When the gates of Hell open and denizens of the netherworld stream into your city, you may want to trade in those garlic cloves and silver bullets for an electric guitar. That logic carries the day in Eternal Descent: Heavy Metal Heroes (Out Now, $2.99), a collaboration from PLA Studios and Incendium Records that brings the Eternal Descent comics to fun interactive fruition. If you passed up Heavy Metal out of suspicion that it’s a mere cash-in on the comic series, then take this to the bank: the game rests on its own laurels even if – like me – you couldn’t tell Michael Amott from Misha Mansoor going in.
The premise is simple enough. Your guitar-wielding hero automatically runs an infinite, demon-infested gauntlet, and your job is to make him smack hellspawn out of the way with strong and weak attacks. The available actions are multifaceted, which lends the game satisfying depth. Not only is the “strong” attack a hard hitting uppercut suited to airborne foes, but it also puts the brakes on your guitarist’s mad dash so you can time your strikes for baddies that approach at different speeds. The weak attack is your mainstay when you need to deflect projectiles or clear smaller enemies that come in thick and fast. In a wise design move, Heavy Metal‘s camera perspective gives you more reaction time than you’d find in a standard sidescroller.
Time your attacks well and you’ll rack up combos that fill a shield gauge. Here again, PLA Studios serve up more than meets the eye. The shield gauge lets your grunge rocker shrug off punishment but it’s also fuel for his special attacks; you have to stay at the top of your game if you want to save your screen-clearing specials for those tight spots where they’re really needed. Also making your trip to Hell a titch more manageable are the alter egos of real world heavy metal artists, who lay down some evil-vanquishing guitar riffs if you’re quick enough to nab their summoning tokens.
With its GameCenter leaderboard and start-from-scratch-when-you-die formula, Heavy Metal is definitely a match for high score seekers and veterans of the infinite runner genre. However, the gradual challenge ramp-up, creative boss battles and evolving environment give it a level-based feel that should suit action fans generally.
Heavy Metal does itself a favor with a jammin’ yet approachable electric guitar soundtrack. Equally memorable is the game’s ever-morphing backdrop, which shifts from a dark cityscape to full-on molten chaos as you make it further in. If the screens and preview footage have you intrigued, check out the developer’s website and the Eternal Descent comic series site for more info.