Thursday, April 27, 2006

RIP: Strike Back Review

RIP: Strike Back, developed and published by White Elephant Games.
The Good: Simple controls, RPG elements, varied environments that cause strategic adjustments, different weapons and vehicles with multiple fire modes, interesting bonuses, game doesn’t rely on overwhelming numbers of enemies
The Not So Good: A little too much of the same thing
What say you? A better than average overhead arcade shooter: 6/8

Arcade shooters have had a long and storied history on the PC. There is just something satisfying about running around and shooting a bunch of bad guys. Of course, doing this in real life is mostly illegal, so computer games are here to fulfill all of our violent desires. Hooray! Before computers got powerful enough to render 3-D graphics, the arcade shooters were shown from a side or top perspective with detailed 2-D sprites. RIP: Strike Back strikes back with an overhead arcade shooter, where you fill the shoes of Death, Satan, or a guy with a pumpkin for a head. Utilizing a vast array of weaponry to dispense of your enemies, will RIP: Strike Back prove to be more deadly than other titles in the slightly crowded arcade shooter genre?

As I mentioned in the introductory paragraph (you were paying attention, weren’t you?), RIP: Strike Back has old school overhead 2-D graphics. The game doesn’t look bad or muddled: a lot of the characters are fairly detailed, and the explosion and weapon effects are pretty good. I never got confused where my character was located on the screen. There are many different environments in the game as well, unlike some games that take place on non-descript featureless terrain. RIP: Strike Back also has a fair amount of blood, if you’re into the sort of thing. The graphics do an adequate job: they don’t provide a “wow” factor, but they don’t detract from the overall experience. The sound is along the game lines: beefy weapon sounds and other assorted death effects that does just enough to get by.

RIP: Strike Back features simple mechanics over 60 different levels of shooting fun. You move your character using the old WASD standard and aim with the mouse, pointing at enemy units you’d like to kill. Each weapon has a slower, more powerful mode and a faster but less accurate firing mode and requires reloading after the clip is emptied. You can only keep one weapon at a time, but more powerful weapons usually don’t have any disadvantages. RIP: Strike Back includes a leveling-up process for your anti-hero: experience points can be used for faster firing, more health, or special attributes like freezing enemies. Some maps include vehicles you can hop into (like stationary turrets or movable tanks and helicopters) to dish out even more punishment. The level design provides for some strategy (gasp!): you can use objects for cover and explosive barrels that destroy a large area are scattered around some maps. Interesting bonuses can also appear on the map, like slowing time down Matrix-style. RIP: Strike Back is one vs. many, but the game doesn’t rely on extreme masses of enemies like Evil Invasion, Deadhunt, or Core Defender. Rather, the game primarily has smaller numbers of more powerful enemies instead of just cannon fodder, and the levels themselves provide cover from incoming fire. I much prefer the action of RIP: Strike Back than any of those other games, as RIP: Strike Back has much more strategy to go along with the general mindless destruction. Sure there’s a lot of shooting involved, but RIP: Strike Back is deeper than most arcade shooters.

RIP: Strike Back is a surprisingly entertaining little game. The game starts with arcade shooting, adds a pinch of RPG, and a dash of strategy, bakes for 60 levels, and comes out with a pretty tasty casserole of annihilation. RIP: Strike Back has just enough depth to keep you playing through the game’s varied levels, and I didn’t get quickly bored like when I played Evil Invasion (a similar game). I like how the game’s difficulty isn’t just associated with 20-30 enemies on screen at once, instead opting for a more strategic approach (and thankfully so). Because of this, RIP: Strike Back breaks away from the pack and becomes a prominent arcade shooter, ranked above the dead bodies of its competitors. Most important of all, the game is just plain fun with simple controls and constant action that should appeal to gamers who are fans of this genre.