OrangePixel’s Gunslugs 2 is a weird mix of elements, but it works

OrangePixel’s Gunslugs 2 is a weird mix of elements, but it works

Jan 15, 2015

Pascal Besteboer, the developer behind games like Gunslugs, Heroes of Loot and Meganoid, describes Gunslugs 2 as followed: “… the result of watching too many 80’s action-hero movies, cartoons, playing retro games, and tripple-A block-buster console games.” But what is it exactly?

Well, it is exactly what you think it might be, when combining the above mentioned terms into a video game: it’s frantic, full of action and explosions and heroes you might’ve heard of but not at the same time, and, of course, OrangePixel’s well-known pixelated graphical style. Oh, and it is one of the most hectic games of the year. Already.

gunslugs2-1I’ve played the first Gunslugs game and it was pretty good. So why did it need a sequel? Well, as it turns out, Pascal did find some thing to improve upon. “I was at the point where I thought I could improve on most of the stuff in the original Gunslugs”, Besteboer says. “I still enjoy playing Gunslugs, but I also see more and more things that could be done better. Like the level progression system.”

Instead of just presenting the next level after the other one, Besteboer came up with a real story to combine those action sequences. “It’s not the most impressive story”, Besteboer admits laughing. “But there is a clear direction the game takes compared to what the original Gunslugs did. Not even sure how that ended up in Hell, or in a steam-punk world… It just felt cool to add those worlds in the original one.”

So there will be a more cohesive story to the game and it’s worlds and why the characters are there. The downside, and problem Pascal did run into, is that the story also kept him from adding the weird but fun mini-stages found in the first one. “There was no room for a Donkey Kong world or a hand-drawn level. Perhaps a Gunslugs 2 – the Lost levels could be a thing in the future”, Besteboer says with a wink.

gunslugs2-2There are a couple of new things in Gunslugs 2. The biggest one is that the signal towers now have an actual building inside. “So when you enter a signal tower, you’ll have to fight your way up the tower in a procedurally generated level. It adds a lot of gameplay.” Besides that the game is rebuild from the ground. Very little code from the original made it into this one.

The special effects are improved, the graphics are much crisper, cleaner, and the game runs at a higher frame rate so everything is smoother. All those elements were initially inspired by the first game and its room for improvements. But 80s movies like Rambo, Commando, Aliens, or simply put the Expendables were an inspiration for the first title, and you can see that influence throughout the game.

But why do you need this game when you can play the first? Because it actually improves upon the first game in the series, in every possible way. Or, as Pascal says in his own words: “Gunslugs 2 is a procedurally generated action arcade game with it’s roots in 80’s action movies, 90s platform games, and current gen “over the top explosive action stories”. All in Orangepixel’s acclaimed pixel art. It’s a weird mix, but it works, why not give it a try!”

We couldn’t agree more.

Orangepixel Shows off Upcoming “Summer Freebie,” an Arcade Soccer Game, Tentatively Titled TapKick World Cup

Orangepixel Shows off Upcoming “Summer Freebie,” an Arcade Soccer Game, Tentatively Titled TapKick World Cup

May 27, 2014

Orangepixel is getting in on two hot trends: quick free games and the World Cup, with the upcoming TapKick World Cup 2014. This quick-play action game will have players bouncing a soccer ball off of their heads, trying to keep it from hitting the ground, getting more points the lower to the ground they hit it. The game will be ad-supported, and may release under a different name as “World Cup” may cause trademark issues. Check out video below, and expect this in a week or so.

Heroes of Loot Review

Heroes of Loot Review

Sep 12, 2013

Heroes of Loot’s fast-paced Gauntlet-inspired take on the hack ’n slash and roguelike genre is a game I’ve been curious to see as a final, polished product. There was definite promise in the preview versions of Orangepixel’s take on the roguelike with more arcade influences than most games in the burgeoning genre have. I am excited to say that it turned out quite well: this is a hack ’n slash that’s intense and fun.

Players control one of four heroes, starting from level 1, earning experience as they slay enemies. The goal is ultimately to get high scores, with XP used to fortify the character’s health, and money used to buy temporary upgrades, all in the name of lasting longer.

There’s lots of loot in Heroes of Loot but there’s also lots of enemies, and chaos really rules the day. The secret to success, I’ve found, is to stay out of harm’s way. Stay away from enemies; all the characters use projectile-based attacks and magic items come along often, which can help clear out groups of enemies. Bottleneck enemies in long corridors whenever possible to take them out easily. And stay out of the scrums as much as possible – health drains quickly, especially deeper in the dungeon!

The dungeon crawling gameplay largely stays on its beaten path throughout the length of the game, but the difficulty increase in the dungeon over time adds some variation to the experience. It gives a sense of long-term progression, and something for players to go after, as experts will definitely want to be challenged right away as they get good at the game. These tougher dungeons make high scores quicker to get, too.


The multiple characters have slight differences, really, but I found the wizard to be my heavy hitter thanks to his great stats but slow XP gain, which can be negated with smart play. If the player handles staying alive and doesn’t be Rambo, letting the powerful attacks take care of enemies, success can be obtained. This is a fast and frantic game, but intelligence certianly feels rewarded.

Heroes of Loot of course comes with gamepad support (this is an Orangepixel game), with HID gamepads supported, and even the Green Throttle controllers able to play the game in two-player co-op, because dungeon crawls are just more fun when friends and loved ones are involved. Even though it’s all just controlled by a joystick and a button, the game feels really good with a gamepad. It’s not bad on a touchscreen, but with a gamepad, it just feels great.

Really, Orangepixel has been on a real upswing since Chrono and Cash: games that were once interesting retro curiosities are starting to be formed into some really cool titles. This is a stripped-down hack ’n slash that takes advantage of what it is, and uses the trademark Orangepixel art style and sense of humor to add character to it too. Heroes of Loot is well worth checking out.

Android Rundown Video of the Day: Heroes of Loot

Android Rundown Video of the Day: Heroes of Loot

Sep 11, 2013

Orangepixel’s hack ’n slash roguelike Heroes of Loot finally releases to the public on Thursday, August 12th, with release scheduled on Google Play and Ouya. However, for those who can’t wait to get their hands on with the game, we’ve got an extended look at this fast-paced dungeon crawler.

With the dungeon at level 3 out of 5, I take the powerful, yet slow to level up, wizard through the catacombs, collecting treasure and powerful spells, trying to raise the dungeon difficulty level to get more loot! Can I survive long enough to do so? You’ll just have to watch and find out. Ouya players and Green Throttle controller owners will be able to enlist a friend to help them crawl the dungeons and get that sweet, sweet loot.

We’ll have a full review of the game on Thursday when it’s publicly-available, but for now, watch one wizard take on thousands of enemies:

Five Reasons to Care About the Upcoming Heroes of Loot from Orangepixel

Five Reasons to Care About the Upcoming Heroes of Loot from Orangepixel

Jul 31, 2013

Heroes of Loot is the upcoming game from prolific one-man studio Orangepixel, a retro-inspired hack ’n slash that is currently in beta. Here are five reasons why you should care about this upcoming title.

1. It’s Gauntlet-inspired!

So many modern roguelikes and hack ’n slash games ignore what is one of the more prominent entries in the genre in the history of gaming: Gauntlet. Heroes of Loot does not. There’s projectile-based weapons for all the characters (even the ‘melee’ ones) and loads of enemies to take on. Massive enemy waves to take on. Thankfully none of the really annoying elements are there (yet) like indestructable Death and the ability to constantly pump in quarters.

Boy am I glad no free-to-play game has tried to do what Gauntlet did back in the day.


2. It’s gonna have multiplayer

A game can’t be a good Gauntlet-like without having multiplayer, and lo, there will be multiplayer in Heroes of Loot! Right now, it’s primarily supported through the use of multiple Green Throttle controllers, though it seems quite likely that the unconsoles like Ouya will have support for the game and multiplayer too because I’m reasonably certain that if someone releases an unconsole or a controller, Pascal Bestebroer is coding support for it. In fact, the game is spirtitually a lot like Gunslugs in many regards…

3. It has that Orangepixel ‘voice’ in it

Anyone who plays Orangepixel games knows that for the overwhelming majority of them, they have common themes and similar art styles. It’s a very familiar brand and style, and it’s good for gaming – both as an industry and as an art form – to allow a developer to cultivate a voice and style for themselves. Heroes of Loot is a new expression of that voice. Speaking of loot…


4. The game doesn’t skimp on loot

If you like collecting coins, jewels, treasure chests, and other assorted beads and baubles, there’s loads of them to pick up. Loads and loads and loads and loads and loads. It’s loot all the way down.

5. Interesting permanent elements

There seems to be a permanent dungeon difficulty that increases as players do better at the game, trying to ensure that players are constantly challenged. While it’s not fully understood or realized in this pre-release version, it’s definitely an interesting element to be explored as it nears release.

Heroes of Loot is still in the works, and should be coming to Android at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Gunslugs Review

Gunslugs Review

Feb 1, 2013

The Contra-style run ’n gun game has been rarely attempted on iOS, and it’s in part because it’s a game that’s hard to play on touchscreens – see Metal Slug, for example. It’s just tricky to pull off. However, Orangepixel’s take on the genre, Gunslugs, is the best example of run ’n gun for touchscreens, thanks to its simplifications.

The goal is simple: shoot everything that moves. The game has a lot in common with Metal Slug in that special weapons with limited ammo can be collected, and there’s also a tank that can be driven periodically. However, the game simplifies the action by only letting players move horizontally, with the ability to jump, which also serves as the way to enter doors. Doors lead to the towers with beacons to destroy, along with rooms that contain items, that can be bought with coins picked up throughout.

By keeping the action largely on one plane, with a health bar to make up for some mistakes, makes this game work. It’s still intense and challenging, but it feels like it fits on a mobile platform. There’s even a quirky sense of humor to the game too, with pop culture references (including levels inspired by retro gaming) sprinkled throughout. This is just good old-fashioned run ’n gun gameplay. Oh, and what is a run ’n gun game without co-op gameplay? Well, Gunslugs features 2 player co-op by using a pair of gamepads on one device. Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support would be welcome, but having it on one device works perfectly fine.

Gunslugs can be a bit too chaotic: it can be hard to tell when and where enemy attacks are coming from, and health can just be whittled down. As well, land mines and explosive barrels do so much damage that a life can come to an end just when an unseen explosion happens. And considering that the game basically starts over when dying after only one life to start off with (continues can be occasionally bought with 100 coins), it means one random event can cause the game to end.

Still, it just means that much like the games of old that inspired it, Gunslugs can be unforgiving yet so satisfied when it’s conquered – and the procedurally-generated levels means that players don’t always know what to expect. Fans of the run ’n gun genre need to check this out.

See a Very Early Version of Orangepixel’s New Dungeon Crawler and Help Test Its Controls

See a Very Early Version of Orangepixel’s New Dungeon Crawler and Help Test Its Controls

Jan 29, 2013

Pascal Bestebroer’s prolific one-man studio Orangepixel has just released Gunslugs to the mobile world, and yet his work continues unabated. In fact, he wants feedback on his upcoming game straight from the general public. See, he’s working on a new dungeon crawler (possibly named MiniZoid, as a menu screen indicates), and he needs feedback on the virtual joystick controls. So he’s posted an APK of a very early version of the game to his tech blog, and he wants feedback on how the controls work. He requests feedback to be tweeted at him at the @orangepixel Twitter account. The game is very early, nothing more than an early glimpse at the art style – spoiler alert, it’s pixel art – a chance to see a random dungeon generator in action, and to test out a virtual joystick control scheme. Read about the genesis of the project, its inspirations, and download the DungeonPrototype APK from the Orangepixel Techblog.

Meganoid 2 Review

Meganoid 2 Review

Oct 26, 2012

As outlined in our preview the other day, Meganoid 2 is not a game for the faint-of-heart. This is a very challenging platformer. The goal is quite simple: get to the end alive. And if that wasn’t hard enough, then there’s additional objectives for getting to the end in under the time limit, and for finding the golden idol in each level. It’s usually cleverly hidden somewhere in secret paths. There’s spikes, falling blocks, disintegrating platformss, snakes, and giant boulders standing between the player and ultimate success.

The visual style actually doesn’t resemble the original Meganoid much at all: gone are the bright colors, replaced with the kind of dank caverns that fill an adventurer’s days and nights. I’m almost suprised that this isn’t a spinoff of Super Drill Panic, given the similar visual themes, but Meganoid may have more brand recognition. Hard to fault that.

The challenge level is the most frustrating thing, but it’s also rewarding. There’s nothing quite like managing to get that one incredibly difficult level figured out, itis perils melting away with perfect jumps, and manging to avoid running into those falling blocks. Blocks bad!

The button placement is customizable, which is handy because there’s a small gap between the two directional buttons.I would like to see custom sizing of the buttons, and maybe a way to more easily snap them along the same horizontal line; as it is now, it’s easier for them to be just slightly askew. It can be maddening.

Quick reaction times are really necessary, and the levels are set up to be absurdly challenging. There is zero forgiveness, and very tight timing windows throughout. Good luck. The difficulty curve of the levels can be uneven, with some that took me dozens of tries to complete, while I completed the next level in one shot. Maybe I’m just that good.

Fans of Orangepixel games, retro-style adventures, or those just looking for a challenge, will get what they want out of Meganoid 2. It’s often frustrating for various reasons, but is often very satisfying.

Meganoid 2 Coming Soon – Prepare for a Challenge

Meganoid 2 Coming Soon – Prepare for a Challenge

Oct 24, 2012

Prolific indie developer Orangepixel is getting ready to release its newest pixel art action game: Meganoid 2. Pascal Bestebroer, the head of the one man studio, claims that the goal of the game is to be extremely challenging. So far, mission accomplished. There’s devious traps to avoid like suddenly-appearing spikes, blocks that fall from the ciling only when the player gets really near, and just plain difficult platforming. There’s medals for finishing the level in one piece, collecting the idol in each level, and finishing in under the allotted time. None of the goals are easy at all.

Visually, the game uses the familiar Orangepixel style, while also using a more rustic adventurer style, as players control the grandpa of the protagonist of the original Meganoid.

Excited to play this? Well, the game releases on October 26th, in both an ad-supported free version and paid ad-free version. Android owners take heart that this is a limited-time exclusive to the platform. Check out some screens below, and be prepared for more titles in the future from Orangepixel, including a 2-player co-op title called Gunslugs.

Chrono and Cash Review

Chrono and Cash Review

Jun 18, 2012

Chrono & Cash is the newest game from Orangepixel, an arena-based game of thievery across time and space! The obvious comparison with the arena levels and pixel art would probably be Super Crate Box or the closely-inspired Muffin Knight, but the core of the game is very different. Players have to collect items strewn throughout the levels, avoiding the spawning enemies.

Each level repeats three times, with each variation spawning more enemies with trickier spawn patterns. Part of the challenge comes from the fact that the items are meant to be collected in order, with a 10x bonus for collecting the next highlighted item. A bonus is given at the end of a level for collecting all items in order. There’s a natural order to collect the items in, which the game discards from the word go, deciding instead to make players criss-cross across the map.

Getting used to the mechanics of Chrono & Cash is the key to success. Learning how the physics work (the character doesn’t get much hangtime) and figuring out the tricky enemy patterns is the biggest barrier to success. The jumping always feels low, and the enemy patterns in later levels are difficult to pick up on because they’re more complex, and there’s less time to pick up on them. Not being able to do anything about the enemies besides barely try to avoid them by jumping over them is frustrating; I do wonder if jumping on the enemies would improve the game. I want to be hesitant in suggesting things for developers to do, as one aspect can have unintended consequences.

Fans of gamer culture references will love the cameo appearances from other indie games in Chrono & Cash, including Commander Pixman from his eponymous game recently released on Android, and Burnie from Scorched Monster. Oh, and the game features iCade support, even on Android, thanks to it just being a Bluetooth keyboard. It gives the game a great arcade feel, to go along with its dificulty level that comes straight from the 1980’s as well.

The tightness of the design of Chrono & Cash makes it one of Orangepixel’s best games yet; while it still feels far from perfect, I would love to see future titles from the developer go in this direction of laser-focused arcade titles that expand on a simple gameplay mechanic.

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

The Hills Are Greener: “Angry” About Cloud Saves

Mar 26, 2012

Angry Birds Space launched recently, and much like a space-bound rocket, it took off to the top of pretty much any chart it could be on. One notable feature was omitted from the game – cloud-based saving. Rovio announced a while back that they were working on an Angry Birds Sync service, that has yet to materialize. How has the world reacted to this notable omission? By barely reacting at all, if the lack of discussion on social media is a reliable indicator. There are a few tweets here and there grousing about the omission, but it’s apparently not enough of a deal for people to go out and be angry about it.

So, if the biggest franchise in the world releasing a new game without cloud-based synchronization between even devices on the same platform is not a big deal, do people really care? Perhaps not. Maybe the number of people that like to play between devices is so few that it’s just not worth the headaches to implement.

And really, whenever I speak to developers about implementing cloud saves in their own games, they do mention that it’s headache-inducing. There are so many possible errors that come up, from the same game being loaded up on multiple linked devices, to what happens when a device goes offline, that many just prefer not to mess with it. While I frequently mention the omission of cloud-based saving in games (especially on iOS where the iPad/iPhone split is prominent, and iCloud does exist as a solution), it’s something not being picked up en masse.

But maybe users aren’t complaining because they don’t know that it’s something that is technically possible. The “cloud” in general is a confusing concept, one that requires explanation to non-technical people. It’s something they use every day with their email, or even accessing Twitter or Facebook, but the idea of the cloud is obscure. So, people may not even realize that it’s technically possible for games to transfer their data from one device to another, even from one platform to another.

And really, the frustrating thing is that off-the-shelf tools for cloud synchronization exist. Apple has the much-ballyhooed iCloud service that few games implement – and even fewer implement in an error-free way. OrangePixel’s games all synchronize between devices using OpenFeint – even between operating systems! OrangePixel is a one man studio from Holland. So, while it may not be easy, if it’s possible for one person to use a free service to synchronize game saves, surely my Angry Birds Space scores can transfer from my Xoom to my iPod touch?

Of course, why should Rovio spend the work implementing it if no one really cares?

Neoteria Review

Neoteria Review

Feb 23, 2012

Neoteria is the newest game from OrangePixel, another retro-inspired affair. This time, they tackle the horizontally-scrolling shoot ‘em up, as this title takes inspiration from games like R-Type and Gradius. The story is light as it tends to be in these games: there’s some dialog at the start of each level, but nothing that is particularly essential. What is essential is taking out as many enemies as possible, advancing to the next checkpoint in each level (there are infinite lives here, but also a power down punishment for dying), trying just to survive against the onslaught of enemies.

The traditional OrangePixel art style is here: pixel art, and 16-bit-esque chiptunes. The game has the look and feel of a title like R-Type, only slightly less frustrating. I emphasize slightly, because the game is still challenging, even on its easiest difficulty. It just doesn’t feel impossible. Also, the removal of horizontal movement is a great decision for a mobile shmup, as it’s just one fewer factor to be concerned with.

The weapon upgrade mechanic from INC returns here, where collectibles dropped by enemies can be used for more powerful weapons. This bar decreases on death and it’s possible for weapons to downgrade, so replaying earlier levels becomes necessary to keep it up. Unlike INC, the power-down is much less on death, so while grinding is still somewhat necessary, it’s less of an annoyance. I still have issues with the power down, but it is orders of magnitude less annoying, though it becomes very necessary in later levels, and grinding that first world becomes boring after a short while.

A lot of the game isn’t really explained in the game itself. How does the star system work, and why do I have two stars on some levels and one star on others? How do the branching paths unlock? No clue!

The controls are rather fussy, if only because the up/down buttons are rather small. The game supports physical controls on the Xperia Play, and external controls on tablets and phones with USB host support and the’re far superior to the button controls, as too often have I tried to move in one direction, only for nothing to happen because I wasn’t pressing on the button. This is where the Reckless Racing control customization would have come in handy, to define custom touch areas for each button.

Neoteria is frustrating in two senses: first, in the sense that most retro shmups are. It nails that aspect. The second comes from the grinding and touch control issues. The free version is definitely worth checking out for those curious.