Zombie shooters aren’t around today as much as they used to. Just a few years ago, around the early 2010s’, they were popping up left and right — there was Dead Rising, Dead Island, Dead Nation (the word “dead” was popular back then, huh?), and several others. However, it was Dead Nation that truly turned me on to the Twin Stick shooter genre.
Now, Riddled Corpses EX, the retro style twin-stick shooter from developer Diabolical Mind and publisher Cowcat, is coming to Nintendo Switch and it slightly reminded me of the days when I played Dead Nation. Obviously, the art style and graphics are vastly different, but the two titles do share similarities when it comes to level design and gameplay. Despite going on a nice, brief trip down memory lane, and a few satisfying features and moments, playing through Riddled Corpses EX is one heck of an exhausting grind.
Similar to many zombie twin-stick shooters, Riddled Corpses story mode is bare bones at its finest. It boils down to there being a zombie and otherworldly creature apocalypse which has spurred chaos into the world. You play as one of six survivors and must shoot your way through waves of the undead to save yourself and the world. There are six challenging stages in the story mode and arcade mode to get through, and each one takes about 10 to 15 minutes to finish — that is if you can survive till the very end.
Staying alive in any of Riddled Corpses‘ three modes (story, arcade, and survival) is a test of skill and luck that’ll have you banging your head — even in the game’s first stage. The story mode is an absolute grind fest. At the start, all six playable characters that each have different stats and abilities and need to be unlocked with gold, begin at level one with weak, puny firepower guns. Aside from guns, there’s dynamite to throw and a clock item to use to slow down time — but you either have to buy these items or luckily find them scattered in stages.
To level up and buy these much-needed items you need gold, which you’ll get after killing wave after wave of foes and pick up all the gold they drop (sometimes they drop items, but I’ll discuss this later). Every run gets easier after you level up, have a set number of items, and use other characters, but getting enough gold to do so is a journey full of suffering. The problem is that enemies will only drop gold pieces that usually range from one to ten — ten if you’re lucky — and leveling up, buying items, and unlocking characters cost some serious gold. Riddled Corpses EX has you pushing hard for gold, which I understand why the developer did this because they wanted the game to be as punishingly difficult as possible, but to be honest, the story mode significantly feels like a grueling slog due to how grindy it is.
Riddled Corpses EX’s twin-stick shooter gameplay isn’t a slog, however, it’s one fast-paced, bullet and enemy hell rush that has either you crying tears of joy once you overcome or just sad “I give up” tears when you go back to a stage for the 20th time. Throughout each stage, ghouls of all sorts are littered across, ready to hunt. With a gun in hand, you need to bob and weave your way through each wave of enemies until you reach the stage’s boss at the end.
Rather than fighting the same old zombies that slowly move about, Riddled Corpses EX has multiple enemies that are actually all fairly unique — for example, there’s a football player zombie that will actually sprint towards you. With only three lives (you can buy or find more) to spare and no health bar, you always need to think fast in Riddled Corpses EX and that’s what makes it fun. In addition to my dislike for the gold system, though, what I also didn’t like going through stages is that item drops happen randomly. Going back to Dead Nation, it had a system where you knew if you killed a certain enemy, you’d get a certain reward. However, in Riddled Corpses EX, finding an item is all up to luck, not skill. Again, yes this makes the game more difficult, but it’s more of an unfair, broken system type of difficult feature.
The other two modes, arcade mode and survival mode, have the same gameplay in story mode but offer a little twist. Arcade mode has you starting at level one, and as you progress through stages, you level up by acquiring droid-like things that randomly pop up. I actually found Riddle Corpses EX’s arcade mode to be slightly more enjoyable than story mode simply because arcade mode doesn’t feel like a grind. Survival mode, on the other hand, sets you up in one area filled with ghouls — and just like the name of the mode implies, you need to survive.
To increase the chances of survival, there is local co-op for all three modes for players to enjoy in Riddle Corpses EX. Given how the game is set up, I’m certain that it was made with co-op in mind, so having a friend help you out is definitely the way to play. It’s a bummer, though, that there isn’t online co-op, which would’ve been a great addition for the newly released Switch version of the game.
On the topic of the Switch version, the look of this game is left unchanged. The 8/16 bit art style graphics are a nice throwback, but ultimately, lean more towards the generic, “already been done before” side of things. To mix things up though, there is the option to change the look of the game by changing the screen filter — which there are three screen filters in total (None, Interpolation, and CRT TV). One small issue that I did notice that when the game is in dock mode on the Switch, however, is that it looks kind of muddy looking — it’s like the resolution is off a bit. However, since the game runs at a consistent 60 FPS, I never ran into any stutter issues.
Despite the slight resolution issue, the retro feel of Riddle Corpses EX for Switch is still is a delight, especially when it comes to its funky, chiptune soundtracks. You read that right, I mentioned “soundtracks” because there’s more than one soundtrack in the game — there’s the original soundtrack from the non-EX version and a new soundtrack that was included in previous EX releases.
Riddle Corpses EX’s best defined as a challenging twin-stick shooter that’s best played in short bursts. Thanks to the Switch’s handheld mode, you can take the game on the go, which is absolutely the best way to play because of how frustratingly difficult it is. Riddle Corpses EX is a teeth-clenching grind that might end up putting you into an anger management class and have you feeling like a zombie once you play it for only a couple of hours. The difficulty isn’t the issue with the game, the issue is how wildly repetitive it is. Since there’s nothing new added to the Switch version, I can only recommend it to those that are in dire need to get a zombie twin-stick shooter fix.
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