Can a top-down shooter ever truly be scary? People have certainly tried to light us up with frights over the years; Larva Mortus is a solid recent attempt from independent developers Rake in Grass. Demonic faces come screaming out of the screen, while your sword and shotgun make short work of zombies.
This demon-hunting room-to-room dungeon-crawler is essentially an arcade game - its power-ups dropping from enemies and crates - but the extra details make all the difference. You level your character as you progress, spending points to boost various attributes according to how you want to play, but what%26rsquo;s most interesting is the open campaign structure. While there%26rsquo;s a core set of story missions about the search for an evil artifact, you find yourself playing in an RPG manner, performing side missions to get suitably leveled-up for the challenges ahead.
These days it%26rsquo;s hard to say how many readers will remember age-old shooter Alien Breed, to which Larva Mortus is akin. Of course, we are old fogies, with many troubles and long memory: for us Alien Breed was a shooter that defined gaming. What was definitive about it was its co-op play, and that%26rsquo;s clearly the special ingredient Larva Mortus lacks. Otherwise, it%26rsquo;s just a pretty good indie adventure: the difficulty and pacing are absolutely spot-on, even if the visuals lack the ostentatious fireworks we%26rsquo;re used to these days.
One final thought: this kind of low-budget exploration of classical ideas is exactly what makes PC gaming so exuberant in 2009. It%26rsquo;d be a shame to ignore it.
May 4, 2009