PEGBRJE: Receiver and FRIDAY NIGHT BULLET ARENA

Can’t lie, I’ve been wandering for minutes and have only found one cute robot.

Receiver is a FPS roguelike made by Wolfire Games, an indie studio founded in 2003 by David Rosen and well known for their independent titles such as Overgrowth and their creation of the Humble Bundle (yes, that one). This specific title was the result of a game jam back in 2012, with very specific focal points; exploration, randomization, and actually using a gun properly.

Players are the Receiver within this bleak world, uncertain as to what they are doing or where they are. All they know is they are armed with a pistol and they can move; par for the course in a traditional roguelike, really, for the gameplay is driven by the player’s confusion and curiosity. They want to explore, to find out what they should be doing, which leads to constant deaths and restarts until they figure it out. The goal is indicated by the top right of the screen, for there are 11 tapes scattered throughout the map for the player to listen to, giving the narrative context to what it means to be a Receiver. They are completely out of order, adding to the compounding feeling of lacking all of the pieces to put everything together and gain the full picture of the title. Since death resets everything, the tapes ‘absorbed’ will be lost as well — but the memory that we as players have of them will not, leading to the desire to find tapes not yet heard to gain the full picture even without the ‘completion’ itself.

So where does that gun part mentioned above come in to play? Well strap in for a wild ride, because the gunplay in this title aims for realism above all else, and I don’t mean in just animation senses. No, each action required to reload takes an input from the player to do so, from removing the mag from the gun, manually inputting bullets in to the mag, reinserting it, cocking it back again to finalize, to even setting the safety. Not to mention that many of these actions needs a free hand to do so, meaning swapping between what item is in the main hand of the player. This took me ages to figure out properly, for nothing is explained outside of the Unity Launcher input menu — again, roguelike traditions — and I haven’t handled a pistol in real life before. This makes every encounter with these killbots more stressful than finding out that they only need a single hit to kill, as now running out of ammo in a mag can be lethal. To add even more variety, each death randomizes the player’s spawning weapon as well, meaning that the reloading style may not be the same across each weapon, such as the revolver vs the 9mm. Understanding how many bullets were fired in an encounter and carefully taking stock of how many loose bullets that are available to put in the mag afterwards are crucial to going far, and even then sometimes a pinch of luck is necessary.

Gameplay can feel frustrating after dying so many times with little information, especially while trying to figure out the reloading (I had to google it at the end of the day) but I can’t deny the satisfaction of finally reloading at a decent pace to avoid certain death, even if I died to fall damage minutes later. Caution is important, but in a roguelike it won’t accomplish anything without the willingness to explore every corner with the hopes of finding a tape or bullets whilst avoiding the killbots. If you’ve ever wanted to be ‘that guy’ that watches movies and counts the bullets of the action heroes, mocking how they’ve shot 14 bullets without reloading instead of 12, Receiver is the action title to live out your meticulously counted dreams while exploring a dark, depressing landscape. Stay safe, and trust no one, receiver.

Frid- sorry, I mean FRIDAY NIGHT BULLET ARENA is an arena shooter made by the duo May Gardens and Dylan Gedig under the banner of Red Nexus Games (uploaded to itch.io under May, but credited on RNG’s page with a link). Within this title, players control one of the colourful cast of terrifying minions in a quest to destroy everyone else on the board through the power of intelligence and bullets.

Well, a single bullet actually. See, FNBA plays in a grid style, where players will move in real time across each square to position themselves optimally. Using the second set of inputs (right stick on my PS4 controller), players will then fire in one of four cardinal directions a singular bullet meant to annihilate their foes. Now this seems a tad difficult to work around especially if one misses their only bullet, but never fear; it can be reacquired and fired again to continue the onslaught. So how does the title handle the edges of the map, one might ask. Well, thanks to the glorious titles of old (Pac-man will always be my reference) FNBA has incorporated screen-wrapping so that the bullet will come out the other side of the map. Not only does this allow for it to be grabbed much easier since it will remain in the same column going the same direction, but it can open up more opportunities for strategy. Not every player is looking at the walls when they are dodging other bullets, so it would be a shame if a tentacle missile suddenly came out of the walls, wouldn’t it.

Continue to dodge and murder your way to victory within the arena of singular bullets until you (or another) are the only ones remaining to gain a point and move on to the next stage. Repeat this process until you either win it all, or someone usurps your skills and destroys you. Regardless, the bopping soundtrack to accompany the contrasting characters will help keep the fun rolling no matter if it is a Friday or not. Grab a couple friends — legally I need to say grab three, as only a max of four can play — and begin the blasting.

Links

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.