I am writing this review after my latest attempt at clearing level 5 (out of 6) in Riddled Corpses Ex after a good dozen of hours of gameplay. I made it. I barely made it, and that’s just because I miracoulously found a safe spot while avoiding the boss’ bullet patterns when every hope was lost.
Yeah, bosses tend to be quite easy compared to the levels themselves, but I made to the confrontation so deprived of lives and with a depleted stock of powerups (that can be bought between levels), that I failed my previous attempts miserably. But before I continue describing the joyful pain I have been through, a bit on the story.
Fiddling with a giant brain in tank is never a good idea but somewhere in the world there’s always some old mad scientist willing to do it only to regret when it is too late. As a result, the world is now filled with the undead, zombie rabbits and demons of all sorts. It’s up to an improbable squad of cops to make things right by blasting away everything in this horde twin-stick shooter that is Riddle Corpses EX.
You start as lousy Jon, a brown haired guy with a decent shot and no special skills. Your objective during your first runs in the story mode is to gather as much gold as possible, conveniently dropped by the enemies in form of coins, lingots and pixel skull shaped idols, in order to unlock the cuties that appear on the title screen. Every unlocked character comes with their own stats, skill and a shot that can be upgraded by spending gold.
You only have one weapon per characters in Riddle Corpses Ex and they work kinda the same, a straight beam that can be strenghtened temporarily by filling a combo gauge on the screen. You won’t have time to pay much attention to it though as the screen will be quickly flooded with spawning enemies, deadly at touch and also shooting some traditional pink bullets at you, to add insult to injury. Lose momentum for a second and the entire screen will be literally filled with enemies, making you regret the very same sense of your own existence. You can only rely to using some consumable powerups to slow down the horde: a clock that (almost) stops time, a dynamite that serves as an all-clearing smart bomb and a turret that you can only use once per level.
One of the reason why Riddled Corpses ex works so well with its super simple gameplay is that every sensory feedback is satysfing, from the tiny health bar depleting on top of enemies’ head to the tingling sound of gold filling your pockets. Gathering gold is a mechanic that blends well with the rest of the adrenalinic action, providing a sense of high comparable to a meat grinding slot machine on a winning streak. Kill, combo, gold, repeat. A sequence that will drag you down a spiral of excitement and sorrow.
However during the later parts of the game, this persistent gold gathering became a self-sustaining process. Even using Chloe, a character whose ability double the amount of gold you pick up, I felt that the gold required to unlock everything was excessive, compared to the relative shortness of the story mode. I spent most of the time grindind gold like crazy and dying, while slowly powering up my characters just to stand a chance in single player. It was still super fun: sometimes the screen scrolls putting some obstacles on your path and there is one level where you drive a questionable bike on a motorway, but exactly because everything shown works so well, I wished that the story mode was a bit more structured, longer and with a different sense of progression. Other than story mode, you can play an endless survival for score, and Arcade mode, where the character level up progression is scrapped in favour of a more traditional power-up collection. All the modes play roughly the same way anyway.
Single mode tends to be brutal, providing a good but not insurmountable challenge and tons of fun. Every game comes with the satisfaction of getting better, only a bit frustrated by the necessity to grind for power. Alternatively, if your existence is blessed with some friends or a significant other that share your passions, you can opt for coop game in every mode, which make things much more accessible, with twice the firepower available.
Speaking of the Switch conversion, an apposite control setup has been put in place in case you want to play the game with a friend using two joycons. In that case, the direction of your shots will follow the movement of your character, with the option of pressing a button to hold the position, while still aiming shots in the desired direction. I am not sure about this decision: considering the flow of the game, I think that holding the shot direction instead while keep moving would have been a better choice, but still it is a small change that can add a bit of variety, a valid option for 2 players mode, and I appreciated that they allowed the use of two joycons, putting some effort in the conversion. The achievements screen however lost something in the process, because you can see the icon of what you unlocked, but there is no way to read the description. A small oversight that can be easily fixed.
Riddled Corpses is all about gameplay. Despite some shortcomings, it provides hours of mindless and adrenalinic fun in a cute bubblegum gory world. Now I can go back and beat the game. Unfortunately i did not realise that after quitting the previous game I have to start back at level 5, but I am confident I can make it again!
+ addictive and satisfying action
+ awesome art direction
– bit too grindy
– some unused potential