Spellrazor Is “A Haunted Videogame From 1981”

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.

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  1. phlebas says:

    Ooh, that reminds me of Halls of the Things with a meta layer. Could be fun!

  2. KDR_11k says:

    So this is Polybius?

    • Fluttermind says:

      No, but the guy who made Spellrazor allegedly went to work on it at Sinneschlosen… and then disappeared.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I wish that urban legend wasn’t ruined with talk about shady men in black suits coming to arcades and retrieving data from the machines.

  3. Mr_Blastman says:

    This game is awesome. Thanks.

    • Mr_Blastman says:

      And to add… it is like Rogue meets Robotron meets Nethack.

  4. pullthewires says:

    Is it actually based on a lost ’80s game, or is that just the setup?

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Setup. There is an urban legend about an arcade machine called Polybius that this was likely inspired by.

      • pullthewires says:

        Thanks. I suspected as much, still sounds like a fun idea though.

  5. tifaucz says:

    So, creepypasta is a game genre now. I like that.

  6. Butts says:

    This is becoming a bit of a popular theme, isn’t it? Games that have elaborate “haunted” backstories.

    This game, Pony Island and that other (possibly Spanish) game covered on RPS about a game that “doesn’t want to be played” all come to mind.

    None of them have been of any interest to me, although that’s more a coincidence of them seeming like things I wouldn’t enjoy playing and not due to their “meta-narrative” aspects.

  7. Kaeoschassis says:

    Strongly reminded of Triangle Wizard in terms of visual style, moderately so in terms of gameplay. (Everyone try Triangle Wizard, the way different spells, enemies and abilities interact makes it a lot of fun once you get past the initial learning curve. link to trianglewizard.webs.com )

    Will definitely be giving this a go. Sometimes I kind of miss the days where games commonly just left you to figure out what everything did on your own. Sometimes.

  8. cloudnein says:

    Loving this game! Every time I play it, I discover new details, new strategies, new hidden goodies. The controls, which would seem insane, are quite functional.

  9. April March says:

    That reminds me of the Caligula game in Adult Swim where each weapon is mapped to a key in the keyboard. Also you have to scream into the mike to become more powerful. Unless you tell the game you don’t want to, in which case, you don’t.