This update of the 2016 PC title Riddled Corpses is a cross-buy title for PS4 and Vita that would give you cirrhosis of the liver if there was a drinking game based on current trends in the indie games market. Twin-stick shooter? Drink! Rogue-lite? Drink! Pixel graphics! Drink! Zombies! DRINNNKKKKK! But despite the somewhat derivative characteristics that Riddled Corpses EX displays, this unassuming arcade shooter from French devs Cowcat has just stolen the last three days from me.
Set just after some sort of demonic apocalypse, the game has you travelling through six stages full of zombies, demons and some pretty hefty bosses as you attempt to sort the whole mess out and send the horde packing. You start off in an urban location blasting away in traditional twin-stick style either destroying your enemies or blowing up cars and red barrels to create some area damage and hopefully yield a power up. The general pattern of play is that the game scrolls along occasionally stopping to have you fend off a particularly dense wave of enemies.
These enemies usually just want to get hold of you to do damage but some have ranged attacks too so you’ll need to keep moving while remembering to go and pick up any gold they might drop when you kill them. To aid you in your mission, you’ll sometimes find power ups that will slow time or smart bomb the area but for the most part you’ll need to do the usual twin-stick shooter thing of shooting and moving while all hell breaks loose around you.
Before long you’ll die at which point you can pay some of that gold to level your guy up. This increases their damage output which in turn will let you get a little further each time. Initial progress is good with two or three cheap upgrades being enough to get you past level one and its big boss. Then the game gets a bit trickier before settling down again before level five kicks your arse all over again. This inconsistency takes you right to the end of the game with the final stage, six, being oddly easy again. Either way, you’ll need to keep playing and levelling up. You can start from any stage you’ve reached before or play again from the beginning if you want to make a bit more cash.
At first I wasn’t too impressed. The problem with rogue-lites is that you’re never sure if you’re getting better as a player or if it’s just the upgrades aiding your progression and at times progress in Riddled Corpses EX feels like you’re just grinding and brute-forcing the problem. Eventually though you’ll max out your character at which point you’ll be suitably powerful but the game will take some degree of skill to get through. Arcade mode helps here by starting you at level one and making you earn your upgrades as you play. It’s the hardest mode on offer but probably the most satisfying to beat.
Aside from just levelling up, you can also pay to unlock other players. Where your first guy has good damage but no special skills, other characters make earning gold easier by either attracting gold to them or doubling the value of it and once you level up all four basic characters another can be unlocked that has all the abilities including starting with extra lives. Add to this some handy extra weapons to buy and the upgrading here feels relatively satisfying. It’s not up there with the best examples such as Jydge, Neon Chrome, Skyforce Reloaded and Rogue Legacy but it’s better than most.
The gameplay itself feels good. The enemies tend to be easy to kill but have the numbers on you (always better than everyone being a bullet sponge), the boss battles are reasonably impressive but not too intimidating and the game throws in a couple of surprises to keep things interesting. It all controls really nicely with the right analog stick controlling your shot direction but also making you shoot rather than having to hold down a button to do that. We always appreciate that. Your power up abilities are mapped to the face buttons but also the shoulders too so you can hit the option that feels best for you.
While we’re pretty tired of the whole 8/16 bit pixel look in games these days, the action on offer in the game is always clearly presented and the sprites are all well-drawn. It’s not exactly impressive or innovative but it all looks fine and moves at a silky sixty frames per second. Things can get pretty hectic but even with a screen full of demons and bullets, you can still figure out what is going on and what you need to do. You can even add some interesting visual effects such as a CRT mode to make it look even more retro. It does look better on the Vita but we found the PS4 version to be more comfortable to play and it supports local co-op too. In keeping with the retro aesthetic, the game also has some chiptune music which is pretty good even if it’s a bit too chirpy for the demonic action that the game offers.
The game is a cross-buy title but there is no cross-saving and each format has its own trophy list so while I’ve platinumed it on the PS4, I’ve only got a couple of trophies on the Vita version which does give you a reason to play it all again but I’m not sure I really want to. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy maxing the game out because I really did but there’s not enough here to make you want to do it all again.
Overall though Riddled Corpses EX is an enjoyable post-apocalyptic romp that offers some very addictive action and a reasonable challenge. It feels especially slick to play too. A few more upgrades would have really topped the game off but what’s on offer is definitely enough for twin-stick shooter fans who are looking for some cheap and cheerful thrills to get them through the summer games drought.
+ upgrading feels rewarding
+ game is just about the right length
+ arcade mode is particularly good
+ very addictive
- difficulty is inconsistent
- retro presentation feels tired