If you know me well, you’ll know I’m a bit of a fan of ancient history, particularly the Ancient Egyptian and Norse eras. Whilst it’s been heartening to see those eras visited recently by Assassins Creed and God of War respectively, it’s a shame there isn’t more use of those wonderful mythologies in games.
Luckily, Crema Games have had a crack at combining modern tropes with an Egyptian aesthetic. Released in May, Immortal Redneck is a rogue-lite with first-person shooter gameplay and procedural elements. You take the role of the titular Redneck, who has somehow been transformed into an immortal mummy creature? Waking up from the wreck of his dune buggy he ventures into the nearest Pyramid and things escalate from there. He has to run around and destroy as many enemies as possible whilst traveling up the pyramid. Honestly, that’s all the story and explanation you get, but I wouldn’t say this is detrimental to the success of the game. It’s very much an arcade experience, and as we all know the arcades weren’t renowned for their storytelling.
Like The Binding of Isaac before it, Immortal Redneck’s gameplay is split into a series of runs. In each run, you start at the bottom with a pistol, shotgun, and dynamite and gather new weapons and powerups as you progress upwards. In each Pyramid you need to hunt for the staircase up, fighting enemies and bosses and collecting gold- more on that later. Each pyramid has a randomly generated layout so each run is a new adventure, although the rooms do seem to be pre-designed to a high quality. Like Isaac or a shuffled pack of cards, whilst you eventually grow familiar with the individual pieces these allow you to develop a strategy for clearing areas.
The rooms themselves are excellently designed with a brilliant combination of vertical level design and open space. Even early levels are imposing, with dark, gothic imagery mixed into the Egyptian iconography. Many levels have a variety of platforms scattered throughout, allowing free movement around the area. The variety of designs and themes are excellent, making each run a unique joy.
Enemy variety is quite interesting, as there is a combination of the Egyptian enemies you would expect and more spiritual aspects which float around the world. Most shoot some sort of projectile in a pattern, though there are also quite a few physical attackers. Once killed enemies drop coins, powerups, and weapons which impact the current run and give you more power a la Isaac. At first, the difficulty seems high, but like Dark Souls, once you learn the enemy attack patterns it gets much easier. I never found myself frustrated by Immortal Redneck, which says a lot considering the number of deaths I experienced, and this made it so much more fulfilling when I finally had a good run and beat the bosses. Without spoiling the boss encounters, I’m glad they all have a somewhat epic feel, with certain enemies feeling truly huge. All in all the encounters feel fair and you actually feel like you’re getting somewhere as you learn to anticipate their movements.
An issue I often have in rogue-lites is the progression, as many have few tangible upgrades which unlock as you play. In IR, your character collects coins during levels. Whilst you lose powerups and weapons on death, your coins are retained and can be spent on upgrades to your character. There are far too many to list here, but though unlocking small buffs in the hub area your character becomes stronger and gains bonuses which they can use in subsequent runs. There is also much larger class unlocks which change your playstyle significantly, but these don’t unlock until deeper into the tree. They seem to have found a good mix between tangible progression that helps you progress through the spires and a sense of quick-fire running without changing difficulty.
The controls on the Nintendo Switch are a little hit and miss with Immortal Redneck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m slowly getting more familiar with the hardware, but I would still argue that they do feel somewhat strange when playing.
The graphical design is excellent, with a combination of cartoon slapstick and colour enriching the experience. I also love how the music is so entrenched within the gameplay, warning you of dangerous encounters aurally.
In short, Immortal Redneck is a valiant attempt at combining the first person and rogue-lite genres cohesively. While the controls don’t always stick the landing it’s clear that a lot of love, thought and attention has been wound into the game; from the background sounds to the awesome array of enemies and locations. If you’re a fan of Isaac, you’ll enjoy this and the interesting lore that accompanies it in its unique world.