A twin-stick shooter, Riddled Corpses EX by Diabolical Mind is absolutely fine but does little to help itself stand out from the horde.
As a gamer, I’m quite a fan of twin-stick shooters. Whilst I don’t go in for the sort with huge levels of difficulty and half a million enemies on screen at once, I do enjoy taking on a horde of enemies using a variety of weapons and power-ups. Tesla vs. Lovecraft and Red Nation are fun to play, with a great theme and enough variety to not appear samey. Riddled Corpses EX, a console version of a previously released PC game, is fine but doesn’t do much that hasn’t been done elsewhere before.
Taking on the role of one (or two in co-op) character from a small cast, you face the zombie horde that has taken over the world. Whilst cutscenes do tell a story of sorts, it’s rather ordinary and doesn’t really push the game forward in any particular way. That’s not what twin-stick shooters are really about though. It’s all about taking on hordes of enemies and growing in power to take on more still! Your chosen character (I say chosen – there’s only one to begin with) is dropped into a city to begin taking on the horde and is promptly killed before you can get too far into the stage.
It turns out that Riddled Corpses EX expects you to fight and die over and over until you’ve collected enough gold to power up your character to the point that they are able to overcome the challenge of the first stage. This would be fine, but taking the same character into the same stage ten times becomes quite tiresome quite quickly. I’m not strictly opposed to grinding in games, but this swiftly reached the point of tedium. It took me about an hour of playing the same stage over and over before I felt my character was strong enough to make it through. If there had been some element of randomly generated levels, weapon pickups, or something to change the stage it may have been more fun to replay them. As it stands though, you’re doing the same thing for a fair amount of time before you are able to move on.
As a twin-stick shooter, Riddled Corpses EX is perfectly fine. Left stick to move, and right stick aims and auto fires. Pressing A fires off a screen-clearing bomb whilst Y causes time to slow to a crawl (assuming you have collected or purchased these single-use power-ups). Shooting cars and barrels enough causes them to explode, damaging and igniting nearby zombies. Should you kill enough enemies in quick succession, you’ll fill a Combo meter that will allow you to fire with extra damage for a short time. That’s pretty much all there is to the gameplay — shoot zombies, collect gold, spend gold to level up between runs, do it again and hope you get further. It’s quite shallow really.
Thankfully, there’s a fair variety of enemies. With standard zombies, zombie dogs, charging zombies, hulking monstrosities, and more… unusual enemies — there’s plenty to see. Many of these enemies move and attack in different ways, meaning you’ll often have your hands full trying to stay alive. A single hit means a lost life (although you simply carry on until you run out), and the crowded screen results in you being more interested in how safe you are rather than how much damage you’re causing. It can get incredibly hectic and functions like a bullet hell game, but with very slow, zombie shaped bullets. Having said that, some of the bosses use actual bullets which can make things even crazier. Whilst the hit-boxes occasionally feel a little off — why can’t I walk behind the big shambling zombies sometimes? — it can be enjoyable to come out of a huge swarm with all your lives intact. Mowing down a monstrous horde using your time slowing power-up is pretty satisfying as well.
There are a number of modes available beyond the Story, which is new to the EX edition of the game. Survival works as you might expect and is a way to earn gold to strengthen your character without going through the main story. There’s also Arcade mode, which is a little different as your Story character doesn’t carry over. Instead, you need to collect items to level up and increase in strength as you play. I actually enjoyed this far more due it feeling more balanced and less grindy.
The visuals are rather good, using the popular 8/16-bit graphic style. It reminded me of Death Road To Canada in some ways, although that may simply be due to both being top-down pixel art zombie games. Regardless, it looks good, and most things are quite clear even when there’s a huge crowd. The sounds are excellent, especially the music which has a classic midi style or the option of a modern chiptune soundtrack. The presentation is very good throughout, including clear menus and a well presented HUD for during gameplay. It might have been useful for your character to have a small display on them showing the number of each power-up available. Often I would take damage if I glanced away to see if I had any bombs left.
If you enjoy grinding in games, the Riddled Corpses EX might be something you’d enjoy. Having it available on the Switch is actually quite good for this sort of game, as a run can last only a handful of minutes, making the portable option ideal. With that said, it’s not something that will keep me hooked for a long time. Arcade mode is fun for a while, but the slow level grinding of the main story — which has apparently been sped up since the original release! — puts me off wanting to spend more time on this.