ‘pick up and play’, the game slowly builds and builds to become increasingly more manic as your pub gets busier and busier. The game keeps you very busy even though its mechanics are devilishly simple.

But before I get to my final conclusion, I do need to cover the graphics and animations. As I previously mentioned, the game takes place during the 19th century and is inspired by the whole Sweeny Todd story. So everything is very period and has a dirty, grimy aesthetic that looks and feels like a Hammer Horror production from the 1950s. The animations don’t shy away from the bloody horror either. From Percival stabbing people with his tailor scissors and the pool of blood that forms, to Hildred mincing bodies or turning them into sausages. This game is bloody, detailed and massively macabre. My favourite bit is turning a body into steaks for cooking. The animation used is wonderfully grotesque as Hildred chops off the victim’s head, their arms and legs, removes the meat from their stomach… before just casually sweeping the torso into the basket to be used for meat. The details in the graphics and animation are disgustingly amazing. There is so much blood here that even the most hardened of horror fans will be satisfied.

Now, Ravenous Devils isn’t exactly a huge game. I got my review code last Friday and I saw the end credits by Saturday… and I only played for a few hours each night. Yeah, it won’t take you too long to get to the end of this game. You can keep playing after the credits, just for fun or to get any upgrades you missed. Oh, and you also get a good selection of unlockable costumes for both Percival and Hildred. Then there is the fact that we are talking about a game where you really just click on stuff to make things happen. There is a possibility that some gamers will be put off by how simple the gameplay is here. But, I will be addressing both the shortness of the game and the simplicity in my conclusion.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 7

So then, onto the big decision and judgement. Is Ravenous Devils worth the asking price? As I mentioned in the review, it is a relatively short game and whilst I didn’t time myself, I’d say it’ll take somebody fairly competent at these cooking/business-sim games around 4-6 hours to see the end credits. There’s really nothing to keep you playing afterwards either, the endless mode is fairly redundant if you get all the unlocks before the end credits, as I did. I would’ve liked to have seen something at the end with a bit more meat on the bones. Perhaps some kind of challenge mode or a mode that starts off slowly and gets increasingly faster and faster and you have to see how many days you can last? I don’t know, just something to add to the experience and a reward for all of your killing up to that point in the game

Ravenous Devils is very much a ‘one and done’ type of game, but it is a great ‘one and done’ experience. The game mechanics are simple and there is a lot of repetition here that may grate on some players. For me though, I loved every second and got into a rhythm of switching between Percival and Hildred’s jobs to keep the place running as smoothly as possible. I’d love to see a sequel that builds on this idea more. Having more control over your business, being able to decorate, design your rooms and move the equipment where you want it. Maybe even expand outside of just running one pub and have several of them in different locations? Honestly, Ravenous Devils is short but very, very sweet and I can’t wait to see what the team at Bad Vices Games have in mind next.

RAVENOUS DEVILS SCREEN 8

Weighing up the gameplay against how much the game costs could’ve been a massive negative if Ravenous Devils had a stupid price point… but it doesn’t In fact, it has an amazing price point. This little gem will only set you back less than £5. As of writing, Ravenous Devils is £4.19 on Xbox and £4.49 on Switch. It’s only £3.99 on PlayStation! That is a brilliant price for this game. For less than £5, Ravenous Devils is a must buy, get it now… or when it is available within the next few hours on Steam. It may be short and perhaps lacking in depth. But what is here is still well worth playing and with such a low price that’ll hardly bleed you dry, I say get this bought now for some gloriously gruesome gratification. In fact, even though I got my review code for free, I’m going to buy it on Steam to give the devs some support.

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.