Vindicator: Uprising – What We Think:
Vindicator: Uprising, an 8-bit action platformer modeled after classic 1980s computer games, is like an apocalyptic version of Lode Runner. Instead of a fast-paced but lighthearted game of hoisting crates and trapping guards, you’re working to overthrow an oppressive regime of angels, armed with nothing but your wits and a trusty pistol.
No, I’m No Angel
Don’t think cherubs; these are angels straight out of the Book of Revelations (or cult Christopher Walken film The Prophecy, if you prefer), complete with flaming swords of vengeance. The game immediately sets up the story (mankind’s enslavement by a group called The Order and their winged Biblical patrons) with an opening cut scene and then ladles on atmosphere with some of the Bible’s creepiest quotations between levels.
It’s impressive how effective it all manages to be given Vindicator: Uprising’s intentionally retro aesthetic; you can’t even see faces on the angels, but throw in a couple of pixels to suggest wings and spears, and your imagination fills in the rest. The music helps a lot, too, and is one spot where Finnish/Swedish dev team GamePhase skipped out on the retro style. Instead of chiptunes, the developers wrote orchestral music for each level, which provides a wonderfully ominous counterpoint to the sparse graphical presentation.
Nine Circles, 8 Bits
Vindicator: Uprising really shines in the level design, as well. Much like obvious influence Lode Runner, each level takes place on a single screen, but each screen packs in tons of details, puzzles and tasks to accomplish, not to mention aggravating traps and enemies. And while shooting your angelic opponents is always an option – if it’s a sword-wielding archangel, try and get him while his back is turned – you’ll need speed, finesse and caution a lot more than brute force.
One level takes place in near darkness, so you’ll need to learn the layout a little bit at a time. Another sees you pursued by a flaming spirit head that’s almost impossible to destroy (and leaves permanent flames behind as an obstacle). Yet another features rocks plummeting down from the ceiling. It’s a testament to the designers that they’ve managed to cram so much variation into such a seemingly simple set-up.
Harder Than Heaven
Vindicator: Uprising is tough but fair. You will die a lot, but a fast restart lets you play through levels over and over again, so after enough practice, you’ll be doing speed-runs through levels that seemed impossible at first.
Despite its difficulty, Vindicator: Uprising has an almost casual feel to it because the levels are so self-contained; it’s easy to pick up for just a few minutes at a time. A password system makes it even more convenient to continue where you left off (the game suggests writing down the passwords, but the Steam edition seems to save them automatically).
It’s also a lot of fun, and I kept coming back again and again. Apparently the developers adjusted the difficulty level in between the game’s approval on Steam Greenlight and its official release, and they’ve nailed it. It’s hard enough to give you a sense of real accomplishment, but never frustrating for its own sake. You’ll know every death was your own fault, and you’ll keep clicking the restart button to take one more shot.
Watch the trailer for Vindicator: Uprising below: