Firing On All Cylinders – With only eight floors between you and the mainframe, Heavy Bullets dares you to test your survival instincts (and marksmanship) to see if you have what it takes to survive.
Rogue-like games are pretty popular right now. With the current forerunner The Binding of Isaac getting a much-anticipated reboot, and other solid games in the genre like Our Darker Purpose and Abyss Odyssey popping up, rouge-like the rogue like genre doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Despite their popularity however, almost all of the current rogue-like games share a similar sub-genre; RPG. While the combination of the two series certainly makes a formula that is both enjoyable and successful, one might wonder if the rogue-like genre would pair well with anything else. Well wonder no more, Heavy Bullets is here and has made quite the debut.
Heavy Bullets is an easy-to-play, but hard-to-master mishmash of rogue-like and first-person shooter. The combination may seem a bit strange, but they blend together wonderfully. The point of the game is very simple and straightforward. You are put in control of a nameless, faceless grunt working for a hunting facility. After a mainframe malfunction and a brief dialogue between two corporate entities, a message is sent out to all workers with a simple proposal; fix the mainframe and you will be rewarded with a huge cash prize. After that, it’s time for the games to begin!
The game immediately spawns you inside of the very beginning of the hunting facility with nothing but a revolver, and six bullets (five in the gun, and one in your inventory). After a bit of walking, you’ll come across a bank and… Oh, wait, it’s not there this time. And the room looks different. That’s right! As expected of games such as these, each floor is randomly generated. Sorry folks, no mapping out each area in hopes of easily rushing through things. Rather, slow and steady wins the race. With only three hearts (which isn’t much, I promise), health is incredibly precious. You learn very quickly to take things slowly, and to look – and listen – for enemies. Enemies often see you before you see them, but fortunately it’s generally pretty easy to tell where they’re coming from so long as you’re aware of your surroundings. It seems as though the creatures here are so excited at the prospect of hunting a janitor that they can’t contain themselves and let loose a squeal (among other noises) of anticipation as they rush toward your hapless hero.
After killing a few Imps and Snakeworms, you’re probably starting to get the hang of things. You may find yourself continuing and perhaps turning a corner only to find more enemies! These guys are easy by now, one shot should kill them. But, wait, where did the bullets go? You only had six, and you’ve already used them all! Well my friends, in comes yet another unique mechanic. The game starts you with but six bullets, yes. While six seems like a small number (and let’s face it, it is), those six bullets are actually all you need to get through the entire game. Unlike bullets in real-life, those in Heavy Bullets are meant to be used over, and over, and over again. They never break; you can only lose ammunition by misplacing it. That’s right; the game tasks you with finding spent ammunition. Even when things get hectic, it is important to keep track of where you have fired and in one direction. While more bullets can be purchased or found in small amounts, the game quickly teaches players that no bullet should be left behind. Fortunately bullets, as well as coins dropped by enemies, in the world of Heavy Bullets have a tendency to jump up and down while making soft but audible noises unique to whichever item they may be. Because of this, it is much easier to locate items that you may normally have missed. Incidentally, bullets have to be reloaded. Manually. One at a time. Yes, I promise I’m being serious. While they may take some getting used to, these actually a rather ingenious set of mechanics which prevent players from foolishly running through everything and forces them to play the game as one of survival – as it was intended. They also serve the purpose of making the game incredibly difficult, which isn’t a bad thing for this game.
Stores also make an appearance in the game, and are quite vital to the survival of the player. Different stores are randomly selected and spawned throughout each floors. These stores, including Medbays, Banks, and Ammo Stores offer different kinds of support and a plethora of randomly-selected items to the player. Stores may even offer upgrades to various stats, which are permanent for the rest of the run Unsurprisingly, (almost) nothing comes for free. Baddies carry around money, ergo kills mean cash. Fortunately, money is somewhat easy to come by so long as you make sure to kill most of the enemies you come across. Banks are also quite helpful, and perhaps the most essential. With the game being of the rouge-like genre, it’s no surprise that everything collected during a run will disappear when the player is killed. Fortunately, banks allow you to store all the money you’d like and can also hold one item for later use. Bullets and grenades are not able to be deposited but are more common and replenished upon entering a new game. Banks also sell various upgrades, and the option to purchase Life Insurance and a Last Will. Life Insurance deposits a certain amount of money into the bank upon death based on the player’s wealth during time of death and level of the Life Insurance while Last Will carries items over to the next playthrough. Knowing when, where, and how to spend one’s money is just as important as anything else in this game. After all $1 could be the difference between an antidote or not.
Aesthetically, the game is very pleasing to both the eye and the ear. It is rather simplistic graphically, making use of a charming blend of minimalism and polygons. While not conventional, the environment of Heavy Bullets is very colorful, making use of a vibrant and exciting neon pallet. As much as one might expect things to be too bright, the colors contrast well with the solid-black of most enemies and the darker-colored grass thus giving a visual experience that is both exotic and mysterious. The music feels very right for the game, staying solid and easy to listen to throughout the whole game and makes sure not to take over any other aspect of the experience (unless you have the Boombox, of course). While the selection of music isn’t the most varied, it is all very fitting and never gets old.
Heavy Bullets seems to draw in fans of several genres. I highly encourage lovers of indie games as well as those into the rouge-like, FPS genres to check the game out. It’s quite the difficult game to master, so regardless of what video game-based walk of life you come from you had better be prepared to put some time into it. Eight floors may not seem like much, but the difficulty combined with the high replay value makes Heavy Bullets a game both checking out and sticking with through the bitter and hard-won end.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: Devolver Digital; Developer: Terri Vellmann; Players: 1; Released: September 18, 2014; Genre: Rouge-Like / First Person Shooter; MSRP: $9.99