As if we didn’t have enough hardcore side-scrolling action games to sort through this year, we’ve got one that’ll cater specifically to you old-school headbangers — Valfaris. The game puts you in control of the ultimate warrior, as he battles nefarious alien enemies on a distant planet. Its difficulty indicates that it’s not a game for everyone. But if you like teeth-gnashingly tough challenge with some hard rock included for good measure, be ready to throw up the horns.
As a soldier whose ship crash-lands on the planet, it’s up to you to take out the trash, using a general firing weapon and a sword. That makes it easy to sort enemies out both up close and from a distance. But along the way, you’ll pick up extra upgrades as well, including a sweet shotgun-style weapon and a sword that can cut even deeper into enemies. And that’s just within the first hour of play.
The last game that Steel Mantis made was Stain: Back From Hell, and while that game had its heart in the right place, its brain was firmly out, as it just wasn’t that much fun. Fortunately, Valfaris delivers where it could not, mostly thanks to solid gameplay and an approach that Jack Black would probably get a kick out of. It’s definitely something for those of you that listen to the likes of Iron Maiden and Slipknot on a regular basis.
That said, the game can be tough. This is mainly due to your character not being able to dodge attacks quickly and enemies popping up consistently in some places. It took me forever to get through some sections just because there were parts where two enemies popped up after killing one. Some balancing could be useful with a later patch.
Valfaris is moderately fair, though, mainly due to its checkpoint system. You pick up these little icons that can activate markers over the course of the stage, and they’re nicely spread out. What’s more, you can also change your loadout at these spots, depending on what kind of enemies lie ahead.
The rest of the gameplay, lacking dodge aside, is pretty solid. Your guns perform accurately enough; and you’re able to get around a level with ease. Plus, the boss battles are nothing short of spectacular, though you’ll require split second timing in parts, lest you become a stain on the wall.
The visuals really know how to generate a spooky rock-and-roll inspired world, with moody coloring, fantastic animation and some neat hidden areas to find. Again, there are times that the enemies can be cheap popping out of the woodwork, but it all ties in to level memorization and eventually “getting good,” as some kids call it.
But, of course, the highlight is the music. It is outstanding, a thrilling soundtrack that would be welcome at most metal concerts. The composers did a slam bang job here keeping the mood up and running, even if things become diabolically hard later in the game.
If you can stomach the game’s overwhelming difficulty at times, as well as the act that you’ll need to do more than simply roll out of the way, then Valfaris comes recommended. It delivers a tough, no-nonsense thrill ride that’s all about the metal, and we’re all about the metal so that suits us. The soundtrack is unbeatable and the game’s design is way more appealing than the developer’s previous work. I’m also a big fan of the gameplay, though, again, it could use some tweaking as far as enemy placement goes.
Rock on, metal fans, because this game is for you.
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