Spellrazor [official site] is a “creepy resurrection of a semi-mythical game considered lost back in 1981,” according to its Game Jolt page. It’s also a top-down shmup with 27 weapons, each one assigned to a different button on your keyboard, and a console where you can access the fictional story of the game’s own development. It’s also also free in its current alpha state and worth your time.
You control your movement with the arrow keys and when you encounter enemies, time automatically slows down to a crawl. That gives you opportunity to decide how to approach what’s in front of you: will you use your basic weapon by pressing A, launch a bouncing bullet by pressing B, use one of your more powerful weapons like Z for zap, or flee by pressing T to teleport. It’s a neat combat mechanic, initially providing the fun of using unidentified potions in a roguelike and gradually giving way to more tactical thinking.
There’s a lot else going on in the game too, though. The game is home to strange glitches, including garbled text hidden in the walls which you can decipher and use to unlock doors or drop commands into the ‘console’ you open by pressing enter. The console also gives you access to other debug commands, including a development diary telling the tale of the game’s ’80s development and its creator’s quick mental decline. It looks better in motion than the image above suggests, too. I can prove that with this trailer:
I have some experience of the early-’80s games being referenced here, such as Defender and Robotron, but Spellrazor reminds me more of the freeware scene from ten years ago, where you’d download something for nothing from the internet and discover a deep, surprising passion project.
The author of the game’s port from the original source code is Dene Carter, co-creator of Fable and member of the original Dungeon Keeper team. He’s been blogging about the game’s development a little, including this interesting post about AI and pathfinding. There’s more in this TIGSource thread, and you can download and play the game now via the GameJolt link above or via Itch.io.