Roguelike FPS wrapped up in neon swag
The security system in Highrise Hunting Grounds has gone rogue, and you’ve been sent to shut down the mainframe. With only six initial bullets, you must fight your way through eight levels of neon jungle rife with lethal spiders, turrets, bush worms, and feisty cat-balls.
It’s a good thing your bullets bounce back, because you’ll need them.
Heavy Bullets (PC [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Terri Vellmann
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Released: September 18, 2014
At its core, Heavy Bullets is a clean, yet unforgiving roguelike shooter-dungeon-crawler hybrid. Its pace is fast and its enemies faster, pouncing at a moment’s notice and leaving little time for reaction. A few simple mistakes will land you back at square one with a new, randomly generated dungeon full of new surprises. Each of the game’s eight levels is a hunting ground beckoning for strategy.
Stepping through this jungle is at first easy, almost calming — enemies seem fairly tame, the vending machines and hidden items plentiful. The graphics are old-school, crisp, and bright, while the sounds of bleep bloops ring through the levels, reminiscent of a bygone era in gaming. Heavy Bullets’ most important feature, however are the titular bullets, which rebound from a successful kill and can be immediately recycled for future use.
The game quickly ramps at Level 2 — pathways become more windy and narrow, and mobs appear where you’d least expect them. Each playthrough is completely random, so it’s virtually impossible to predict exactly what scenarios might arise. Only one thing is certain in Highrise Hunting Grounds: enemies continue to increase in numbers and difficulty while resources grow thin.
The one saving grace is the banking system, a useful feature that allows players to store cash or a single item for future runs. Last Wills and Insurance can also be purchased from banks, which upon death carry money and bullets through to the next run. However, only one item can be carried at a time so unless a Last Will is equipped, everything is lost save for what’s been deposited in the bank upon death.
Heavy Bullets has a number of useful items to discover and equip. Basic FPS items are present like mines, bombs, a knife, etc. — but there are also a few interesting items with a variety of applications, including the boom box, high heels, and proximity sensor. The usefulness of the nontraditional items is debatable and I was often confused or unclear on exactly what some of them did, even after equipping them.
Medical and ammunition vending machines are also sprinkled throughout the levels. But since everything is randomly generated, it’s often difficult to come across these stations right when you need them. Backtracking through the levels doesn’t prove useful either — the game throws up laser barriers from time to time to prevent players from going back too far. Walking through them is possible, but at the risk of depleting life.
Although I enjoyed the idea and aesthetic behind Heavy Bullets, I couldn’t find myself getting excited to start the next run every time I died. Difficulties aside, for a simple game with such little forgiveness, I felt it needed to be a bit tighter. For example, enemies would sometimes go straight through a corner or a wall to attack me, which was obviously not intended.
I liked that the levels and enemies were randomly generated, but I found there was still something left to be desired. Perhaps the game could have benefited from more enemies, events, discoveries, or more unique items. The neon charm was always a pleasure to play through, but overall I felt Heavy Bullets wore thin over time. If you’re a huge fan of rogue-like dungeon crawlers it’s worth a shot, but not six bullets.