The last two twins stick shooters I reviewed were… kinda shit. Those two games were Hatred and Venusian Vengeance. The former was a soulless cash in whose only claim to fame was shallow shock value that can only effect the most sheltered of individuals, and the latter was an ugly looking and tedious “retro throwback” with plodding level design. Riddled Corpses EX thankfully bucks this trend by being a good game.
I should clarify that I have not touched the original Riddled Corpses and that this version (the PS4 version in particular) was my first introduction to this title. The changes to the original game from what I looked up include an additional story mode, an engine that runs at 60 FPS, character stats, a new soundtrack (or possibly two depending on whether or not the unlockable metal arrangement were in the original game), online leader boards, a revamped combo system, two player co-op (online, but not local), and less grinding.
Riddled Corpses EX is another example of a game that makes me glad I’m eligible to receive review codes because I likely would not have played this game otherwise due to just how many other games are on my plate. Hell, the key reason I requested a key for this game on Dodistribute was because its title screen featured two sexy anime girls. I knew from the screenshots that wouldn’t be what this game was about but I am unabashedly shameless. Nevertheless you can’t go wrong with anime girls unless you are Sakura Spirit so it looks like I made the right choice.
Riddled Corpses EX has a story mode which naturally tells you that it has a story, but it wasn’t really all that interesting. The scenes were far too brief for our characters to get any type of established personality and the plot is basically “evil alien named Erebus wants to destroy the world go kill him!” I don’t count it as a serious knock against the game since these types of games are always more about the action anyway.
Graphics wise, one may make the mistake of assuming that Riddled Corpses EX is another case of “muh retro pixel art” given that the first level is filled with bobble head zombies and your main characters look like overworld sprites from an NES RPG in game. While the backgrounds and larger sprites are all very nicely drawn the enemy sprites don’t really start to look detailed until after the first stage. It really would have been a better idea to start out with more aesthetically appealing enemies given that first impressions are very important for a lot of people but it doesn’t change the fact that I found the gameplay enjoyable right from the get-go. I’ve always said that if you can only have good graphics or gameplay then you should ALWAYS go with gameplay!
Also it is worth mentioning that Riddled Corpses EX allows the game to be played with a lot of filters that would be meaningless if it weren’t for the fact that the normal display on my TV has a section of the screen cut off yet changing it to the scanlines display allowed me see everything. it would have been nice if the screen just didn’t cut off but I’ve had this issue with other games I covered in the past as well so it may be more likely an issue with my TV.
My feelings on the music are a bit mixed. I don’t think it is bad by any means but both chiptune soundtracks feel rather gimmicky and like they would have been better if they had a more authentic sound. There are heavy metal remixes that you can switch to after you beat story mode but I feel like it would have been more appropriate to have them from the beginning (and for them to have remixed the cutscene tracks to and not just the stage ones), and even then it would have been better if there was more variety in the types of tracks. The only track I can really remember at the time of writing this was the boss theme but I don’t dislike the music either. I just feel it could have been stronger.
Gameplay wise, Riddled Corpses EX is at its best during the arcade mode. The only problem is that you will pretty much HAVE to complete story mode in order to stand a chance in arcade mode. While I heard that grinding is greatly reduced in comparison to the original PC game, there is still a fair bit of grinding in this version.
One can obviously tell I’m a fan of RPGs based on the amount of games I reviewed on this site, but there are some genres that RPG elements don’t really feel at place in. Throughout the course of story mode you have six different characters you can play as. Normally one would expect that every character is different in a few ways with their own specific advantages and disadvantages, and it starts out that way at first.
You start the game with John and can unlock Cloe at the price of 2k gold which carries over even if you die. John is stronger than Cloe but Cloe has the advantage of automatically collecting all gold that drops when John needs to collect each piece manually. Considering that gold is used to not only unlock new characters but also to upgrade them, this incentivizes using Cloe for grinding while using John if you want to progress the story.
The way I played the game was using Cloe to collect enough gold to fully level up Cloe and John before using it to unlock Liery who moves and shoots faster than Cloe and the amount of gold doubles. Since you’d get roughly the same amount from Liery and Cloe between their two abilities it’s basically whichever you like more. You then unlock Fael for 9999 gold who is stronger and slower but also starts out with double lives.
Unfortunately the problem is that the later levels are way too hard for most people to beat using any of the previous four characters so they will most likely use one of the two remaining characters, and said character will probably be Erika. Erika has roughly the same movement speed and strength as John but comes with the special abilities of the other three characters I mentioned. This means she has double lives, double gold, AND picks up every gold piece automatically.
While Erika can only be unlocked if you max out the stats of the previous four characters and buy her and is thus presented as a reward, this is still a problem in that you cannot play with a character in arcade and survival mode until you unlock them in story mode. Considering that arcade mode is six consecutive levels that are all very easy to die during and that there are no continues, you will most likely only clear Arcade mode with Erika. The final unlockable character Nora is rendered useless if you unlocked Erika first (which you most likely will because it is pretty damn tough to beat the later few levels even with Erika). Nora has great strength and movement speed but she lacks any of the special abilities that Cloe, Liery, or Fael had which thus means extra lives are a lot harder to come by.
The story mode is inherently flawed because the increase in difficulty comes more from the fact that later stages give enemies much more health. It is effectively impossible to beat the later stages with a level one character and grinding is pretty much a necessity. Grinding usually isn’t as much of a problem in RPGs due to their non linear level structure and open exploration. In a game like Riddled Corpses EX, the player is supposed to repeatedly lose in order to gain more gold to upgrade their characters. This in turn pads out the length of the game.
Thankfully there is at least a feeling of satisfaction that comes from seeing each character grow in strength and also in upgrading your “totally not an option from Gradius” and your one time use turret items that make the final boss way easier than it should be. The levels themselves are also well designed and interesting enough to be enjoyable.
Where Riddled Corpses EX is at its best though is in the arcade mode when you have Erika. Unlike the grindy story mode, you increase the strength of your character in arcade mode by collecting power ups. The power ups are spread out fairly over the course of the game’s six stages and the action is at its most intense. There is also a lot less grinding to break up the flow and the game is at its most exciting in this portion. There is also a survival mode where you attempt to an endless onslaught of enemies and score as much points as you can, and it’s pretty fun to but I preferred the main game.
The basic gist of Riddled Corpses EX’s gameplay is to shoot at everything and be absolutely careful that you don’t get hit. It requires you to keep a close eye on where your character is placed as the screen becomes more and more packed with enemies. In addition to the previously mentioned turrets are stopwatches that will temporarily freeze time or bombs that will destroy every enemy on screen. Each of these make for good equalizers in risky situation assuming that the player has hanged on to them, but using the stop watches in particular is difficult due to the positioning of the buttons right above the right control stick that needs to be held in to shoot.
Another neat feature is that you will get a brief second to kill most enemies before they spawn if you touch their casket before they emerge. This provides an interesting risk and reward system that can either help the player or fuck them over if they are too late to kick their casket and instead lose a life from enemy contact. This also incentivizes the use of the stop watch which will freeze enemies in their vulnerable casket state.
Overall I am glad I played Riddled Corpses EX and would definitely recommend it to fans of 2D shooters. Granted I would definitely suggest going for the console versions rather than the original PC version given the immense amount of improvements unless it gets patched to match them or gets a separate release. I didn’t even have low expectations for Riddled Corpses EX or anything but this was one kick ass game! Not only was this the 4th game I enjoyed enough to get a platinum trophy for, but after beating Arcade mode for the first time I actually almost decided to keep playing until I could top the leader board. I didn’t end up doing so cause I have other shit to do but that’s definitely a good sign when this happens.
Anyway I now have a definite interest in checking out other games by Diabolical Mind and COWCAT. Xenon Valkyrie+ looks quite appealing after having played this game.
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