I have long been a fan of a metal tune, and spent most of my formative years at University with hair down to my belt, ripped jeans, big boots and the obligatory leather jacket. Yes, I was a metalhead and would enjoy going out on a Monday night to the Rock House in Derby for student night, head banging till the early hours and waking up with my hair in one big knot on the back of my neck. Those were the days.
What this somewhat meandering preamble is leading up to is the release of a new title from Zerouno Games, called Metal Tales: Overkill. Promising lots of action and a rockin’ soundtrack, my interest was piqued, as I dived in to cast a critical eye over the proceedings. Come with me to a world of guitars, Gods of Metal and gnarly riffs!
As always, the narrative is a huge part of the attraction of these games. Just kidding! Although it is nice to know why your guitar is shooting bolts of energy, and why we are shooting everything that moves (and some stuff that doesn’t), it is by no means obligatory. Still, it appears that the god Kuk has been possessing all the guitar gods, and then the legions of their metalhead fans. He is then holding infinite concerts to get his legion of metalhead zombies to wipe out original metal bands and their fans. Clearly, we can’t let him get away with this, and so we grab our trusty guitar and set off on a journey to defeat Kuk and his army, freeing the metal as we go.
That was worth waiting for, wasn’t it? Well, strap in, as Metal Tales: Overkill gets odder from here on out. At its heart, this is a top-down twin-stick shooter with roguelike elements, just like many, many other games. What sets this one apart is the music, a mixture of original compositions and songs from real world metal bands. And boy are there some good tunes included here. Rocking out while shooting zombies with a guitar, is like my 19-year old self’s ideal game; still a good blast to me now, some thirty years later.
Graphically it is nothing to write home about, with smallish sprites swarming the screen as you run around and slay them with your sick shredding (or something), but the game moves at a good pace and the action is quite compelling. Another good thing is that the levels are all randomly generated, so while the names of the stages stay the same, the layout of rooms within them is different every run, and this helps with the longevity.
The design of the baddies is pretty cool as well; being chased around by a headbanging teen, or trying to kill an enemy guitar wielder before he can shoot you is pretty tense. There are different bosses to contend with, ranging from a Cyborg to a giant beast (called the Kuk beast) via a spider playing guitar and many more. Learning their attack patterns is vital, and taking them down is a good feeling when you get it right. Of course, if you get it wrong, you have to start the game again from the beginning, so the impetus is there to try your hardest. Once a boss is beaten they transform back into their usual self, and in a nice touch can be summoned to help you fight the next boss, giving effects such as more powerful shots or healing when you do.
Of course, every roguelike worthy of the name has to have a progression system, and it is no different here. As you play Metal Tales, various challenges are issued, and if you meet them, you are awarded points that can be spent to unlock perks for the subsequent runs. These perks can come in the form of extra health, faster shots or the chance for new items to spawn in following attempts. Saving the points up to get the better perks may be the way to go.
Combat is also very good – albeit with one caveat. It is your standard run and gun, twin-stick affair, where we run about with the left stick, aim with the right and shoot with the trigger. The bumpers either drop a bomb (RB) or use a special item you have found (LB) and that’s pretty much it. The screens can be absolutely full of enemies, and as the difficulty goes up, they take more hits to take down, and it is here that a second player can come in handy. Of course, with local co-op a thing, this is entirely possible, doubling up, killing baddies and rocking out together. It is sometimes hard to see which character is which, but with a bit of communication it works really well.
The caveat I mentioned about the combat is down to one item: Super Strength. If you find this pick-up on your run, you are pretty much guaranteed to win, as it allows you to one shot any enemy, and two shot the bosses. Yes, you can take out almost every enemy in the game with two shots, except the last boss, which took about five. If it doesn’t spawn, then the game is a lot harder.
The achievements are also a bit screwy, unlocking for beating certain stages but not others. Oh, and while I’m mentioning odd things, as a default, Metal Tales: Overkill has all the sound turned down to zero in the options on first install. I had literally no noise, and thought the game was broken, until I thought to check the options. If it’s silent, you know what to do…
All in all, Metal Tales: Overkill makes a decent fist of being a good game. The various layouts and bosses you face, along with the decent amount of items and weapons to find, makes each run unique. Add in a decent co-op mode and this is a game that can be recommended to metalheads everywhere. If you don’t like the metal, it is a bit of a harder sell, but is still fun to play.
Just keep your eyes peeled for that Super Strength!
Metal Tales: Overkill is available from the Xbox Store