Deja vu is a sentiment I often find cropping up around games like Flat Heroes. Much as I love minimalistic art styles, there are only so many times I can play as a monochromatic quadrilateral before starting to wonder if maybe I should be asking for more. After all, appealing as I find flat-shaded shapes, others may see the aesthetic as little more than laziness on the part of the game’s art team. And with all the titles out there that do similar things with better art, it can be tough to justify the existence of another game like Flat Heroes.
Prior to writing this review, I spent a decent chunk of time playing Mothergunship; nine hours, to be exact. Yet I feel like I spent twice that time contemplating one simple question: why doesn’t this game work for me? I’ve played and loved fast-paced first-person shooters like High Hell. Roguelite FPSs such as Immortal Redneck have brought me countless hours of bliss. So, the mystery of Mothergunship’s mediocrity has plagued me, to the point where I had to go back and replay some Immortal Redneck to attempt to glean some fresh insight.
Bullet-hells. Shmups. Bloody impossible. Whatever you want to call them, there’s no doubt that the genre formed around throwing buckets of bullets at people like some overzealous member of the NRA has garnered quite the cult following. And while it’s not a genre that I frequently dive into, it has nonetheless provided me with some fantastically intense experiences. Sine Mora EX is an utterly exquisite story-driven shmup, while Astebreed (a title I played years ago but never reviewed) dives down the anime mech rabbit hole in fine laser-slinging form. So, when I found a copy of Solid Aether sitting in my inbox, looking like the much-beloved (by me at least) OVIVO had a baby soaked in shmup hormones…aaand this analogy is getting out of control. THE GAME LOOKED COOL, OKAY?!?
Sine Mora EX is a veritable melting pot of ideas. It’s a bullet-hell shmup that replaces lives and health bars with a timer. It weaves a grim narrative of war, rebellion, and genocide, all seen through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals. To top it all off, its creators include the Hungarian studio Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture (known to many as Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s development house), and Akira Yamaoka (known for his Silent Hill soundtracks). Somehow, though, all these disparate elements combine to create a shooter that is challenging, beautiful, and consistently entertaining.
Undertale is a game that’s very difficult to review without spoiling. Half the fun of the game is discovering the myriad of silly characters, songs, and even gameplay mechanics that are buried within. This is a game where I refused to listen to certain tracks on the soundtrack until I had heard them in-game; I considered the MUSIC to be a spoiler. So, full disclosure before I really get going: there will be mild spoilers. If you have some degree of interest in the game, I highly recommend that you check it out. I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’ve played the game already and want to see if you can feel validated in your opinions, or if all you’re thinking right now is, “What’s an Undertale?” then by all means, stick around.