Writhe by Mission Ctrl Studios
Over the last few years, the indie scene has been seeing a massive resurgence of love for the first-person shooters of yesteryear. These are games less about story and corridors and more about mass destruction set to thumping beats.
Writhe is one of the latest entries in this resurgence, but does it have what it takes to set itself apart?
Crawling in the Shadows
Writhe’s premise is about as simple as they come. In an alternate ’70s Thailand, mutant bugs are terrorizing Bangkok. As an Exterminator, your goal is to survive against the hordes as long as possible, taking as many grubs down with you as you can before you inevitably die.
It’s a no-frills set-up that acts as one of the game’s strengths. After choosing one of Writhe’s three maps, you’re thrown into the action immediately. Your twin weapons, an assault rifle and a shotgun, have unlimited ammo and feel satisfying to shoot. When accompanied by the game’s thumping electronic soundtrack, it immediately puts you in the right mood. The enemies are relentless and force you to keep moving, while new varieties are gradually added to the mix. There are also power-ups to be found to potentially turn the tide in your favor.
The game’s old-school approach to shooting is a definite plus, as is its aesthetic. The colorful yet pixelated graphics feel like a callback to the Quake era of shooters that is definitely welcome. Even if you opt for the game’s “performance” mode that sacrifices fidelity in favor of a consistent 60 FPS framerate – which I highly recommend doing – it remains pleasant to look at.
Writhe in Pain
Unfortunately, as much as Writhe endeared itself to me immediately, it makes a few big mistakes. While difficulty is a hallmark of this particular kind of score attack shooter, this game crosses the line from challenging to punishing. The relentless enemy horde is nearly impossible to consistently manage, as nearly any attempt made to thin the wave chasing you results in getting sidewinded by other creatures you couldn’t see.
This is made all the worse by the fact that two of the game’s three maps are simply far too narrow and restrictive for this type of experience. There’s very little room to maneuver and funnel the creatures successfully, and it’s immediately frustrating. A motion tracker or some other method of keeping track of the enemies would have helped tremendously.
It also doesn’t help that one of the cornerstones of this kind of game – movement and aiming – feels sluggish. Your character feels like they’re wading through waist-deep water much of the time, and even when set to High, the aiming sensitivity feels far too slow. It contributes to the problem I mentioned earlier about not being able to keep track of what you’re fighting in a noticeable way.
Also, as a personal quibble, why is aiming sensitivity a toggleable setting and not a slider?
Another Bug Hunt
If I’m being harsh on Writhe, it’s because it’s so close to being good. The game’s heart is in the right place, but between the frustrating difficulty, restrictive level design, and general lack of options, it never reaches the heights of retro throwbacks like Devil Daggers or Dusk. Heck, I’d even say to just reinstall Doom instead.
Writhe is available via the Nintendo Game Store.
Watch the trailer for Writhe below: