PEGBJRE: Destructivator 2 and Gunhouse

Boy these people seriously make some funky buildings

Destructivator 2 is a high octane arcade platform shooter made by Pug Fugly Games, a one man indie studio out of Wales. Within this title, players are blasted to the past to revisit one of the most dangerous times known to all of humankind; a reimagining of the future from the perspective of the 80s and 90s media. We know what that means.

ALIENS, ROBOTS AND GUNS EVERYWHERE, LET’S GO.

As implied, Destructivator 2 follows up on the previous title of the same name set after Zallagor attacked Earth. Although defeated, Earth is now left in ruins and the people want revenge against these alien invaders. All it takes is finding Zallagor’s home planet, and the Destructivator is sent in to wipe the planet clean of all threats. As this destructive green phenom, players will run and shoot their way through 54 levels of platforming and shooting to defeat the planet and save Earth from future invasions. In pure retro fashion, the way this is done is through simplistic control schemes, with the revolutionary tech at the time to allow for aiming diagonally. The gun cannot be aimed down in any capacity, but instead allows for the player to crouch and fire instead. This can be extremely useful for dodging incoming bullets, or shooting at enemies who have also figured out their knees can bend and are crouch shooting as well. Needless to say, many of my earlier deaths were to enemies that crouched. There’s also the opportunity to just punch a bad guy with that massive gun if the player gets close enough to an enemy, but I didn’t find myself using it often seeing as they had guns and I really didn’t want to get shot.

So with combat understood, the Destructivator’s is dropped into hostile territory for each level, needing that gun and some quick thinking in order to defeat the many enemies and traps that are awaiting them. The player is relatively tiny, but that’s a design choice for the more retro feeling; plus it allows for the fantastic artwork to shine. All of the enemies are crisp and unique, ensuring that they contrast against the backdrop so that players don’t get worried about hidden enemies while running and gunning their way to victory. Enemies with specific health bars also show them above for convenience so that players can understand when they are fighting something tougher — although again, design choice to make them larger than most also helps. Speaking of which, the player themselves has a health bar, which if depleted will cause them to restart at a checkpoint. There’s only one health item in the entire game, so ensuring that one doesn’t randomly take that while at full health is crucial if fearing for the next section of the level.

I do want to make a minor side note about the stars in the top. These are the ‘scoring’ as it were, something that I’ve found is quite prevalent within retro titles with home games being the natural evolution of the arcade titles of the 70s/80s. Again, reminder, I have little/no experience with most actual titles of the era, and have mostly been learning about them through the games within this bundle. However, this system is actually quite ingenius, for instead of collecting score as items it instead is a set of conditions for the player to achieve. I haven’t quite nailed down what all of them are, but I’m fairly certain at least one of the stars is ‘not dying’, with one of them possibly being ‘not get hit’. Heck, they could be shown somewhere and I just missed it, which is totally an oversight on my part. The point here is that at least one star is to just ‘remove all enemies’, the objective of each level, and the rest are almost like hidden secrets for the player to uncover without them actually needing to ‘uncover’ anything. Kind of brilliant, really.

While I got off track near the end, my whole point is that Desctructivator 2 is the kind of fun that many associate with the retro era of platform shooters; this high paced, simple yet effective combat with dozens of levels, lots of cool enemies, and a soundtrack that goes really hard every level. Sprinkle in some modern influence such as fantastic variety and design principles and you’ve got a fantastic homage to an entire era of games that I haven’t even played, yet feel like I’ve come to understand. Normally I’d say ‘if you’re a fan of retro games, this is definitely one to grab’, but in all honesty if you’re a fan of 80s/90s cheesy action films about invading aliens in gun blazing glory, then you don’t need to be a fan of retro; you’ll love this game.

Gunhouse is a fusion tower-defense match-3 made by Necrosoft Games, an indie dev team directed by Brandon Sheffield and featuring the work of Jim Stormdancer, Juan Ramirez and a score by Disasterpeace. Within this title, players are attempting to stop an onslaught of confusing robotic monstrosities to protect the orphans in their care. How, one might ask?

TODAY’S THEME IS GUNS, SO PROBABLY THOSE.

Gameplay for Gunhouse is split into two ‘phases’ of sorts; the gun tower creation, and the tower defense itself. Players will create weapons during a short amount of time — about 20 seconds — and upon timing running out will then defend their Gunhouse with those guns. Upon a gun needing ‘reloading’, the house will reopen to create new weapons once again.

Let’s dive into the creation, for that is the puzzle part of this fusion. As seen above, players are given a house made of a 6x3 grid that contains three kinds of blocks within. Each block represents a kind of weapon indicated by the icon, either to create a forward facing gun, or a stored canister special weapon. To create the weapons, however, players need to create a block minimum of 2x2 to load into either side. To do this, players have the ability to move each row to the left or the right, shifting the entire row and creating gaps as they go. This causes blocks to fall down from above, and a new block dropping at the top of the house. The catch, besides the fact that there are only 20 seconds of course, is that where the blocks are created is extremely important. Loading a block into a side of the house is completely dependent on it’s height in the house, as well as which side of the house it is on — to load the block, it needs to be moved completely into the side of the house, so shifting a block into the left of the house completely makes it a gun. Since players can only move a single row, a 2x2 block cannot be shifted left or right without a preexisting gap. There’s also the fact that there are 3 sections to the house, meaning that moving a block into the top makes a top gun, or if it stradles both it creates a gun in both sections. So not only do players need to worry about how to create the blocks (it’s quite tricky at first) but also where they are created is just as important AND there’s a time limit!

This aspect is easily the most stress inducing fun I’ve had in a while, because I wanted to make everything efficient and it completely punishes indecision. There’s the desire to have enough blocks during every reload, yet in reality it is better to simply create blocks based on what is available. There is some strategy of course, as players can leave prebuilt blocks in the house after the door closes and move them during the next reload. There’s also the ‘focus’ block indicated at the top, which will give double ammo to the gun or special weapon if matched correctly, which rewards players for thinking ahead unlike myself, yet doesn’t punish players for not utilizing it until later on when the waves become more difficult.

All of this weaponry needs to be put to use, so after the doors of the house close the game resumes and the waves pour towards the house. They come in three positions on the map that constitute something similar to lanes, but are more free to move around meaning that the guns can hit more than one lane at times. Each gun, however, only has one shot before it disappears and needs to be reloaded, so timing is also crucial in ensuring that the most enemies die per shot or special weapon used. Now, if a gun disappears and no other gun is used, the game assumes after a certain time that the reload phase is needed, so knowing when to trigger a reload phase depending on the approaching enemies is crucial.

And that’s just all gameplay related, I haven’t even gotten to talk about just how amazing the aesthetic is, blending the fantastic art style of Juan Ramirez and the tunes of Disasterpeace to create a weirdly high octane adventure of nonsense. It’s hard to pin down everything within, from the bizarre bosses to the hilarious interludes from the orphan’s caretaker and the fact that the game can technically go forever. There’s so much here that I can only say that if you really like match3 games, but wished there was more insanity to it, then try this one out. I’m definitely don’t recommend it for a ‘laid back’ experience, though — you’ll be glued to the game til you stop.

Links for today

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.