The past few years have seen a dramatic upsurge in the number of games coming to American shores via small publishers and independent developers in foreign countries. With the advent of easy international sales systems online, it has become easier than ever for a publisher or developer to sell their wares all over the world. This has led to a large number of European, Asian, and Russian games finding their way to the US, and that's good news for gamers.
A recent arrival is the American release of RIP, created by Russian developer/publisher White Elephant Games. The game is available as a free demo and an online-purchase download from the White Elephant website, and it is a good pick for PC gamers looking to outfit a home arcade cabinet, or who just love a good arcade-styled shooter. With its quirky vibe and strategic upgrade system, RIP is certain to find a dedicated audience in the US.
RIP is not a complicated game. Mainly, you point and shoot, which is done by pointing and clicking your mouse. You choose one of three characters: Rock and Roll, Halloween, or Death. The game plays out on a single screen, where your chosen character sits in a stationary turret and sprays a steady stream of steaming hot chaos from the barrel. Swarms of enemies approach your turret, or "Ring," and you must mow them all down. That's it. There is a "story" mode, which features virtually nothing that can be construed as a "story" element, but moves you through a sequence of increasingly difficult levels. If you're looking for deep, life-changing gameplay experiences, don't look here.
But that's OK-- plenty of games get bogged down trying to do too much at once. RIP is obviously targeted at arcade shooter fans, and the addition of a strategic skill-development layer adds a lot to the gameplay. For each enemy you kill, you're awarded experience points. These points can be renewed for skill upgrades which add new abilities or effects to your character. The skills available differ between the three characters, and they run the typical gamut of skill types: increase chance of freezing enemies on shot, increase damage of each shot, increase armor, earn bonus experience points, leech health with each shot, etc.
The variation in these skill trees provides the biggest difference between the three characters. There are also slight variations in the appearance of each character. Rock and Roll looks like a Devil, Halloween looks like the headless horseman, and Death looks like the grim reaper. These seem like odd names for the characters, especially "Halloween," which I just can't figure out. I've never seen "Halloween" personified, and I'm not sure what Rock and Roll has to do with the whole "dark otherworld" theme. Well, OK, I can see what it has to do with the theme, but it seems awkward to personify Rock and Roll as Satan.
But these are small complaints of translation. There are many of these that can be levied at RIP-- The in-game text is full of weird sentences and strange phrases. While these mistakes never really interfere with figuring out the game, they are unmissable (and sometimes funny). I'd rather see a flawed translation than none at all.
My only real complaint about RIP is that it is simply too shallow. There is no way to move your turret, which has its pros and cons. On one hand, it is very approachable for folks who aren't into serious twitch gaming because a gamer only has to mind the shooting without movement. On the other hand, shooter fans are some of the biggest adherents to chaotic, twitchy gaming, and the most highly appreciated shooters are anything but "easy" to control for newcomers.
RIP is really fun for 15 minutes, and then pretty easy to walk away from. The strategic component of developing the right skills to succeed on a given level keeps it entertaining for multiple rounds and makes it easy to come back to the game after a break. It would be a great game to load up in your MAME arcade cabinet, but the lack of a multiplayer mode hinders its party aspect. In the end, RIP seems like a great title to keep hanging out on your laptop or office computer for those requisite momentary distractions.
RIP is a clever game-- it even features a "kid-friendly" mode where all the blood is replaced with flowers. And although it combines some interesting elements, RIP doesn't really do anything new. It is the kind of game I'd love to see on Xbox Live with a multiplayer mode, but also at regular Xbox Live indy game prices (which range from $5-10). At $19.95, RIP is priced too high for most gamers. It strikes me as clearly a $9.99 title.
If you're in the market for a light, but playable, shooter with a slightly different feel, you could do much worse than RIP. Independently developed and published, gamers should at least be able to admire the effort. The demo is free, and should be on your list of things to do today. Check out the RIP download online here