There are are a lot of modern games that enthuse about their retro stylings. Many deliver a very modern, romantic view of what gaming was like in the 1980s. Squad Killer does not do this. Squad Killer plays as if it was made on a Commodore 64, for a Commodore 64. And is all the better for it.
There’s something humbling about Squad Killer‘s presentation. It makes you realise that all those ‘retro-inspired’ titles you’ve been playing lately have been just that: inspired. They are, in fact, built for a modern audience. A lot is taken for granted in gaming these days. Checkpoints, save data, glitch-free visuals. Squad Killer offers none of this.
Much like the recently released Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor, Squad Killer is intentionally basic. You can move, jump, shoot and throw grenades. And that’s all you’ll ever need. The challenge is simply to take out all the enemies on-screen before moving to the next level. We say ‘simply’, but the enemy selection is so varied that at first you’ll likely die half-a-dozen times before figuring out which enemies have homing bullets, which will charge at you, which will leave fire trails and so on.
The game follows the pattern of modern roguelikes such as The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon in that it randomly assorts the levels you’ll face from an available palette. This means that you will encounter the same level or boss on more than one playthrough, but never in the same order. Furthermore, the option to obtain upgrades every few levels may have you wishing for a specific option, only to find it’s not one of the randomly proposed purchases. Squad Killer certainly keeps you on your toes.
The presentation of the game is commendable. Sticking very heavily to that 8-bit proposition, it features only a small amount of colouration and minor breaks from the ruleset (most notably in the blood splatters). It even has an artificial glitch system in where, when things get rather hectic, bullets and other sprites may flicker just as they did in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System NES). Furthermore, the repetitive soundtrack harks back to a midi era. This is a game which revels in its basicness.
Squad Killer is a challenge that will likely become a favourite amongst old gaming friends. The simple premise of getting as far through the game as possible without dying is enough to entertain for an entire evening. Beyond that however, Squad Killer may struggle to keep your attention. Perfectly capable of providing bang for your buck, as long as you don’t expect too much.