Deadly Days (Switch)
Deadly Days is a top-down strategy rogue-lite about a group of survivors trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Each in-game day, you send survivors out on a mission to collect resources in a limited time frame, and you spend those resources upgrading your base, characters, and items in between missions. The ultimate end-goal is to find four pieces of a map that leads to the epicenter of the apocalypse to shut it down.
Everything about this game conceptually seems right up my alley. I like zombie games, I like the idea of entering into a generated city and grinding out loot and resources for survival and upgrades, and I like upgrading bases and stats. This game has all of that, but none of it is implemented in a way that I found fun or exciting, which left me easily bored with the game. Full disclosure, I only put in about an hour or two into the game before I bounced off, so think of this more as small talk on what I have played instead of a full-fledged review.
The combat (or rather lack thereof) primarily consists of pointing and clicking spots for your group to move. You can hold down a button for them to concentrate their attacks on wherever you aim, but they will otherwise automatically attack zombies. There are also a few abilities which includes a missile strike and and first aid for specific characters, both of which are on a six-second cooldown, as well as stronger abilities which can only be used once-per-level. While I’m not against a more strategic, hands-off approach to combat in certain games, I found this game to be rather boring. On top of that, the game clearly feels made for mouse and keyboard, so using a controller plus the hands-off nature of the combat made fighting the horde feel out-of-control. The best way I would describe the combat is in this strange middle ground between strategic and action where neither really shines, leaving it feeling empty.
Just tell them where to go and they can do the rest.
Combat isn’t the only thing that got stale fast though. The levels also didn’t really wow me due to a lack of variety. Sure, the levels have unique situations like special zombies, optional objectives, and so on, but none of it really matters. Every mission ultimately boils down to entering the level, looting buildings (which is just clicking on the building and letting the survivor do the rest), and leaving when the sky turns dark and the zombies get dangerous. Each level is essentially just a city filled with zombies, loot, and hazards as well as one important building to loot like a hospital or a burger joint for a map piece. In between these levels, you go to a home base where you can equip and upgrade survivors, survivor weapons, abilities, and add some new buildings that will usually generate a resource each day. All of the home base resets each run, however, and I was hoping the base would be a permanent upgrade structure to unlock permanent stat boosts and abilities. Instead, you start each run by choosing one-of-four classes, and each class has a permanent leveling system where each level unlocks various new things. I’m fine with grinding if it’s towards something, but I didn’t really find the class leveling that compelling, and I felt like a lot my time trying to loot and upgrade was towards nothing.
None of this is to say this game isn’t without merit. Its lighthearted nature is more fun to be around than some dark, brooding game (it doesn’t give the game an excuse for its out-of-place music though), and I think there is a good variety of characters, items, and weapons. At the very least, this is a competently made game, and I think there are people who will click with this game. Unfortunately, that person isn’t me even though I wanted it to be, so it didn’t take long for me to bounce off this game.
Narita Boy (PC)
Narita Boy is an action-platformer about a developer who has created a hit video game but has his memories stolen by malicious code, and a boy playing the game trying to bring balance to its digital world as well as restore the creator’s memories.
The 80s aesthetic has been done to death, but Narita Boy feels different by offering something that feels more dream-like. While some of it does come off as cheesy, I actually quite enjoyed the aesthetic this game is going for. The three pastel colors seen throughout the game, the grandiose temples that gives a mix between Medieval and 80s, the strange world of the Digital Kingdom and the people who inhabit it, and more blends into what I could best describe as what the 80s wished video games looked like, and I love it. The one thing that tops the visuals in terms of the aesthetic, however, is the game’s excellent synthwave soundtrack that makes every encounter feel epic and helps set the vibe for every setting explored. While an 80s setting may be a turn-off for some, Narita Boy offers something fresh in that realm, and the soundtrack that accompanies this style is incredible.
Doorways like this one, which are found throughout the game, hold the Creator’s memories.
With a setting as inspired as this one, I was expecting the story to follow suit, but I was surprised by it for better and for worse. This game’s story can be divided into two parts: the story that happens in-game, and the story of the Creator. The overall story is about liberating the Creator’s memories, but shortly after the start, the in-game story goes off on its own. The in-game story, which is about a hero named Narita Boy trying to save the Digital Kingdom from malicious code led by a villain named HIM, isn’t all that great. It’s hard to follow each individual piece of the story because of how heavy the text dumps can get, but the story is rather basic at the same time, making the whole thing not really worth following. the Creator’s story, however, is quite the opposite. Dished out in memory sequences throughout the game’s 6-8 hour campaign, the story of the Creator is grounded in reality, telling the story of the man who created the game and the struggles he had to go through. The Creator’s ups and downs were way more interesting to me than the in-game story, but what makes it truly special is how the game slowly reveals the ways his life and his struggles influences the in-game story. The story ends on a huge cliffhanger, and based on what I experienced with this game, I’ll be interested in seeing what they do next.
Getting into the gameplay, Narita Boy is a lot of fun, but it certainly isn’t perfect. The game is a 2D hack-n-slash platformer with Metroidvania elements, though I would best describe the game as mini-Metroidvania levels you experience linearly. The main two elements of this game are platforming and combat, with combat being a lot of fun and the platforming being, well, not as great. The combat is hack-n-slash with the ability to do light and heavy hits, dodge, jump, and either a shotgun blast or a powerful laser beam on a slow recharge. While the dodging doesn’t feel great, the combat overall is a lot of fast-paced fun. The best part about the combat, though, is how it stays fresh by constantly adding new enemy types and new abilities. A few of the new enemy types are not fun to fight and some of the abilities aren’t all that useful, but the combat overall is fun and fresh throughout.
Each boss, like this giant fish, is unique and fun.
Finally, the last bit of this game is the platforming, which isn’t great. Jumping felt floaty, and I often found myself scrambling in midair to land on a platform. Like the combat, new platforming abilities are learned, though I wouldn’t say they are as impactful as combat. While I played, I also came across specific moments with the platforming I did not like. In one section of the game, puddles on the ground can kill, but the environment it was in was blue and rainy so it blended into the ground in a way that made it easy to ignore. Also, there is one segment where the character rides a deer and has to run through enemies and hazards, but a lot of it is set up in a way that is easy to fail. There isn’t enough platforming in the game to make or break the experience, but I didn’t enjoy the times I had to interact with it all that much.
In the end, Narita Boy is a great experience that offers a neat 80s retro experience with fantastic visuals and some of the best 80s-themed video game music around as well as some fun combat and a decent story. The platforming could be better and I found the combat to be frustrating at-times, but I think overall this is a great indie experience to dive into, especially with it on Game Pass as of writing this.
Road Redemption (PC)
Road Redemption is a third-person motorcycle combat game about various gangs chasing down an assassin with a large bounty over his head. The game is a rogue-lite with generated tracks, enemies, and objectives; and completing all missions in a run is how you beat the game. Within each run you earn money to spend on upgrades to help deal with increasingly difficult enemies, and xp is also earned for permanent upgrades outside of runs.
I knew going into this game that it was inspired by older titles of similar nature like Road Rash, but I never played it before, so Road Redemption was my entry into this specific subgenre. After putting close to 7 hours into the game, I can see why it’s so beloved. This game is a blast, balancing between a semi-on-rails arcade racer and a basic melee combat game to satisfying effect. While neither part of this game is particularly deep, the challenge is in managing both parts at the same time, which is where I had a lot of fun.
So, what do you exactly do in this game? Each level rotates between a few objectives: race against specific enemies and try to land within the top three, kill a certain amount of specific targets, simply try to survive from point a to point b, try to get from point a to point b in a certain time frame, or kill a gang leader. Along the way, you will come across enemies in motorcycles and trucks who are both part of the objective as well as just random spawns, and there are also the occasional drivers who cruise at low speeds and have no part in your carnage. In this game, everyone is trying to kill everyone for the prize, though there are gangs with more coordinated efforts. As you drive, enemies of various nature will rubber band around you, offering you the ability to take them down.
They keep coming, I keep killing.
One of the things I love about this game are the ways I learned to utilize enemies to my advantage. Each enemy kill grants money for in-run upgrades, xp for permanent upgrades, a little bit of health, and some nitro, so if I needed to get ahead of things in the level or I needed some health, I would start whacking away at fodder enemies. I also love how combat can affect the main objective. If I was racing against ten others but needed to be in the top three, I could either race them traditionally, or I could just kill all of the race participants and guarantee a first-place prize. To dispatch enemies, the game offers four types of weapons: sharp melee, blunt melee, guns, and bombs. The two melee weapon types are the primary weapons, with blunt melee effective at knocking off helmets and sharp melee good for decapitations, which net double health, money, xp, and nitro from enemies. You can swing left, swing right, block, kick, and grab, though attacking and blocking were the only two I really used, and juggling the different melee weapons around to deal with helmets and shields is a blast. There are also a few types of guns to use, though I found trying to aim them while using a controller was terrible, so I was mostly subjected to shooting what was ahead of me. Finally, the bombs are primarily used against cars, though another good use for them involves dropping a pipe bomb on the ground like a banana in Mario Kart. While the rubber banding of enemies is obvious, having something almost constantly by my side to fight is a lot of fun, and mastering the combat while dealing with the driving is a blast.
Outside of each run, you can spend xp on stat upgrades as well as other things like upgraded starting weapons, what level to start on, and more. There are also a bunch of rider and motorcycle options to choose from before each run, and each has their own stats and a few have their own unique weapons. Once you manage to complete a run, the show isn’t over there. Of course, there is the option to go back and complete all xp upgrades, but there are a few other modes to try out as well. New game plus opens up, transferring all permanent upgrades while making enemies more difficult and randomized. Completing that will eventually unlock new game plus plus and an endless mode, and outside of that there is a classic quickplay mode which are traditional levels with bronze, silver, and gold medals to achieve. I started to dabble into new game plus and I tried some of the quickplay levels, but by this point I felt like I had enough time with the game to, well, write this. I probably will return at some point to further complete the game, but just know there is more to it than just completing one run of the game.
While I had a blast with this game and would overall highly recommend it to others, there are a few flaws. While the game plays fine and that is ultimately what matters, I did have a few disagreements with the controls, and like I said earlier trying to shoot guns with a controller isn’t great. For the face buttons, instead of the left and right button (square and circle) being used for left and right attack, it instead is the left and top button (square and triangle), and nitro is used by double-tapping acceleration instead of just using another button. They aren’t the worst controls ever, and I eventually got used to them, but the game doesn’t allow controller input changes. Also, there are some aesthetic spots where the game cuts some corners. I actually think the older-looking visuals are fine, but the voice acting is terrible and the music is all over the place. Also, while this as well as stuff like voice acting ultimately doesn’t matter for a game like this and I don’t really hold any of this against the game, what is up with the setting? There are Mad Max enemies and apocalyptic settings, but also a hyper-technological gang with future tech? Also, there are cops and normal traffic? It’s so all over the place in a way that’s a little bit charming but also quite a bit distracting.
Don’t mind the commuters while driving through the wastelands.
Road Redemption is a game that knows what it is and what it sets out to do. It’s a game that is first and foremost an arcade combat racer, and not much else really matters. Sure, I can criticize the voice acting of this game, but I’m fully aware that there isn’t really any point to criticizing it other than to tell people to prepare for what this game is and isn’t. I had a great time with this game, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to try something new or to have some mindless arcade fun.