Let Them Come is an indie title published through Versus Evil by Tuatara Games. For 5$ on Steam, you’d expect a fixed gun shooting experience would wear out its novelty quickly. Not so in this case. A wave-based game play loop with an alternating 25 waves followed by a boss fight gives you plenty of room to learn the game and become an expert. Overall, the game is 3-4 hours long based on skill level. For a bite-sized adventure it contains quite a bit of flavor; depth in addition to its simple, but brutal gameplay truly makes this game a winner.
The visual style of Let Them Come gives nods to the original DOOM and Half-life. Slightly rough animation, but stylized in a nostalgia-evoking 32-bit image. Enemy sprites and the main character move with the jagged sharpness of early 90′s PC games on purpose, for a game released in 2017 to pull on the old-school heart-strings. The way that light interacts with these sprites along with the background is anything but old-fashioned, however. Muzzle flashes play on gruesome monstrosities as they are cut down, flickering overhead lamps in dark halls remind you that the ship is overrun and could crash at any time. My personal favorite level features a glowing reactor core that slowly fills the screen with blue light, then fades. No level feels the same, in spite of your character never moving from his fixed machine gun position. For a game with only 5 backgrounds, it feels large because of these environments and the way light interacts with the player.
Despite not moving, the game is fast paced and incredibly fun. As you play through the first waves, you get a feel for the gun behavior, how to use equipment, and enemy movement. The first time you encounter each new enemy feels frantic and stressful, because you never know what will happen if they reach you. Upgrading and testing different ammo and grenade types really allows the player to formulate play-styles according to enemy type. The game actually encourages you to experiment by throwing different enemy types at you as the game goes on. An example is the common cannon fodder enemy. As you progress, he becomes bigger and tougher but also easier to spot and anticipate. Several remixed enemy types require different grenades/ammo to take them down efficiently, and not all waves are just one enemy. By constantly switching up playing style and focus, 99+ waves on space mutants never feels boring. Boss fights are particularly interesting as each one has a specific strategy for victory. It’s not immediately obvious what you need to do, and if you haven’t experimented with the equipment offered, it’s even harder to figure out. By the time you finish the campaign, you should be an expert.
As you progress through each set of waves, the main character discovers items filling in backstory for the game. Notes and disks show correspondence between scientists and InfiniCorp (faceless spooky organization) that illustrate what exactly happened on this abandoned, overrun spaceship. However nothing compares to the Mixtape. Dear reader, this feature was the cherry on top for your reviewer. The game adds tracks to its iconic boombox based on your progression through the levels as you pick up mixtapes and adding a level of intense audio-driven excitement during each wave. Featuring synth filled rock and roll, ambient pulsing dance rhythms and epic moments on par with zimmer-esque film scores, I guarantee you will have a smile on your face. Blasting aliens in a neon-grime environment is amazing, but doing it while bobbing your head along with some synth-y goodness in the background makes the whole experience come together in an epic, memorably way.
Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. I have one very specific gripe with Let Them Come and it’s name is Limby. Limby is a leviathan type enemy with tentacles and a beak that spews thousands of spiderling enemies. Every other boss fight in game relies on the player to find the not so obvious weak points and attack patterns, then pair them with ammo/equipment to defeat the boss. Not so with Limby. Instead, you rack up kills to fill the combo meter and receive a power-up. This is how the combo system works throughout the entire game, its extremely fun to rack up kills and stack power-ups for ever crazier scores. This system is limited to one power-up specifically for the Limby fight, and it’s used in a different way than the rest of the game. Frenzy allows super-charged shots to be fired extremely quickly in game to decimate and eliminate. During the boss fight however, it’s used to push back a giant laser and defend the player from a one-hit kill. This change is not the major flaw, it just adds a level of frustration that’s entirely unnecessary. If it was possibly to damage the boss while defending, it would be alright. The way power-ups work in Let Them Come relies on the player’s ability to time a click during the power-up selection that grades them, then that grade determines how long a power-up lasts. In the Limby fight you can click and receive the good, great, awesome, and perfect grades. After filling the combo meter and selecting frenzy, nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing “good” or “great” because it means that you will survive the massive energy blast, but deal no damage to the boss. Only “awesome” or “perfect” grades can damage the boss. If you miss time the power-up click so badly that you overshoot, you die. There is no defense against the massive laser. This roadblock of a boss fight took me an hour to beat, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a crapshoot that you’ll get the correct grade to damage Limby, but to do it three or five times in a row? It’s a herculean effort that goes against the overall theme of hectic stressful game-play followed by hard-earned victory. With a few tweaks, it could stand amongst the other 4 great boss fights in the game. The laser not being a one-hit-kill or making the click event for the power-up slower could fix the whole boss fight.
Aside from Limby, Let Them Come is an incredibly deep experience for a fixed location shooter. Ticking all the right boxes for game play and progression, the slightly nostalgic visuals paired with incredible soundtrack make a truly memorable game for just 5$. In a sea of indie titles priced 5$ and under on Steam, Let them Come stands out as the perfect video game personification of triumphant moments in sci-fi epics. Definitely worth the money, and exists as a case study for all other pixel shooters out right now.
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