The name, Immortal Redneck [official site], led me to expect a nineties-style daft shooter. Redneck Rampage meets Serious Sam, perhaps, given that the game is set in three increasingly dangerous pyramids, full of mummies, scarab beetles and sentient sarcophagi. Having played the game for a couple of hours now, I'm wholly convinced that the title is an error. This game isn't dipping its toes into the Build Engine era of parody and design. It's a very modern shooter in a way. Quake-like in its movement and layout, but borrowing enough roguelite elements to make it more a bedfellow of Ziggurat and Tower of Guns than Redneck Rampage.
That's my way of saying that if you were put off by the title, as I was, you should dismiss those doubts. While there is a plot, involving the titular redneck taking a holiday in Egypt and ending up cursed and immortal, none of it matters. Heck, you can unlock new characters that have no relation to the title fairly quickly. The theme is ancient Egypt plus many guns.
And beneath the theme, there's a solid game. There's a little of Rogue Legacy about the unlock system, which counters the punishment of permadeath with new unlocks that are persistent across playthroughs, making each run more interesting thanks to the presence of new stuff, and the pyramids themselves are stitched together from a huge pile of handmade rooms. As in Tower of Guns, some rooms are traditional arenas, packed with enemies and providing space to leap and dodge, while others focus more on traps or navigation.
It's the first non-mobile release from Spanish developers Crema and when I spoke to them at Rezzed, they told me that it's the game they've wanted to make since forming their studio. The timing is partly down to feeling ready, now that they've gained some experience working on mobile games, but partly because of the changing state of both the desktop and mobile markets. The success of DOOM and indie FPS games that rejected, or at least diverged from, the pace and pomp of many modern AAA shooters convinced Crema that an audience for Immortal Redneck existed.
I think it does. I think that because I'm part of that audience, which is why it'd be a shame if the title gave the wrong impression. Wacky hijinks are at a minimum, though the enemies often look like escapees from Cartoon Network's Power Zone - despite all the guns and violence, it feels more Johnny Quest than Duke Nukem. And that suits me just fine.
Whether the skill tree unlocks and the arsenal of weapons that I've barely scratched the surface of will provide enough variety to see me through to the end of the final pyramid, I'm not entirely sure. What I've played so far is solid rather than spectacular, but that might be enough. It's a game I can see myself returning to for a single attempt when I've got a chunk of time to kill, and I think that's precisely what it's designed to be. Not quite a coffeebreak FPS, more a lunchbreak FPS.
It's out on April 25th and I reckon it'll find a place in steady rotation on my playlist for a little while longer at least.