Waking up in a pod, you look at your mutated claws and realise that you have been infected by an alien entity. After breaking free, your goal is to find the escape shuttle and get the hell out of there whilst fighting off the creatures who get in your way.
If that sounds like a very basic story, then you’re right. This is a shooter inspired by 90s classics, so it’s all about shooting stuff and less about story details.
And that’s absolutely fine by me!
(Many thanks to JanduSoft for the review code.)
EXODEMON VS PREDATOR
What sets Exodemon apart from other ‘Boomer Shooters’ is that our unnamed scientist doesn’t actually use any guns. Heck, with those claws I doubt she’d even be able to pull the trigger. The good thing is that those claws are pretty handy for ripping into any creatures that get in her way – so much so that it’s even mapped to the primary attack button and can’t be swapped out for anything else. It’s a little counter intuitive since the right trigger is mapped to the left claw, and vice versa, but you do get used to it after a while. This attack also deals a pretty hefty amount of damage too, so is a great way to finish off enemies and conserve precious ammo. These claws also make you feel a bit like the Xenomorph from the Aliens franchise, especially as it shares the same ridiculous FOV from the AVP titles. It works though as the FOV really makes you feel more like a creature than just some random dude. What’s more the game embraces the FOV, even going as far as letting you adjust it even further should you so desire.
Even though you’ll only have claws on-hand, that’s not to say that you won’t find other weapons along your way. The lab on Planet Exo seems to be researching alien weaponry, and your Exodemon can fuse with them to provide you with extra firepower. Don’t expect any noticeable differences, however, since new weapons are primarily just a colour swap. That’s not to say they’re unimpressive though, as you can arm yourself with a shotgun and grenade launcher, amongst other things. They’re pretty fun to use and all of them have utility, so you’ll probably swap between most of them throughout your playthrough. These weapons, along with your health, can also be improved by finding hidden upgrades throughout the levels. They’re pretty well hidden, but it’s not like in those classic games where you need to press every wall in the blind hope you will find a path; instead, it’s more like Doom Eternal whereby you often see the area you need to get to, but then have to find a way to actually reach it. This is way more satisfying and far less frustrating in my opinion, so I’m glad the developers went this route with the secrets.
QUAKING IN MY BOOTS
You may be thinking that the creatures in the game will be horrific monsters reminiscent of the foes in the Doom or Quake series, especially with the game’s artwork, but they’re actually more like cartoony blue blobs instead. Sharing the same colour scheme can lead to most of the monsters just blending together. I honestly find it hard to differentiate between most of the enemies at range, which often led to me being inappropriately prepared when entering combat. The lack of gyro assisted aiming also compounds this issue since you’ll have a hard time aiming at enemies that are either small or on a different plane to yourself. There are these small enemies that bounce around in large packs, and I often felt that I was taking damage more than I should just because I couldn’t target the damn things. Luckily the enemy AI is complete dog turd and can often be exploited using cheap methods, such as standing on the other side of a doorway. Later on in the game when you start getting bombarded with enemies, these cheap tactics can provide an extra advantage and negate any difficulty that the game may otherwise have had. The game doesn’t have any difficulty settings and I feel like the game was just right for me to have a fun time playing through, but other games that are of different skill levels may think differently. There’s a reason FPS games have had difficulty modes since time immemorial, and Exodemon really should have followed suit.
Whilst the enemies leave much to be desired, the level design fares much better. Each level is generally quite small in size, but there’s usually quite a lot of exploration to do. Most of it revolves around finding switches to unlocks doors or enable elevators, but it never really gets boring. Even when you have to do some dreaded First Person Platforming, the game controls surprisingly well and you won’t often get frustrated with it. The platforming is quite forgiving and I rarely had moments that resulted in me screwing up a jump. Strangely enough, the game does contain a double jump, but it seems to be a hidden feature. If you tap jump quick enough, you’ll double jump and it will give you a little extra height or distance, but it only works if you do it quickly. There’s never any need to do it, but it can help with some of the platforming sections in the game, or to allow for some of that sweet 90s cheese. Both the double jump and strafing will allow skilled players to skip enemy triggers or parts of the level, and it’s really satisfying when pulled off. I’m not sure if the developers intended this as a throwback to those old games, but it’s very welcome nonetheless. In fact, my replays of the game were greatly enhanced by this, as it encouraged me to find more optimal routes through the levels. The game has a reasonable amount of variety packed within the 18 levels, and will probably take about 5-6 hours to beat – depending on whether you hunt for the hidden upgrades.
I spent longer than this to beat the game though, due to one major problem with the game: it is rife with game-breaking bugs. I had to stop playing and restart my playthrough on three separate occasions due to bugs, and had to restart levels numerous more times than that. The most common bug is that your character may not respawn after death (I believe as a result of killing yourself), sending the screen into blackness. Restarting the level won’t fix it, so you have to quit out of the game and start again to resume. Others are more serious, including one that made the slow motion effect never wear off – even in the title screen! These bugs were so commonplace that it did sour the experience a little, but I can’t say that I didn’t have fun speeding my way through the levels again! It’s worth noting that the developer has been very communicative regarding these issues, and I foresee a patch in the very near future to iron these out. Should that be the case, I will amend the review accordingly!
Exodemon may not be a perfect game, but I certainly had a great time playing it. The creature design may be a little lacklustre, and the lack of difficulty options, mission select, and gyro assisted aiming are big issues. That being said, if you are after a budget ‘Boomer Shooter’ experience, then you should have a good time with this – although you may want to wait until it’s patched!