I’m honestly surprised at how this review has worked out. I spoke enviously to my colleague Cameron as when he had the opportunity to discuss a release from French developer Cowcat Games, it at least had the decency to be the strikingly bad Demetrios. At the time, I had yet to see anything from Riddled Corpses EX to provoke even that much of a reaction.
Let me put this bluntly. For the first hour or so of this game, there will be no surprises. It’s a very by-the-numbers version of your classical twin-stick shooter; such an accurate reproduction in fact that there’s a setting to allow you to render the screen as though you were playing on an old-fashioned CRT monitor. In fact, there are two.
When viewed in isolation, it’s well executed enough. But viewing it in isolation is unfair. The fact is that the retro twin-stick shooter is not exactly a completely unoccupied genre. Anyone seeking to make an entry into the genre needs to enter with the knowledge that they are competing with a lot of other developers. The intense game feel of Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne or the synaesthetic delights of Dub Wars set an alarmingly high watermark for Cowcat to overcome.
The fact is, most of us don’t have that long to see if a game gets good and for the first hour of Riddled Corpses, we get extremely generic zombie enemies, shooting that feels like it lacks intensity and a threadbare plot that feels too grounded to be goofy fun, but too badly written to be taken seriously. If that first hour doesn’t grab you, I would completely understand. That was the point I was at when I spoke to the rest of Team Ready Up.
But then, something happened. I felt the urge to go back to Riddled Corpses, if only to give it a fair shot before writing this review and what I discovered was a surprisingly compelling experience. Once you start moving up the upgrade tree, unlocking different characters and visiting some of the later levels, this game really starts to come into its own. Later levels offer intense motorcycle-based gunfights and vicious desert shootouts. Different characters offer different gameplay opportunities, guns can be more powerful, or make quicker shots, and special abilities can change the way you progress through the game. The zombies quickly give way to horrifying demon entities and floating eyeballs. The plot reveals itself to be a delightful mixture of Doom and Resident Evil.
In short, the game came to life and I’m so glad to tell you that. But realistically, if I hadn’t felt that obligation to give it a fair shot as a critic after its incredibly dull opening section, I wouldn’t have. That’s not an obligation I can put on players. So if Riddled Corpses sinks into the waters like so many other indie titles, I will feel bad, but I will understand.
With that in mind, a few words to the developer. The first ten minutes I spend with your game will decide how I experience the subsequent hours. I have played more than 8 hours of Riddled Corpses now, and I would say I enjoyed the experience. But the memories of those first ten minutes can’t help but overshadow the rest. So I understand the desire to escalate, to give a sense of rising action. But that’s not an excuse to start badly, because once you got the engine rolling, your game is quite a delight and I worry that the majority of your players will simply not experience that.