Tuesday 22 October 2019

Strange Brigade review: Pulp-fiction shooter raids the archives

Strange Brigade XO/PS4/PC  Age: 15+ ★ ★ ★ ★

Strange Brigade
Strange Brigade
Strange Brigade.
Guacamelee! 2
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

With tongue so firmly in cheek, it's practically sticking out, Strange Brigade parodies those 1930s adventure serials that spawned Spielberg classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. The members of the Strange Brigade - a band of gung-ho archaeologists-cum-secret agents - pull off a fine impression of Indiana Jones in this four-player co-op supernatural shooter that's also part puzzler and explorathon.

Played alone, it rumbles along fitfully, throwing waves of zombies, mummies and giant scorpions against your character as you roam through crumbling temples and overgrown jungles.

The level designs, though, offer many surprises, liberally scattered with secrets and teeming with jury-rigged traps that can be turned to your advantage against undead hordes. It's in these broad spaces that Strange Brigade bursts into life when played with other gamers online.

With a ramped-up challenge, the game begins to resemble the frantic panic of Left4Dead, the definitive co-op shooter.

Outside of the weaponry, Strange Brigade pilfers a bit of Tomb Raider here, a bit of Uncharted there in its puzzle challenges. But, really, it’s the gunplay you’ve come for, and with a team of trigger-happy pals, there’s many hours of zombie-popping entertainment awaiting you.

Guacamelee! 2

PS4/PC  Age: 12+

★ ★ ★ ★

THE original delivered a surprisingly amusing Metroidvania, crossing a wacky Mexican wrestling theme with a side-scrolling platformer that catalogued the misfortunes of masked crusader Juan Aguacate. Now developer Drinkbox repeats the trick with another helping of luchador lunacy, in this instalment juggling parallel timelines to introduce new dimensions to the gameplay.

The appeal starts with the striking art style, a day-glo palette that renders your portly wrestler/dimension wrangler and his enemies in rather gorgeous fashion. Juan embarks on his comedic quest to defeat the resurrected dark side with just a few moves under his belt. But he quickly learns several more as the enemies scale in difficulty and the need to switch instantly between timelines demands quick fingers.

Most funny of all is the Juan’s chicken transformation, which grants him special abilities and unlikely power for a small ball of feathers.

Guacamelee 2 enables up to four players to experience the storyline together but anything more than two degenerates into a messy blur that serves nobody well. In solo mode, it keeps up a steady flow of belly laughs and improves the original in myriad ways. Not many sequels can say that.

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