Procedural Generation is king in indie games at the moment. Dungeons of Dredmor, FTL and Binding of Isaac have combined to destroy the free time of gamers the world over… And that’s just the big three. There is so much else out there – countless games generating infinite worlds for us to explore, kill in and inevitably die in.
Now I just need to develop a program that will generate these articles for me…
Wasteland Kings comes to us thanks to Vlambeer and the second Mojang-run, charity-funding game jam, and it is surprisingly good.
‘Surprisingly good’ sounds like it could be an insult, but the surprise comes not from the development team, but from the short amount of time they put this gem of a game together.
Wasteland Kings is a roguelike shoot-em-up. The closest comparison would be The Binding of Isaac with some of the visceral, thumping action of Hotline Miami, but at no point does it ever feel like a mere wannabe – it has style of its own in spades.
You start the game as one of four different classes/races/mutants with a pistol and the goal of becoming king of the wasteland. The way to become king is to negotiate fragile political alliances between the various wasteland clans and eventually unite the post-apocalyptic lands under your kind and benevolent rule… Wait, sorry, I got confused for a second there. The only way to become king is to shoot everything that moves, pick up better weapons and mutate your character for a better chance at survival.
The mutations are fairly simple (to begin with at least – despite many deaths I haven’t managed to get past Level 3), giving you extra health, extra speed, slowing down enemy bullets and the like. In my mind I’m imagining some future day when Wasteland Kings gets more time invested in it and the mutations take hold and spread through the game and over your character like the power-ups in Isaac – it’s a beautiful day, believe me.
Your character isn’t quite as fragile as the animal mask wearing star of Hotline Miami, but even with a health-boost power-up you’ll need to sharpen your shmup dodging skills if you want to last more than a handful of minutes, and quick aiming reflexes will be needed to get through the swarms of wasteland critters.
The pixel-art is extremely crisp, even with the game being output at 320×240 and then blown up to full screen, the playable characters and enemies are all distinctive, and the animations are spot-on. The soundtrack too is fantastic, with a couple of infectious tunes that fit the feel of the game perfectly.
If you’ve been slow to get on the procedurally generated bandwagon, Wasteland Kings is a great place to start. It’s easy to pick up and play, it’s great fun, and as it’s the spawn of a short game jam, it doesn’t have the utterly-lose-yourself depth of bigger roguelikes.
Wasteland Kings is available by donating to charity via Mojam before March 2nd. I’d jump on it, because there’s no word on when/how it might be available after that – but I hope Vlambeer might be inspired to flesh it out into a fully-fledged title. A great, little indie game and a warm fuzzy feeling inside? Who can argue with that?