Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Riddled Corpses EX

React faster, dammit! In Riddled Corpses EX, I'd dodged a line of charging American football linebackers, barged the nest of coffins that sprang up, cut up a patch of acid-spitting flowers, detonated a flaming bin to waste a pack of devil dogs and spotted a useful extra life behind a stack more zombies, and then I died, all within about a second! Am I too old, or is the game just beyond my sensory capacities?

Diabolical Mind and Cowcat are at it again, feeding Vita owners a perfectly prepared slice of arcade mania. Riddled Corpses EX is another PC port, on the heels of Xenon Valkyrie +, that brings crispy little pixel zombie corpses for you to devastate in fun and novel ways.

That's pretty much RCEX is all about, live fast, die faster, leaving many bloated corpses in your path.
With a story, arcade and survival mode, you blat away at the undead using various characters armed with shotguns or peculiar laser weapons. Each has different fire speeds and bullet damage, plus improvised weapons like cars or fiery barrels and the odd dynamite bundle.

Demolishing coffins or hatcheries before they disgorge their undead is risky but can save time and prevent the screen from clogging up with enemies. But you will get shot more, making it a dicey proposition at best. Take time to pick up gold and power-ups, with the aim of buying (very expensive) extra weapons, adding characters and boosting their levels to make them even more likely to get PTSD is all part of the fun.

In Story and Arcade mode. sometimes the screen is static allowing a little time to think, but will soon fill up with undead. Other times it scrolls on to the next part of the six main levels, each with many waves of zombies and mini-bosses. They've been animated by some mega-brain that's now trying to wipe out humanity, typical!

Leveling up increases firepower and some characters come with special abilities. In arcade mode, that's a pain as the level-up token whizzes around the level. In any game you might randomly get a stack of extra lives, dynamite or time stoppers to help give you an edge. Other times, you're lucky to grab a few bits of gold before panic or a mistake sees death wrap his bony fingers around your throat.

In story mode, there are a few new cutscenes between levels, but there's not really much of a plot or character development to get gripped by here. Level 3 introduces a vehicle section to add some pace, and there are a few more surprises in store. Arcade mode provides in-level power-ups and bonus rounds as you start from zero, while Survival mode is good for earning cash for story mode and to finish off the trophy collection. Both have online high score charts, so you can compare your efforts against friends and the rest of the world.

Whatever mode you play, the action is driven by some fantastic chiptunes by Georgiost, originals, remixes and metal versions (when you complete the game) that are well worth taking the time to listen to in isolation when you're not panicking about which way to dodge next.

As the first game from Diabolical Mind, dating back to 2015, Riddled Corpses, even with some tweaks in the EX update, feels a little primitive compared to Xenon Valkyrie. Waves don't really feel like waves, mostly a constant shamble of undead, and there's still a few hours unnecessary grinding involved. Hopefully, the upcoming game Demon's Tier will make it to the Vita offering the best of both worlds.

As a warning, you might think some areas of maps are out of bounds, but you can go pretty much anywhere, even through trees, although it took a few failed efforts to figure that out. But, there's the odd bit of a level where your character can get stuck in the scenery, while hitting electric grids means losing a life or bringing about an untimely end.

If you do struggle to progress in story mode and get bored, Survival offers some variety in backgrounds and monsters, and provides a quick(ish) way to horde coins to power up the other characters.

Whatever mode, there's often way too much going on on-screen at once, with explosions and fire effects, obscuring a raging enemy at just the wrong moment. The game runs mostly at 60fps, but I'm pretty sure it drops from time to time.

Riddled Corpses isn't quite as easy to love as Xenon Valkyrie, but it is still a solid slice of arcade action. Getting it to run on the Vita is an impressive effort, with many hours of twitchy fun to be had as you look to see what the later characters can do, and reach the end of this tough little, grindy, arcade cookie.

Score: 8/10
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Price: £9.49 (PSN)
Developer/publisher Diabolical Mind/Cowcat
File size 85MB
Progress: Complete

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