Game Info:

Infected Shelter
Developed By: Dark Blue Games
Published By: Dark Blue Games
Released: Nov 11, 2019
Available On: Windows
Genre: Beat ‘em up, Rogue-lite
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: Up to four players (remote play support)
Price: $9.99

Thank you Dark Blue Games for sending us a review code!

Stop me if you ever heard of this one: Zombies, procedural-generated rooms, permadeath, side-scrolling beat ‘em ups. I know I know, we’ve had a lot of the former three in the past decade. Infected Shelter isn’t exactly trying to be original or unique. However, sometimes sticking to what works helps out standing out from the crowd. A two-man project by Dark Blue Games, Infected Shelter treads familiar ground, yet adds popular themes of the 2010s to add a small twist to the rather ancient beat ‘em up genre.

So these Mad Max looking dudes bust down the door of this biologist creating some sort of antiserum and kidnap her for whatever nefarious plans they have in store. Now it’s up to a wheelchair-bound man and his assistant, a young female electric guitarist, an amputee, and a fat man to save her. I must say, this is one eccentric cast! (Wouldn’t be out of place in an Adult Swim show.) The premise is simple enough but 99% of beat ‘em ups out there were never known or praised for their story. Maybe it should get an award for featuring a disabled cast?

The general gameplay loop is like any beat ‘em up. The screen scrolls to the side on a 2D plane, you beat up a bunch of enemies, the next part opens up. You repeat this until the boss shows up. You beat the pants off them and now you go back to step one and do it all over again until the credits roll. But this is two decades into the 21st century! Slap in some rogue-lite elements and you got an excuse to try anything out. Unlike most beat ‘em ups, there is no life system. Death means death, you gotta start from the very beginning if you mess up. Like most rogue-lites, you collect a bunch of power-ups that only apply for the current run. As you vanquish your adversaries, you’ll collect blueprints that unlock many things such as weapons, equipment, passive abilities, and special skills that help out in combat for your next run. The weapons are pretty sweet as there are a dozen unique ones each with three other variants that can inflict many different debuffs to the enemy.

There are even survivors that you can find that will help you out at the beginning of a new run, such as letting you choose from a list of skills, weapons, items, and so on before you go on. During specific areas, shops and hidden paths can be found where stats and animal helpers can be found or bought with the currency found in your small adventure.

Infected Shelter

Strong Points: Tight, responsive controls; solid beat ‘em up mechanics
Weak Points: Unbalanced difficulty; rogue-lite mechanics do not add much to the experience
Moral Warnings: Very, very violent; pentagram symbol; undead/supernatural creatures; slightly sexualized clothing; crude/toilet humor; alcoholism

Dark Blue Games recommends that a controller works best with the experience. Although keyboard and mouse controls are fine, the default controls are strange—like, who uses the mouse for side-scrolling ‘beat em ups? They can be remapped so if your only choice is what your computer came with, I suggest rearranging the controls to your liking. As for how the characters control—it is responsive and functional. Every press is accurate and not once did I have a moment where I felt that certain things were the fault of the game instead of me simply not reacting to it fast enough. There are light attacks, heavy attacks, blocking, and dodging. Certain combinations of light and heavy attacks let you either throw enemies or knock them into the are continuing with an air combo. Each character controls the same and has similar combos, but what sets them apart mostly are their stats and special randomized traits that they can start with. Some characters have better health values, while others have better damage output on their skills.

As for the enemies, there are zombies, military personnel, robots, and mutants. All the enemies have different attack patterns. Some are so slow that even a blind man can dodge them, and others are so fast that they’ll hit you nearly as fast as the signs for the attack show. Some enemies even spawn with weapons. Enemies are fun to fight as there are typically a lot of them on screen at any given time and they put up resistance too. They won’t let you wail on them all you want and if hit with too many consecutive light attacks, they’ll retaliate with "super armor", leaving them unable to be stunned by attacks for a short period of time. Some enemies can even pick up the items that you used and found if you leave them on the ground for too long.

A tier above them are the elite enemies that have purple health bars. They’re tougher and way more durable. They’re also less fun to fight as when they’re below 25% health, they have these desperation moves that they use in a high frequency, deal lots of damage, and leave little time for retaliation. Most times they fell to cheesy tactics I’ve discovered while playing. Above even the elite enemies are bosses. Four in total, where the first three are randomized and the final boss is always the same. Depending on the order, the three bosses may even have more (or less) moves to use. I do wish there were more bosses to fight as the same three bosses all the time can get rather old.

The best way to describe how Infected Shelter looks is Happy Wheels, but with a bit more polish. What I mean by that is that Infected Shelter has a cartoon aesthetic. The color pallet is bright and cheery and the character design can range from rather standard features or exaggerated body parts. That kind of art style never did anything for me but there is an effort put into some of the animations. I guess the aesthetics work with the rather over-the-top setting and goofy characters while they traverse a forest, a ruined city, a snowy mountain, and the wastelands. Sometimes, with too many effects going on at once, it can be hard to tell what’s going on. As for music, as far as I've heard, there are only three pieces: a main menu and credits theme, and two other themes that play through the whole game. The two themes with the guitar riff sound nice at first, but when you realize this is all you’re going to be hearing, they both get old very quickly. Sound effects (especially explosions) are also notably loud compared to every other sound so it's recommended to turn down the SFX in the options menu.

Infected Shelter
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 72%
Gameplay 15/20
Graphics 6/10
Sound 5/10
Stability 5/5
Controls 5/5

Morality Score - 64%
Violence 1/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 7.5/10

After playing a few dozen runs and winning most of them, I realize that the rogue-lite elements don’t actually do all that much for this kind of experience. There is a lot to unlock and unlocking things isn’t tedious as every run to completion you’re guaranteed a couple dozen or more blueprints for more items. There is replay value to be found thanks to the rogue-lite elements, but if they were simply removed (with some small tweaks), I don’t believe the game would be any better or worse without them. I also came to conclude that Infected Shelter is pretty unbalanced in its abilities and weapons. Some unlockable passive abilities and weapons are so absurdly powerful that there is no reason not to pick them up. For example, one of the passive abilities I unlocked lets me grab one relic for free at the beginning of any playthrough. Once you unlock the relic that grants you double the money, you’re just always going to pick that one. And with the other passive ability that lets you choose what trait you start with, you can simply avoid any of the traits that have no downsides to it. When it comes to weapons, there was one that I unlocked that let me stun lock the final boss to death.

Now it’s about time I get around to morality. The most notable thing about Infected Shelter is the violence. You ever punch someone so hard they explode into giblets? Yeah, it’s that violent and it soaks in it. Decapitations, bone-breaking bludgeons, making swiss cheese out of enemies with your guns, immolation by Molotovs and flamethrowers. It’s not just for the heck of it either. There are some gameplay elements that revolve around the violence so there is an excuse for all of the carnage. Other notable things are one item called the “Devil’s Agreement” which is shown as a paper with a pentagram on it. The item grants you a second chance, but you lose 66 of your max HP. There are also items and skills that let you summon skeleton warriors, Some female characters can potentially have outfits that show off more leg than necessary and midriff. Toilet and crude humor are abundant as well, with many jokes being based on poops and farts. One of the bosses even uses pooping and farting as a way to attack, and one enemy pukes on your character. A few consumables happen to be wine and your character can get drunk off of them.

Infected Shelter manages to be a pretty standard and enjoyable beat ‘em up. Long gone are the days of trying to beat high scores so Dark Blue Games uses generated levels and permanent progression elements to supplement the replay factor. A run will take anywhere between an hour or an hour and a half, which is standard for many beat ‘em ups. Unlocking everything will probably take 12 hours or more depending on multiple factors. Although, if you weren’t sold on the beat ‘em up genre prior, this experience will do nothing to pull you in. If the extreme amounts of violence and implied occult doesn’t bother you, Infected Shelter is a good time either solo or with like-minded friends.

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Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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