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Science-Fiction Weekly – Surviving Mars, Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse, Tesla Vs. Lovecraft

by Andrew Reiner on Mar 20, 2018 at 03:34 PM

Gaming's digital marketplaces are flush with new science-fiction experiences this week. If you're in the market for a twin-stick shooter that pits heavily armed mechs against angry llamas that explode into bloody smears, there's finally a game out there for you – and this will likely be the only one you will ever see. Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse is developed by RogueCode, and is readily available on Xbox One X and Steam.

I vested about three hours into this odd, yet mildly humorous take on the end of days, and had a good time with it. The premise is that a greedy corporation called Llamazon has gained too much power, and some of its workers have splintered off to form a rebellion named the Llaminati. They're sending a legion of llamas to take down Llamazon, starting in Santa Llama City. Yes, Llama is used as much as possible, and the puns are usually pretty good.

You are tasked to curb the Llaminati's uprising, which is pouring out onto the city streets. Thankfully, you're doing it from the fortified position of a mech that looks a little bit like ED-209 from Robocop. This powerful vehicle can wield two weapons which you can switch mid-mission when new weapons drop alongside the ability to dart forward and leap high into the air. When the lands, any llamas under it are squished. I think I dropped onto 15 at once.

The llamas rarely trickle in one by one. They attack in hordes, sometimes number in the hundreds. Even with a thick, metal hull and the ability to initiate an energy shield, the llamas will chew on your mech and will eventually breach it, which brings a "game over." As the llamas sprint toward forward from various vectors, you must position yourself strategically while spinning to fire blasts that keep them at bay.

Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse's grows in intensity quickly, and hits all of the right notes early on for an enjoyable twin-stick shooter experience. The big question I have at this point is, "How much enemy variety is there?" I must have ended 10,000 llamas in my time playing, and there were only a few variations of them: a small one, a large one, one that could move quickly, and poisoned variations.

If you like silly experiences that are backed by solid writing, I highly recommend giving this oddball title a whirl. If you have three friends available, it offers four-player, local (no online) co-op. I'll be returning to it after I finish looting islands in Sea of Thieves.

People have been asking me about a city-building game called Surviving Mars for months. The game, which is developed and published by Paradox Interactive, is finally available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, OS X, and PC. The name implies you find yourself struggling to survive much like Matt Damon did in The Martian, but you are not alone on this red planet. There will hopefully be hundreds if not thousands of people with you as you build a colony to help humanity spread out across the cosmos.

The game offers two avenues of play from the outset: Easy Start and the standard experience. Even when going through Easy Start, the introductory moments of the game are not communicated well. I failed out of my first colony, managed to create a few domes in the second, but was too ambitious and ran out of resources, and was finally able to establish a stable foundation in my third. This isn't an experience where you can just build a dome and plop people inside of it, hoping they'll be content and hard workers. You need to establish water and oxygen first, a feat accomplished by maneuvering drones across the surface to mine and gather materials.

When the first travelers arrive, the gameplay shifts to constructing habitats that ensure survival. You'll build necessary things like farms to keep them alive, but also things that remind them of life on Earth. Each colonist is unique, and the continued success of your colony is tied to how you utilize them. You just have to keep an eye on their well being and the flow or resources – money is not a factor. If a particular resource like water dries up, you could lose everyone. You need to keep the supply chain moving and operating at a high level. Natural disasters can limit or completely cut you off from certain things, which can be maddening, but also part of what makes this city builder unique and fun. At one point, I felt like I was playing a Sim City game – my people were happy, the buildings were state of the art, and I had my eye on creating another dome – and then the meteors hit, and I suddenly had to rethink everything just to ensure I wouldn't lose most of the colony.

Go into Surviving Mars knowing you're going to be confused and frustrated by its opening hours. Again, don't expect to succeed until you are fluent with the systems and requirements. Once it all starts to click, you're in for one of the deepest city builders out there. Yes, it's all about micromanagement at a high level, but your success in this field can make you feel like a genius, as the game doesn't necessarily spell out how to best keep your people safe, happy, and engaged.

The final game in this week's Science-Fiction Weekly column is Tesla vs. Lovecraft, another twin-stick shooter with a heavy emphasis on a mech. While I would have loved to see this game embrace choice in determining whether Tesla or Lovecraft would be victorious, Lovecraft makes for a good villain. At the exact moment Tesla unveils a new invention, Lovecraft interrupts his presentation to say he's meddling with powers he can't comprehend. The police and Tesla are quick to write Lovecraft off as an annoying writer of fiction, but we quickly learn he's possessed by Cthulhu and is about to unleash hell upon Earth. The game can be played cooperatively with up to four people (which I didn't get to test out), but is still quite fun as a single-player experience.

Holding true to the design of Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse, Tesla vs. Lovecraft pushes the player to clear out waves of enemies to proceed. Tesla can teleport through objects, and is surprisingly skilled with standard weapons like a pistol, Tommy gun, and shotgun. He eventually collects parts to create a variety of electrical gadgets like a mech, and the Tesla glove. As you move from level to level, you'll eventually reach a different plane of existence, moving from our reality to Aether and then Eldritch.

In some levels, Tesla will down enough foes to level up. At this point, you'll need to select which perk you want, like faster shooting or extra movement speed, or a greater percentage of evading enemy attacks or a higher percentage of powerups. These gains are just for the current level and reset once you reach the exit. You may even luck out in a level and find a nuke lying on the ground. Touching it will set off a screen-wide explosion that downs most foes.

Tesla vs. Lovecraft seems simple at first, but the way the environments are used is quite clever. Tesla can teleport through a fence to gain a few seconds of reprieve from the onslaught before they bust through it. Given just how huge the swarms are, you are constantly looking for these opportunities or any powerups that can help. If I had to pick one new twin-stick, sci-fi shooter to play, I'd go with Tesla vs. Lovecraft, although both succeed in their own ways.

That's it for this week, gang. I'll be back in seven days with a review of Steven Spielberg's theatrical adaptation of Ready Player One!