Indie Quickie: Wrack

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A balls to the wall arcade first-person shooter like they used to be made in the good old days.

Who made it and where can you get it? After six long years in the making and an initial release in Early Access, Wrack is out now in full on Steam from developer Final Boss Entertainment. It sells for $14.99 with a 10% discount until October 7th.

How much did we play? Right around two hours, which was long enough to finish four of nine campaign missions on medium difficulty and briefly get a taste of score and time attack modes as well as a couple user mods.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? Nothing comes to mind. I haven’t seen any bugs or noticed any glaring option or feature omissions. Initially, I was going to mention how some of the cutscene storyboard panels were not colored in, but that oversight was just corrected in an update since I last played.

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Why should you play it?

    If Doom, XIII and Bulletstorm hooked up for a kinky ménage à trois, their steamy soup of love juices would breed a game a lot like Wrack. Still not sold? What if I told you the game’s starting melee weapon, instead of some dinky knife or crowbar, is a giant, futuristic two-handed sword known as the Hyperblade? It’s in here alongside an arsenal of more typical retro guns like a peashooter pistol, a beefy shotgun, and a plasma blaster. Yup, I knew that’d push you over the top.

    Despite having fresh comic book style cel-shaded graphics that aren’t too far behind what the AAA big boys are pushing, in terms of gameplay Wrack is a throwback to the MS-DOS days of FPS design when levels consisted of mazes of corridors and mechanics that didn’t hold your hand every step of the way. Forget about reloading, iron sights, multiple alt-fire gun abilities, peek and lean, cover, automatically regenerating health/armor, and constant checkpoints. All of these modern comforts have been stripped away in favor of presenting a true retro challenge, meaning you’ll have to deal with limited ammo supply, permanent health and armor drain only replenished by item pick-ups, insta-death pitfalls, a limited pool of lives (which can be increased through 1-ups), and checkpoints spaced out far enough to keep your focus sharp so you don’t get complacent feeling like the game will bail you out with a nearby respawn if you decide to get careless. This is a game that tests the long lost skills of strafing, kiting and twitch aiming precision. Seriously, the game moves so fast and twitchy that all the strafing and quick camera shifting will make your eyes roll around in their sockets until your stomach flips inside out and your brain fries inside your skull. I mean that in the best possible way, of course.

    Rooted in the past though it may be, Wrack elevates its crusty old mechanics by incorporating arcade elements of speedrunning and high scoring, influenced by the kill with skill combo chaining flair of more modern titles like Bulletstorm or the underappreciated Bizarre Creations game The Club. Killing enemies consecutively before an on-screen timer bar runs out extends the kill streak and builds the multiplier, encouraging you to play with the metaphorical pedal to the metal. While there isn’t some huge list of different skill shots to master, the game does provide gory opportunities to keep combo chains going by “gibbing” the intact corpses’ of previously killed baddies (and boy to they gib into glorious masses of bloody alien offal meat) or triggering barrel explosions to take out a large group in a single blast. Extended combos also build up unique finishing moves for each gun, so if the combo meter is about to die and you’re going to lose it anyway, you might as well click that right mouse button to end your current streak with a bonus point bang.

    Best of all, the game is balanced in such a way that you can play it one way or the other–or both! If you just want to take your time to play the game like an old school FPS, ignoring the timer and combo meter, you can do so and still have a blast. If you’re the type who enjoys memorizing level layouts and re-running maps to maximize completion time and high score, this game fills that demand too. The levels offer plenty of treasure collectibles and secret areas to reward the methodical approach, while playing in the fast lane has its own set of rewards in the form of performance medals and leaderboard bragging rights. See, best of both worlds.

Parting Thoughts: Some players might take issue with the fact that the game only offers nine stages, but Wrack does strike me as the type of game that’s built around replay. So, if you’re the type of gamer who primarily plays games to go through the given series of campaign missions and call it a day, you may not find maximum value here. However, should you decide to dive in, the game comes with a good amount of supplemental content in the form of multiple difficulty settings, time and score attack modes (with dedicated leaderboards and replay saves so you can spectate top runs), a gallery of unlockable concept artwork, and a level editor with full Steam Workshop integration so you can search for and download user-made stages from within the game (certain mods do require a quick restart to activate). Above all else, the game looks like a comic book brought to life and plays like an early-90s dream, offering the right amount of challenge and frustration to keep you running and gunning without causing you to rage out of your mind. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s smooth, it’s stylish and, most of all, Wrack is totally wrad!

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Wrack was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!