Coming from Drageus Games is a new entry into a genre that, to be fair, is not underrepresented on the Xbox One. GROOD is billed as “An indie 2.5D Shoot-em-up”. But the question is, can it bring anything new to the table, or is it another also ran?
The story of GROOD is the usual kind of throwaway nonsense we’ve come to love from certain games, with an army of machines that have appeared from somewhere and are intent on ruining people’s lives. We have (or at least someone has, it’s not very clear) built an android fighting ship that looks like a hurricane lamp with a massive gatling gun glued to the bottom of it. This machine is called GROOD, and it can not only fly, but it may well be the answer to humanity’s prayers. You see, GROOD was built to destroy, and that’s just what lies in store for us once we dust it off.
Now, graphically, the game looks very appealing. Again, upon research the graphics feature “modern low poly graphics, particles and shaders”. I don’t know about any of that, but what I do know is that GROOD moves at a fair old lick, and doesn’t slow down even when every machine in the world seems to be trying to shoot poor GROOD right in the lamp – it provides a unique look that I really like. The way that damage is depicted is pretty cool too, and as GROOD picks up more and more damage the screen appears to get a crack across it, then the colour starts to fade, leaving you fighting in monochrome. Add to this a dynamic weather and time of day mechanic, and even a specific sector that you’ve already seen a hundred times before can look very different in the rain, or in the dark. Or in the dark AND the rain, which makes things very challenging.
The music is also worthy of special praise, as it is a proper heavy metal thumping soundtrack that fits the action on screen down to a T. You’re shooting heavy metal enemies while rocking out to heavy metal – it’s like they’ve thought about it. The other sound effects are great as well, with lots of shooting and explosions really helping to draw you in.
Now, the action on display here is a classic side-scrolling shooting fest, and the screen is slightly bigger than you think it will be. Sounds weird, but just when you think there’s no way to avoid being hit, you can fly up or down to avoid an early bath. The designs of the enemies are pretty varied as well, with the majority leaning toward the “flying death machine” archetype. The worst ones, in my opinion, are the Iron Faces, which don’t shoot at you, but instead have been reading the Kamikaze handbook and attempt to headbutt you into oblivion.
Whatever you are faced with though, the usual kind of shoot ‘em up tropes are on display. As you fly along there are health packs to pick up, which you will no doubt need, there are secondary weapons to find and utilise, and sometimes you can even find upgrades for the basic gatling gun. And boy do you need those particular upgrades, as the standard minigun you start with feels a bit like shooting bits of paper out an empty biro tube; killing the most basic enemies is the work of more than a moment. When the larger foes appear it’s not unusual to be pumping bullets into them for a good ten seconds, and as for the bosses… forget about it!
So, we’ve seen that GROOD looks and sound good, and comes with all the features you’d expect from a classic shoot ‘em up. But how does it play? Well, good and bad, sadly.
The actual gameplay is solid, with tight, responsive controls and a real challenge to it. In fact, when you start a new game, the difficulty select screen actually reads “Hard, Hard or Hard”, so you can there are no easy rides here. However, not everything in the garden is rosy. It’s quite difficult to see some of the smaller projectiles, such as the homing missiles that the large enemies fire, and when you are busy trying to avoid a wave of Iron Face kamikazes it’s all too easy to be hit by these rockets. Weirdly, the rockets don’t all behave the same either; some seem almost dumb and fly in a straight line, whilst others aggressively track you, curving from top to bottom of the screen just to mess you up.
Another thing that I can’t get used to is the trajectory the bullets from your main weapon take. They don’t seem to fire in a straight line, as you’d expect, and instead slant from bottom left to top right, on a diagonal. This makes shooting enemies harder than you would expect, as lining them up like you would in a traditional game just doesn’t work. The last complaint I have is that there is no kind of progression nor any form of upgrade options for the ship. With the difficulty as hard as it is, it seems like a missed chance not to have an upgrade path to make your ship better able to survive the horrors of war.
Other than this, GROOD is a very good, pretty accomplished shooter, with an insane amount of action on screen. Add in a global leaderboard function, so you can see how you stack up against the best in the world, and there’s certainly reason to play.
All this means that if you are in the market for a very hard but rewarding shooter, GROOD on Xbox One could well scratch that itch. The action is non-stop, the sectors that you fight through are all very different, and with both the time of day and weather dynamically changing, it’s unusual to play the same looking stage twice. It does suffer from the same problem as many other shooters, in that the action starts to feel a little samey after a while, but all in all I’ve enjoyed my time with GROOD.