Every so often a game comes along with the absolutely perfect name. Riddled Corpses EX is one of those – a twin stick zombie shoot-em-up, and riddled corpses are what you leave in your wake!
Described as an anime twin stick shooter, Cowcat Games have remastered the original game that was released on Steam by Diabolical Mind and now the Zombie Apocalypse is coming to Xbox One. I strapped on my best anime style anti-zombie armour and sallied forth.
Riddle Corpses EX is presented in a glorious retro style, with 8/16 bit graphics that are reminiscent of the best that the SNES and consoles of that era could do. When I was watching the intro movie, rendered in engine, my wife commented to me that the visuals reminded her of the classic Zelda games from back in the day. With pixelated characters that express emotion surprisingly well, the game has a charm that is missing from a lot of modern efforts these days. The cutscenes between levels are rendered in the game engine as well, with classic dialogue that is shown on screen in speech bubbles and portray what is going on amazingly well. With options for the original soundtrack, a fantastic homage to the games of the ’90s, or the new soundtrack which features remixes of the original tunes, the whole vibe is of a cool retro, old skool experience.
Gameplay wise and it delivers in spades. The starting character, Jon, is fairly weedy to begin with and has no special abilities but as you progress, attacking and killing zombies in a twin stick stylee, they drop gold that you can collect. This gold has two uses: It can be used to level up your character, making them stronger, or it can unlock new characters, which come with really handy new abilities.
As the characters level up, their bullets form different patterns, which are displayed next to the picture of the character. Jon stays the most damaging character, but with new people like Cloe, who has the ability to attract gold from wherever it is on the screen, to others who can double the gold collected to one character who has double health, damage is not the only thing to consider when picking your character. There are two other things to unlock too; a MK1000 which acts as a kind of drone making your firepower more damaging, and a static turret which you can drop to add to your damage output. Both of these things can be upgraded as well to help things go swimmingly.
The game is fast paced and highly addictive. Blasting through the waves of the undead is a real challenge and in a nod to the classics, the character you control has 3 lives (apart from the girl who has double lives) and although more can be found in the levels, they are rare. As you blast through the horde, the defeated enemies can drop things that will help you in your mission; Clocks can be picked up to freeze time for a brief period, giving you a breather when the screen becomes fuller than a full thing, Dynamite will clear the screen of all the smaller zombies and damage bosses, whilst the B button is reserved for the turrets that can be unlocked. Whilst these don’t seem to drop in level, luckily, in the start screen for each stage, it is possible to use the gold you have collected to buy these and thus start the level suitably tooled up.
The crowning glory of the gameplay is found in the local co-op mode, which is awesome fun. Choosing characters that complement each other’s skill set is very important, and a team of Jon for maximum damage and Cloe for automatic gold gathering makes a great combo. In a nice touch, if one of the characters dies, they can “steal” lives from the other character, and use it to get back into the game, but when someone respawns, they set off a dynamite explosion which helps to clear the screen and keeps any combo going.
Filling this combo bar allows each character to access a more damaging version of their ordinary gun, and can be kept going for as long as zombies appear to be shot. The only drawback with the two player mode is that it is sometimes hard to keep track of which character you are playing as, particularly if both players choose the same character and the only difference is that of a coloured hat. One other thing that can annoy is that zombies will appear behind the HUD on the screen, leading to some cheap feeling hits from an essentially invisible enemy.
In addition to the story mode, there are two other modes on offer, Arcade and Survival. Arcade is as the name suggest – a true arcade experience, starting at the first level with an un-upgraded character, and throwing level ups out as you progress. The hook with Arcade mode is that the game expects you to finish it in one sitting, and this can be a tall ask. Survival mode meanwhile sees increasingly difficult waves of enemies appearing and needing to be put down. Objects appear that boost your score, and in addition to surviving, points can be tracked on the global leaderboards. Co-op play is available in both of these modes as well, and as always, the more bullets the merrier, and the longer you’ll stay alive.
All in all, Riddled Corpses EX is a great, action packed, twin stick shooter, and the graphical style and chiptune music are the icing on a rotten cake full of zombies. There are some rough edges, but the frame rate stays rock solid, even when everything on screen seems to be on fire and exploding. The gameplay is the real gem here and so if you are in the market for a zombie shooting game (and who isn’t?) then you could do a lot worse than to give Riddled Corpses EX a blast.