Arcade style shooters are a dying breed, falling victim to the flash of three dimensions and a market's neverending thirst for realism. Off the top of my head, I can name only two or three recent shooters, and none have received the praise they once would have. They seem to be going the way of the arcade itself, but with no attempts whatsoever to preserve them in a home setting.
That is until independent Russian developer White Elephant Games, founded just three years ago, put out a small game called RIP, featuring exactly this sort of play. The top-down view of the arenas achieved the familiarity that I think the developers are aiming for, filling a niche that is becoming less competitive by the hour.
After choosing one of three anti-heroes (Death, Halloween, or Rock and Roll), you're seated in a turret with the task of eliminating each wave of incoming enemies. Shotguns, dual semi-automatics, rocket launchers, grenades and other traditional arcade weaponry is available, in addition to a few minor character-specific skills for each. Killing each enemy nets you experience, which as we all know is required to level up. You can earn additional experience by completing the boards in an accurate and timely manner, but by the time an average player reaches the final boss, they'll have racked up more than enough for all of the upgrades, so no hurry.
If you're looking for any kind of story in this Story Mode, give it a rest. It is nonexistent. No explanation of the title, why the three characters are there, who they're fighting or why, or anything of that nature. This isn't an RPG, so an extensive storyline isn't necessary, but something
would have been nice just to give the fight some context. I'm sure it all makes sense to the developers, but this is something that should have at least been included, even if it was hasty and incoherent. Some semblance of a narrative can be found on the website, but it only amplifies the confusion:
A cruel dictator, General Wildboar, has conquered the world. His evil cyber-mariners guard his lair and keep the entire planet under his control. Joyous holidays such as Christmas and Halloween were banned. Dreaming was a crime with a punishment of death. The world was falling deeper into darkness with no hope of recovery. When there are no heroes left in the land, help comes from some very unexpected places.
Who is General Wildboar? Why did he ban holidays? Why don't you fight him
? Since when does Rock and Roll care? Your best bet is to ignore this, chalk it up to a shifty translation and enjoy the rest of the game.
The map settings you'll encounter have a limited and likewise familiar range: you'll fight in deserts, snowy areas, etc. No surprises here. The aspect of level design that I'm interested in is how they managed to cram a puzzle element in there. In a game where your only choice of action is to shoot, and your enemies don't vary too greatly, it's fun to see how White Elephant could make every level unique. They're not just repetitive tests of how accurate your mouse hand is, but how you make judgments regarding the type and quantity of incoming hostiles, compared to your resources and environment.
Going through the Story mode with one character will only take a few hours, but after that, and the insanely difficult and tacked-on Rush mode, the game doesn't offer much else. I applaud the creative team responsible for RIP: Strike Back for developing a decent shooter in a time where shooters don't make much money, and I'd love to support their cause, but the $20 price tag is a little hefty for this game. You could certainly spend that amount in less productive ways, but the same or better gameplay and graphics can be had for free on Newgrounds, Shockwave, or a half dozen other sites.