A less-than-four-Peggles demo for Ex-XBox Live shooter Assault Heroes has gone up over at Gamers' Hell. From the splendidly named Wanako Games, it allows you to play for half an hour of unlimited play before having to cough up twenty dollars to continue. What are you continuing? Shooting. Lots of shooting, in the manner of Total Carnage - that is move and shoot separated in the manner of Robotron or Smash TV, scrolling upwards with infinite enemies to annihilate. Also, fundamentally, two player.
Which got the retrohead part of Jim and I enormously excited, so we ran around trying to get it working. Which is where things started to go awry.
To set up an online account - there's no LAN option - you require a GameSpy login. Jim and I have several, but we go a long way to avoid using them. I try and remember my details, but it doesn't appear to be letting me have it. I figure screw it, so make a new one using the in-game interface, but it keeps on telling me the password isn't acceptable, without telling what the rules for password acceptability is. And it's also one of those forms that when it fails to enter details, just deletes the entire form requiring you to enter them from scratch. I give up, go to GameSpy, and work out what my account actually is, and get an Assault Heroes account working. Jim, however, is having trouble. He can't get at his old GameSpy account, and tries to make a new one on the page. It keeps on telling him that it's unable to make an account with those details. Perhaps because they're mostly gibberish? He changes them for actual real-world stuff. It still won't let him. What makes it worse is that it's not actually telling him what the problem is, and just generally looking at you and shrugging.
Jim gives up. I start playing properly by myself, with my thirty-minute trial cut down to a mere 15 minutes.
The moral is: GameSpy is an unnecessary complication for Gamers and forms which delete themselves are rubbish.
So, storming off by myself... well, uncuttable cutscene of ship-landing. Not looking good.
AND THEN IT ALL KICKS OFF.
Frustratingly, I didn't get any good screenshots of the game in play, since I only had fifteen minutes to make myself aquainted to it. But, basically, it looks like this:
(As Jim noted, things flashing white when they shoot them is among the finer of shooter tropes)
It's full of things I love: it's all-out-action, all the time. It's got those guys who run towards you screaming, all kamikazed-up like in Serious Sam. It's got drill-things emerging from the floor. It has a jeep with a flamethrower. It's got a two-tiered life system, where you start in a vehicle, and when that gets wiped out, you're on foot. It's even got a novel sub-level section, where you go down into an Alien Breed/Alien Swarm underground section where you can't lose a single life, or you'll get booted back to the surface. And it's got lots of explosions. It hits that part of me which is forever back in Stafford playing 2-player SWIV with my Brother pretty hard.
Not that it hasn't its annoyances. Being a life-bar system rather than a one-hit=death model, it - as it usually does - leads to play that's a little foggy, lacking crisp precision. It strikes me as a little easy on Medium - I only died in my time playing when I was wrestling with some issue of control, but there is a hard mode, and a sort of hyperkinetic Commando-esque romp is occasionally just what you need. But my biggest problem is that half an hour strikes me as a little mean - for something like this, I'd have preferred a limited level selection rather than a time-limit. Or even just a bit more time, y'know.
In short: I'd recommend kicking back with the demo, especially if you can talk a mate to join you in a quick two-player rampage. But sort out your GameSpy stuff first.