In a month full of big AAA releases, we’re not forgetting about the smaller titles out there. Today’s focus is on three new indie games: Beat Souls, Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded and El Gancho share the spotlight in this roundup.
When Eastasiasoft announced they were bringing Beat Souls to consoles, we thought “here comes the Beat Saber and Dark Souls mash-up we never knew we wanted”. Originally released on PC, we now checked it out on PlayStation.
Beat Souls was developed by Zoo Corporation, who recently gave us Cake Invaders as well. Considering how bizarre that game’s premise was, we were very curious to see what Beat Souls was going to be like. And its core concept may not be as outlandish as the one in Cake Invaders, but it managed to provide a novel take on the rhythm genre nonetheless.
At its core, it’s all very familiar stuff – shapes that come towards you and need to be reacted upon in order to score points and combos. Here, however, it’s not a matter of hitting beats to the rhythm of the song, but to hit Beat Souls while avoiding pretty much anything that comes at you. So how do you hit those Beat Souls then? That’s done by steering the two buddies next two you into them, as your main character will get hurt by anything that’s not a power-up.
The mechanics then build on this core concept by adding things like jumps and the need to change the color of your buddies in order to line up with Beat Souls. It remains accessible though, and rhythm genre fans will quickly take to it. Unlockables (in the shape of songs and anime characters) will keep you coming back for a while, as will a healthy selection of achievements and trophies. One of the game’s shortcomings is a rather generic and not very memorable tracklist. There are plenty of songs here, but without any familiar tunes or standout original productions there are better choices out there. Some songs are under a minute long as well, so while the gameplay is fine the music has some trouble making a lasting impression.
Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded
ChiliDog Interactive is getting more and more prolific with their releases, and aren’t just publishing ports of existing games. Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded is a great example, as a brand new title that’s exclusive to PlayStation, Switch and Xbox consoles.
In Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded, an evil AI has wiped out almost all life forms on earth. It’s up to pigs to fight back and defeat the AI’s robot minions and bosses, while saving the other living species along the way – chickens. It’s a silly premise of course, but it serves as a reason as to why your protagonist is a gun-toting pig and why you’ll run into chickens that need saving – gameplay-wise, that’s about all you need, as Ammo Pigs is a classic run and gun action platformer.
At first glance, this is a game that looks like a typical indie 2D platformer with its retro aesthetic and tons of verticality. The shooting makes it feel different than other platformers though, while at the same time the platforming sets Ammo Pigs apart from typical run and gun games like Midnight Resistance and Metal Slug. The action also flows a little quicker than in those games though, borrowing from the sometimes frantic action of similar-looking platformers to add some speed to your quest of rampage.
If you look past its silly premise then Ammo Pigs: Cocked and Loaded doesn’t do a lot that we haven’t seen before, but it’s a fun blend of two genres that provides a bit of retro fun at a very affordable price point. It also has a trophy list that’s not terribly difficult to achieve, so that should please trophy hunters as well.
When Eastasiasoft launched Task Force Kampas, we certainly weren’t expecting to see other games that are set in the same universe. After all, it was a small niche title with arcade-inspired vertical shooter gameplay and little in the way of world-building. Yet, here is El Gancho, developed by Sidral Games.
The overlap with Task Force Kampas is a small one, as El Gancho features completely different gameplay, but the unexpected stars of the game are the little Cocos, the yellow crocodile-like creatures that you could save by picking them up from space in the previous game. But where that was a classic arcade shooter, El Gancho is much more of a physics-based platformer with a bizarre backstory in which an evil empire has invaded the world of the Cocos and wants to tap into their happiness to fuel their plans of building a weapon of massive power. Yes, it makes little sense, but this is far from a narrative-driven game so it’s easy to forgive and forget.
Gameplay is, for a large part, tied to using a ‘laser-hook’ that you can attach to surfaces in order to pull yourself up and/or swing sideways. This allows for traversal through the game’s small procedurally-generated arena-like levels, but swinging also makes your laser trail fall apart behind you – with the fallout being harmful to any enemies underneath. You also have a gun with some very limited ammo, so combining these skills is the key to getting through each level – which is completed by saving all the Cocos within it.
Levels also contain a lot of pickups that let you stock up on food (life) and ammo, and killing enemies and grabbing pickups is also a large part of completing the trophy list for the game. It’s all easier said than done though, because we thought the controls had their moments of frustration. We eventually got used to having to push a trigger button to jump instead of just using “X”, but the laser hook never felt as comfortable as it should have. In many of the procedurally generated levels, the hook simple won’t work in places because the anchor point is too far away – forcing you to awkwardly scale up the side wall by jumping off it and then reattaching the hook a little higher.
Because of it, an average run in El Gancho never felt like it flowed as nicely as a run in Task Force Kampas – the luck of getting some fun level layouts was too much of a factor in the game’s main mode. The challenge mode doesn’t have that problem though, and flows much better as a result. It’s not a must-have title because of the control issues, but it’s nice to see some new ideas being implemented.