A Buggy Release: Viriax Impressions

By Quintin Smith on March 30th, 2011 at 8:09 pm.

That's not a bug, that's a creature

Indie dev Locomalito is a bit of a genius. His work includes Hydorah, a stellar shmup, and L’Abbaye des Morts, a gorgeous ZX Spectrum-styled platformer, and he even goes as far as to provide box art and .pdf manuals for all his projects.

Tonight he’s released Viriax, a game which grants you control of a tiny virus and tasks you with infecting and killing a whole human. Go, go, brave little virus! Locomalito was good enough to send us an advance copy, and my infectious opinions await below.

I have an all-new respect for virii. If Viriax is to be believed (spoiler: it almost certainly shouldn’t be) successfully infecting a human is a task not to be undertaken lightly. You’ll need persistence, skill and brass balls. Do microorganisms have balls? These are the questions you shouldn’t be wasting your time with if you are to successfully complete Viriax.

Here’s how the game works: you pick a body part, like the heart or the stomach, and to successfully infect it you must steer your tiny, noble virus (who I wasted no time in nicknaming Microbi Wan Kenobi) to the very top of that level, which should take you some 12-15 minutes.

This is where John Walker might approve, because getting to the top of each level is a matter of double jumping. Also triple jumping. And, yes, quadruple and quintuple and sextuple jumping, and so on, because your virus can “swim” upwards with each tap of the jump button as you see fit. You can also dive back downwards in much the manner. Why would you want to dive downwards if you’re trying to get to the top? Because that’s how you stab enemies and break open power-up blocks, of course.

The snag is, each jump except those that begin on solid tissue and every single aggressive downward dive costs you stamina, shown in that big red bar at the top of the screen, and you lose a fat chunk of this each time you collide with an enemy, too. Run out of stamina and that’s it- it’s over. You die and your human lives on to procreate disgustingly and make copies of himself.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, you get stamina back by swimming through little red blood cell looking things, but there aren’t enough of these. No, not nearly enough. So you have to play it safe. You have to be a coy little virus and let those enemies live, and carefully leap from platform to fleshy platform. But what do I know? You can also play riskily- nipping and soaring upwards through the level, knowing there’ll be a fat cache of blood cells down the line.

Except this “knowing” will only ever be a gut feeling, because Viriax’s levels are – wait for it – randomised!

Look! Here’s me holed up in some sucker’s lung, facing a horrible obstacle course of bubbles and air vents without the stamina to make it all the way even if there weren’t any enemies. I got cocky, basically, and doomed myself.

One excellent part of Viriax is that when you fluff your delicate navigation of antibodies, collide with something and take damage, the immediate temptation is to just hammer jump and get out of there while you’re still in the invulnerable grace period. Hell, that’s what I still do. But the truth is that you need to maintain a steady tempo to get the most out of each jump. You need those fingers of yours to behave, and stick to the plan, although most of the time either they won’t or you won’t have a plan for them to follow and you will die, and you will swear, and you will try again.

I’ve successfully infected the Heart now and have come so close to infecting the Lungs that when I think about it I have trouble breathing. That’s the kind of game this is. But I want to go back and try again, because I know precisely what has to be done, and I know the patterns for the bosses, and there’s no way I’ll fail again, surely?

This is a great game, and I can’t wait to hear you guys lamenting the difficulty of the stomach, the brain, or even the final showdown with the nanotech factory that’s secreting all those really nasty metal enemies across the levels. Go! Go! Download! Show Locomalito you care, even if it’s just about the pretend box art he’s mocked up and the manual. Then get right down to the important business of dying and swearing.

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37 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Stijn says:

    Oh man, the image.

  2. Antsy says:

    Splendid! This the kind of game a creaky old bugger like me can play while complaining about mars bar shrinkage and ranting about the constant fear of nuclear annihilation (damn you Threads). All it needs is support for a quickshot joystick.

    Also, the music is fantastic!

  3. Mr_Hands says:

    This game is terrific. A truly tremendous effort.

  4. Dominic White says:

    I helped playtest this one, and put forward some balance suggestions. If you think difficulty ramps up too quickly… err.. blame me. Levels used to be longer and quieter, now they’re shorter and nastier. About 1/5th shorter, and an unquantifiable amount meaner.

    Anyway, it’s a gem, just like all of Locomalitos other games. Get them all. Play them all. Love them all.

    • Navagon says:

      Given my (lack of) ability when it comes to platformers I may as well cut straight to blaming you right now. :P

    • Acorino says:

      I love Hydorah, played it for many, many hours, yet never beat the second(!) level. Now seeing he made a new game with randomized levels feels almost like a dream come true. Only almost because I also hoped it would be a bit easier this time around…

      Damn you Dominic, DAAAMN YOOUUU!!!!!!!!!

    • Dominic White says:

      If it’s any consolation, Hydorah had some really dickish enemies that I asked to be toned down… So I guess it balances out?

  5. Coins says:

    It’s so hard. Yet, so fun. Why am I always shit at fun games?

  6. Sepulchrave76 says:

    Locamalito really is some kind of super indie genius. Getting this one now, having thorougly enjoyed his past efforts.
    I don’t want to put ideas into his head, but if Hydorah was released on, say, Steam, I would happily chuck a few quid his way
    Oh, and huge respect to Gryzor87, too. His soundtracks are always ace.

    Erp. Just played it and when I press F to go fullscreen, the graphics go all wonky, with big nasty lines everywhere. Anybody else getting this? (XP)

  7. BobsLawnService says:

    Thank you RPS. Having grown up with a ZX Spectrum these games are an absolutely brilliant reminder of my roots. If they weren’t as good as they are they would be awesome just for that fact but they are and I’m finding myself grinning stupidly from ear to ear as I swop between them.

    Excuse the piracy reference but I’m getting that vibe of when my older brother would come home from school with a TDK 60 full of random games I’d never heard of and I’d load them one by one and play them.

    One might say that was the Games Wot Made Me.

  8. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I’m really not in that type of mood today, but “Microbi Wan Kenobi” managed to brighten my day. That was one loud and well needed laugh. Thanks :)

  9. Sepulchrave76 says:

    6450 on the first level, up from my previous best of (a frankly embarassing) 200. It’s SO playable. The word playable was invented to describe this game.

    6500 now!

  10. Baf says:

    Hm. The first two images here look a lot like things in the old coin-op shmup Life Force. Is the lung scene also using things from some part of Life Force that I never saw?

  11. tlarn says:

    Very fun game; pick it up, play a bit and put it down easily if you want a quick game, but it’s still fun if you want to play for much longer. Only gripe is arrow keys are to move, but that’s laughably easy to work around, and even then it is merely a minor nuisance for someone used to using their left hand for movement.

    Definitely going to be on my computer alongside others.

  12. Dozer says:

    “Press Start”? There’s not enough joules in the rendered image. Clearly Locomalito has sold out to the consoles.

    • Sepulchrave76 says:

      Ah, if only he had. I would snap this up if it were on XBLA

  13. Sepulchrave76 says:

    Reminds me conceptually of X-Multiply, except there you were trying to stop an invasion.

  14. flipzeroto88 says:

    I just infected the heart. It seems like the game might get a bit repetitive, but that’s probably just because that first level was easy. I’m liking it though!

  15. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I like it. I’m rubbish at it though, it’ll probably take me ages to even complete a level – it’s like Super Crate Box all over again!

  16. Cynic says:

    Hmm, the graphics appear corrupted for me, or rather there appears to be a layer of corruption over the top of otherwise fine pixel-graphics, even at the start screen. Even tried redownloading it.

    • xesharpx says:

      Yeah, I’m having the same problem…..

    • AlephAleph says:

      I´m having the same graphics problem. Switched from windowed mode to fullscreen several times and it went away.

      It´s funny that a game about a virus infection looks corrupted!

    • Adriaan says:

      I’ve got the same problem: some weird semi-tiled semi-transparant layer of glitchy graphics over the main screen. In the wake of the refresh bar thing stuff shows up normally. Fullscreening it or switching fullscreen mode doesn’t make it go away either.

      I think Quinns jinxed it with his pun in the title…

  17. DrazharLn says:

    Seems very easy and slightly repetitive, not sure if that’s because I’m running it on Wine in Linux and it’s slower or something. Quite fun, though. Infected the heart with a score of 38025, got to level 60 something in the intestine with 34280.

    Soundtrack is excellent, though.

  18. hazard says:

    Don’t forget 8-bit Killer, his best game IMHO. The soundtrack is also amazing.

  19. Quaib says:

    This looks nice, but being quite sick I can’t bring myself to play this.

  20. Basilicus says:

    @ Mr. Quintin Smith:

    For what it’s worth, your eager reaction to the game is, er, infectious. I am convinced to download very few games, even free ones RPS recommends, but your words – so cleverly combined and placed one after another as they are – have convinced me to do just that right this very moment!

  21. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Let’s, all of us, take a minute here to appreciate the alt-text pun. C’mon – minute of silence, please. It’s beautiful.

  22. YohnTheViking says:

    This is just me being a pedantic molecular biologist, but that model is not of a virus a human should worry about. It’s a Lambda-phage, which mainly infects Escherisha coli.

    • Dominic White says:

      Whatever this is, it’s capable of feeling spite. Not only is it on a mission to trash this poor persons every major organ, but then it sets off to directly assault the nanomachine colony that was slowing it down earlier.

    • YohnTheViking says:

      Like I said, just me being really pedantic, the lambda phage on an electron microscope is AWESOME (like this; http://textbookofbacteriology.net/phagestructure.jpg)

  23. Ruggan says:

    Fun, but difficult. I played it for a bit and infected all save the last level. Got to level 70 on that one too, it’s just so… hard! But yeah, thanks for the story, never would have noticed it otherwise.

  24. Shazbut says:

    Brilliant game. High agency! Wooo

    I’m so grateful to Clint Hocking for introducing me to that concept

  25. Darko Drako says:

    Great little game, thanks for pointing me in its direction.

  26. nemryn says:

    I am enjoying this!

    It would help if I knew what all the powerups do, though.