cuts down most of the fat surrounding games that venture to use the Roguelike genre, a refreshing take after dozens upon dozens of titles that use hidden depth, tons of discoverable combinations and, situational item usage. It’s a bit of a double edged sword but the lack of complexity is a nice alternative. Heavy Bullets
pushes everything aside for a much simpler and, at times, more effective method. As a wise prophet once said
, “Six bullets… more than enough to kill anything that moves.” And your employer seems to adhere fairly strictly to those words!
Highrise Hunting Grounds is run by some questionably dense people. It’s difficult to tell if they’re sinister or just willfully ignorant of human rights, sending a janitor down into the depths of their intricate hunting grounds to find out why the mainframe is going crazy and turning the park’s security systems against the very people they’re meant to protect. Plopped down into neon hallways that look like they could be very delicious popsicle flavors, all you have is your gun and your wits about you. As you progress through the 8 layers of hell, there are vending machines and hidden secret cases holding useful items like rockets and homing grenades, as well as a few items that make you wonder how they ended up there in the first place. Using the ritual blade will, for instance, harm you for an entire heart’s worth of damage in exchange for giving you back the exact amount of money you’d need to heal that heart back.
The crux of Heavy Bullets
’ gameplay loop is simplistic genius. Whenever you fire a bullet from your gun, you have to run over to it and pick it back up again in order to reload it into the revolver. At first you only start with just enough bullets to reload an entire cylinder but you can eventually find, buy, or have bullets given to you through inheritance. There’s a slight margin of error in most rooms near the start but you’ll need to come to grips with your twitch action skills before the halfway point. Messing up a shot will require you to dash into danger, more often than not to recover your rounds, and, even with your Quake
-speedrunner pace, you’ll still likely take a hit or two. My heart was pounding in the later stages of the game, even after I had upgrades to increase my reload skill, bullet recovery distance, and extra hearts!
As per the standard for roguelikes, you’ll be dying often as you come to grips with what the game demands of you. This will start off as a tad bit of an annoyance but the game does offer some small level of continuation to ease you into that one run where everything will go right. Available in the vending machines are purchasable items that allow you to pass a certain amount of money you’re carrying into your bank account when you die or, more importantly, the Last Will item which deposits every penny you have on you as well as any bullets, bombs, and keys. You’ll be given the latter three instantly at the start of your next run. This is pretty much the key to being able to afford as many health and stat upgrades as possible during a run. I, myself, had built up almost $1,000 in the bank before my first successful run, during which I spent a good chunk of that reserve.
Just when you start feeling comfortable, the game tosses new enemy types at you and changes up the scenery a little bit. Instead of the simple walls that looked like they could have been gradients on a new-wave CD stacked in Tommy Vercetti’s car, some blinking computer bits and crude technological chrome begin to adorn the walls. You’re also given a flashlight after a certain point, though the game never truly puts you in the complete darkness. Sadly, it only changes so much visually but, then again, you’re hardly really looking at the walls when you’re constantly fighting for your life.
In keeping with the minimalistic approach, the sound design is sparse but executed with razor sharp precision when it counts. Music occasionally cuts through the deafening silence to energize a particularly ballsy suicide run on a full room. Corny musique pipes through the vending machines, coming across more like slot machines tossed out from a casino on the dead end of Vegas city limits and re-purposed. Every creature and malicious turret has a unique sound of their own that you’ll familiarize yourself with rather quickly. Learning the telltale signs of each is key to surviving large and tricky rooms that use tall grass and rocks to block your line of sight. Some players complained about the music’s lack of presence, but I feel the use of silence is extremely important in not only building up the tension of every fight but also to let you listen in on these clues before things get really hectic.
For all that Heavy Bullets
does well, though, it comes at the price of not having much in the way of replay value. Once you’ve beaten the final boss you have nothing further to really do. The game’s achievements hint at a few challenges you could try but, in the long run of things, you won’t be able to easily put 100+ hours into this like many other games in the genre. When stacking it up next to games like Eldritch
or Fancy Skulls
, it hardly has sea legs worth holding onto for more than a few playthroughs. Unless you’re a fan of replaying for the sake of the challenge, 3 heart only runs with no potions like some insane Zelda
speedrunner, it just may not be enough. The basic experience, the thrill of that first completion, gives a nice sense of accomplishment and I think the tense silent moments broken up by spurts of greased-lightning violence are exceptionally well done. But having limited ways of killing things presented to you and randomly placed setpieces which you’ll eventually become familiar with will certainly bum out players earlier than usual. Is this enough to dissuade you from picking up the gun? Well, that’s entirely up to you, partner. You just have to ask yourself one question. Did I fire six shots, or only five?
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