Review – Death Goat

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Review – Death Goat
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Death Goat
Action
Developer: Terminal Press
Publisher Terminal Press
March 27th, 2013 / December 7th, 2015 (PC)
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Long Beach, New York’s independent comic publishing company Terminal Press was started back in 2001 by Brian Ferrera. It’s best known for Toxic Teddies, 2008’s Candy Stripers, not to mention has worked with Nuclear Blast Records with Dimmu Borgir and Exodus. For the end of 2015, however, we are greeted with the first game release for the company: Death Goat. A throw back to the classic days of arcade shooters, the game has just released on PC through Steam, but was initially released in 2013 through Nocturnal Studio for the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace. But does this romp through gritty metal landscapes worth checking out, or is it far from an impressive debut under the moniker?

At its core, Death Goat looks good, but is as minimal an offering as you can. This “Early Development” title comes with three levels that sprawl across hell to permafrost plateaus, right down to an abandoned city in flames. You also get five different warriors to choose from, but the top down view leaves little variety in visual aesthetics other than Death Granny sitting in a wheel chair, and Death Tank being a literal tank. Sadly, the latter doesn’t move its image in any way to indicate direction outside the cannon on the top. There’s also a Grumpy Cat inspired character that plays up the black metal corpse paint angle a bit, and would make for an interesting addition if more were done with it, even so much as a subtitle in between waves at the very least. However, from the skull spiders to the large nightmarish death worms, from the top-down perspective, this game makes you feel like you’re in the right setting, even though the hero you choose is essentially a limited in animation clip art of a hand drawn person taken from a modern comic book series.

And, really, that’s the biggest flaw this game has. Death Goat offers so little outside of setting to really keep the player invested and, after a while, even the backgrounds get old fairly quick. It also doesn’t help that the atmosphere is hurt badly due to the mouse icon being on-screen at all times. This is highly problematic since this is a keyboard and mouse title without an option to use a controller to take full advantage of the twin-stick shooter potential. Think an animated White Zombie music video, but someone left a pencil sitting in every single shot in different places and you’ll understand how distracting it really can be.

This is perhaps due to the game’s budget, or, rather, where it went. The soundtrack is quite impressive, ranging from a number of solid unknown acts like Bloodshot Dawn, Tyrant of Death, Warforged, and many more, to a handful of staple, well-known acts like Holy Grail, God Forbid, and even Between the Buried and Me. Given that this title comes from Terminal Press, it’s safe to assume that the legal team paid the royalties for these songs, unlike some indie developers who have been caught lifting music without even so much as proper approval or acknowledging the original artist behind it. There is an abundance of music to be found here, as well as a random song option, but, that’s really an insult to the game since the music other people created greatly outweighs the original content the developers themselves designed.

Finally there’s the gameplay itself, which is just generic. You start in an enclosed area, enemies spawn around you, and you have to shoot them to stay alive as long as possible. It’s your basic Robotron 2084 arcade style shooter with a Metalocalypse finish. There are power-ups to be grabbed in the heat of battle but, other than the pentagram bomb, you often don’t know what you’re grabbing until you put a good amount of time in due to the color coded system. All these additional attacks are just colored orbs, like green being a machine gun, purple is a spread shot, and red is a laser beam that tears larger enemies apart like a hot knife through butter.

Sadly, these aren’t always effective, as there seems to be an issue with the weaponry response time. Sometimes it doesn’t fire at the click of the mouse, and too many times the pentagram bomb wouldn’t deploy when I needed it, even after clicking the right mouse button once or twice to get it to go off. I also found that some shots would just go right through enemies more than once and do nothing. The basic attack you start with will kill the small skull spiders in one shot. However, once in a while I watched both attacks just pass right through them without inflicting any damage whatsoever, causing me to run into them because I assume that, under the general damage rules established at the start of the first wave, they would have died.

Another issue to be had, which turns out to be a major one, is the score indicator on the heads up display. It takes up a good chunk of the top center of the screen, and a lot of times ends up being what causes you run head first into oncoming enemies. Truthfully, this thing could be one-third the size it is on the screen and still be effective since your attention is directed more to the amount of enemies on-screen than the points you rack up. Thankfully, outside the Death Tank character which follows the “one hit and you’re dead” rule, you are given a force field with each life that stays on until you take enough damage to wear it out. It’s like the armor from Ghosts ‘n Goblins, but you can pick up full protection from random drops, and not just enough to cover a single hit.

All in all, Death Goat is a good concept, and one clearly geared towards the metal community. However, it’s an incredibly simple game that, at this time, really doesn’t offer anything at all substantial to the player other than a killer soundtrack and six easy achievements, though two of which are pretty long-winded to obtain. Tack on weapon fire passing through enemies, glitchy controls for bomb execution, and your characters literally looking like clip art with slightly animated legs or an appendage to name just a few problems this game has, Death Goat finds some of the most common aspects of this style of top-down shooter to be lacking or detrimental to the overall gameplay to really keep players coming back to it. It’s a one-trick pony that depends on the metal community shelling out for it for the death and black metal aesthetics and music more than anything else, which is a shame as there is so much more that could be done with this title than what is presented. Hopefully this game will feature steady updates that continue including new settings and characters, tighter controls, maybe even additional game modes to make it stand out and be something worth more than the three dollar (US) asking price it currently sits at. But, until more is done with it, this one isn’t all that impressive.

Overall Score: 5/10

Death Goat

Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.