Every month we take a look at some of the various indie games out there, play them, and talk about the ones we liked. In case you missed last month’s Indie Games round-up, you can find it here.
While we didn’t have a ton of time for games this month with the big rush to return to school, Val and I did manage to sit down and play a boomer shooter each between us until our free time ran out and both are worth talking about.
Josh: Turbo Overkill is a resplendent, high-octane, in-your-face, chainsaw-em-up boomer shooter that is everything right with modern interpretations of retro-shooters. It’s dripping with pure, 80’s style cyberpunk style with a universe that takes itself seriously enough to invest yourself into the story and its characters but is oozing with satirical nonsense.
You are Johnny fuckin’ Turbo, the baddest of the bad, the meanest ass-kicker to ever kick-ass, and you’re here to wrangle a corpo experiement gone wrong. Armed with nothing but your trusty magnum and chainsaw leg (to begin with) you’re out to slaughter an artificial God before it consumes everything and everyone.
Turbo Overkill lives up to its name entirely. You’re Johnny Turbo, and you must commit ultraviolence at incredibly high-speeds. Quake’s DNA runs through TOK’s veins, inheriting the movement shooter characteristics that defined that part of the boomer-shooter genre and then cranking it up to 11. A base mechanic is the faster you slam into someone, the more damage your chainsaw leg will do. It’s very simplistic at its core but the complexity piles on as the game runs at a healthy pace. You unlock new weapons, upgrades for those weapons, new abilities and then new variations on those abilities with perks you can discover throughout levels. You can rocket jump, air dash, reset with wall-jumps, skip cooldown periods by hot-swapping weapons (something the game even tells you is an intended feature, rather than a bug) and then when that’s all done and finished?
There are amazingly fun vehicle sections which break up the flow of gameplay in an exciting way. Then there’s horde mode, bonus levels, unlockables – this game is a fucking treat to behold. I can’t even go into all the weapons without spilling this article out of control but I’ll just say my favourite was the tele-fragger, a sniper-rifle which uses you as the bullet. All the movement possibilities with that gun were awesome.
Gameplay alone, this game is worth it. What drew me in was worldbuilding. As I said before, it’s satire, it’s insane, but at the same time the aesthetics are so fucking cool. You’re facing off against a downright eldritch being but in the cyberpunk trappings. You’re facing techno-altered body-horror creatures that range from mangled, worm-like mutants to techo-junkies who literally have TVs on their head. All the while the environments you fight in turn slowly from a sleazy, neon-splattered movie set into increasingly apocalyptic, Cronenberg-esque landscapes of twisting masses of meat and wires, muscle and metal, with skyboxes that look like you’re trapped in a realm of fire and flesh. It’s so damn sick.
It hits a climax that bullseye’d all the right notes for me, and I already want more. It’s been barely a month since I finished the game, and I still open it when I have free time to slam out some of my favourite levels.
If you’re ever going to take a recommendation from me, please, let it be Turbo Overkill.
Amid Evil: The Black Labyrinth
Val: Amid Evil was an early standout in the retro shooter revival. As spiritual successor to some of my favorite shooters in Raven Software’s Heretic and Hexen I took to it rather quickly and beyond the immediate influences of those games Amid Evil charmed me with its distinctive art style, outstanding level design, unique variety of weaponry and of course its soundtrack provided by the incredible Andrew Hulshulst. It easily stood shoulder to shoulder with the great shooters of the 90s. A year later in September of 2020 a teaser trailer was dropped for an expansion called the Black Labyrinth and 3 years later it has finally arrived and it has been well worth the wait.
Amid Evil: The Black labyrinth published by New Blood Interactive and developed by Indefatiguable is a prequel expansion to Amid Evil where you once again are placed in the greaves of the unnamed Champion as you strive to be the first being to complete the trials of the titular Black Labyrinth and earn both your mighty axe and your title as Champion of the Ancients. The expansion is short and sweet with nine new levels, two new weapons in your arsenal and two new bosses for you to put them to the test. The new maps feel a lot more expansive than the ones from the original game but the flow of the game and tight level design remain the same.
There’s quite an excellent variety to the levels in The Black Labyrinth going from a fog blanketed swamp to a vibrant castle and of course the titular Labyrinth. The layout of each map lends itself well to the usual boom shoot secrets and hidden goodies while the kinetic pacing compliments the level design so that you’re always pushing forward with very little backtracking. It’s rather refreshing compared to other retro shooters that can sometimes be a little too heavy with backtracking. It feels like an adventure as you first journey to the Black Labyrinth, hopping from flying swords being flung at a bastion, fighting your way through an impressive castle, then take on the trial. In a way it’s unlike other retro shooters where their levels and the connections between them are, well, episodic in nature. The game also just looks gorgeous. Playing this game with all the RTX settings on and DLSS on Quality is a feast for the eyes though it can be a little too dark in some areas.
The arsenal from the first game remains intact with two exceptions. Firstly instead of the Axe of the Black Labyrinth your melee option is instead your fists, rather the “Gauntlets of the Platinum Star” whose name and soul mode attack will make any Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fan smile with glee, though it can be a little disorienting. Secondly the BFG equivalent Aeturnum has been replaced with the Void Scythe. The Void Scythe maintains the same room clearing BFG function as the Aeturnum but it’s soul mode attack is really what sets it apart from it’s brethren. In soul mode the Void Scythe tears a hole in reality then quite literally unmakes all enemies on the screen. It’s a phenomenal spectacle and while it might be slightly less effective than the Aeternum the Void Scythe is just too cool.
There’s not too much variety to the enemies; you have 2 types of archers, 2 types of flail wielding enemies, 2 types of flyers, some sword boys, and a shield enemy. They play their part well but none of them stand out. Well except for the shield enemies who are a real pain to fight. Their shields will reflect your attacks back at you if you hit them unless you use the Void Scythe which will just cut those jerks in twain. Aside from the Void Scythe the Splash damage with the Celestial Claw is your best bet, but their tell for when you can properly hit their feet is not super obvious. Of the two bosses the final boss really left a lasting impression on me. While the story of Amid Evil is serviceable it’s not anything to write home about. Yet despite that the final boss was thematic in addition to being one of the few really good retro shooter boss fights.
If you are among the many who’ve been waiting with bated breath to finally take on the trials of the Black Labyrinth then I can safely say that the final product does not disappoint. If you’re a retro shooter aficionado like myself and haven’t played Amid Evil I highly recommend picking it up. Though The Black Labyrinth was a short affair, I was very glad to return to Amid Evil and by the end of it I was still left wanting more. Indefatiguable have yet to disappoint and I greatly await whatever it is they do next.
Have any questions or feedback? Got a game you want us to add to next month’s round-up? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.