Kick Ass Commandos is a game by Anarchy Enterprises which caters to a very specific demographic: Those who like 8-bit gore and Explosions! It is a mechanically simply game that seeks to deliver one thing to its audience, and does so quite well. Currently in Early Access and available on Steam for $6.99, Kick Ass Commandos has only a select few missions available, but promises to add more as development moves forward, and even plans to add a campaign of some kind. With the current content, I only managed to get about two hours out of the game, but that was without replaying any levels, and only playing on the Medium difficulty. Still, even with only the first set of Early Access missions available, it’s cheaper than a movie and gives you about the same amount of entertainment time, if not more. But how is the quality of entertainment? Let’s break down the game’s different attributes and see if we can’t find out.
In the ever-popular “Retro” style Kick Ass Commandos art style actually fits the game’s feeling and atmosphere very well. When you enter a mission as the Mustachioed Lex Lightning to rescue Sergeant Mohawk and Corporal 6-pack, you feel like you’re entering the 80’s and the artistic style and 8-bit graphics really do it justice. What’s more, they really seem to take those 8 bits to the max. I have seen a lot of games take the 8-bit direction and seemingly use it as an excuse to make their sprites or environments an afterthought rather than a carefully crafted part of the experience. I would honestly say the graphics and artistic style are my favorite aspect of this game so far.
The sound present in the game is nothing to write home about, which is fine! Bullets and guns have been done so many times before that you can’t really rock the foundation, but nothing is of low quality. I have nothing negative to say about the sound quality, it is all clear and solid, and fits the game’s feeling quite well.
The levels are actually really well done, and offer a surprising amount of variety for being just the first Early Access mission pack. Working with the resources they have in the game already they have come out with 22 missions that each legitimately feels unique. I won’t give 100% praise on this aspect, however. They currently only have 2 types of backgrounds for use in level design: Jungle and prison/warehouse. This isn’t a huge deal, of course, as this game is still in the first stages of Early Access, but it is definitely something I believe would benefit them to expand upon. Adding even just one or two more sets of resources will really freshen up their already awesome level design variety, and I’d have no more complaints in the area.
The game is fairly simple, in only the best way. You move, and you shoot. If you rescue another commando, they move with you and shoot at the same location as your first guy. You can’t (easily) control the placement of the other commandos, so with the fast pace of the game it isn’t quite feasible to use any kind of tactical setup for where each commando is going to be in your little squad. Also, each member has its own health bar which is replenished by making THAT commando walk over a health pack, making the lack of tactical control of your commandos just a tad bit more frustrating at times. But those are very minor complaints, and honestly still fit squarely within the Rambo-like feel to the game; Shoot first, vaguely consider fine details sometime in the distant future. Another mechanical aspect of the game is powerups. These are all fun and game changing, with a few things to note: First and foremost, powerups are usually dropped by enemies or structures you destroy, and they are timed both in how long they will sit on the floor before de-spawning, and how long you have the powerup for (there are a few powerups that are spawned at the start of a mission and stay there until you pick them up, but they’re few and far between). It is therefore not uncommon for you to grab a powerup after killing a wave of enemies, only to have it run out after you killed only one or two more guys. This isn’t terrible, as you obviously need to have a limit to these powerups, but it can be frustrating to grab that missile launcher and run to the boss, only for it to run out as you open fire. Aside from that, however, I feel the powerups are all fun and balanced, and they seem to drop mostly from intuitive places (shotgun enemies drop shotgun powerup, missile guys drop missile powerup, etc). The Mechanics are fun, simple, and seem to work quite well so far.
The game is still in Development, so I don’t hold bugs against them. That said, I WILL point them out. First and foremost, a GLARING issue I had: The Trees can kill. I found and tested it on live stream on one level, so I can’t say for certain if it is unique to this level or not, but in the mission “Saving Corporal 6-pack” there is at least one tree, serving as part of the level border, that will kill you instantly if you press against it the wrong way. And I honestly think it happened in a few places. You just die, even at full health, with no enemies shooting at you and no mines to step on. It was particularly frustrating because that level took me the longest to beat! The second major bug I noticed is at their end of mission statistics. They have numerous issues with the math they use to get their numbers. Save 0 commandos and 0 commandos died? 0% survived! The commandos (other than you) killed 0 people and you killed 54, but the 60 enemies died total? The 0 commandos with 0 kills clearly got 4% of the kills! Again, these are minor and undoubtedly simple fixes, but something I noticed during my time playing.
This one I struggle with. I, personally, will not be picking this game up again until another mission pack is released. I see absolutely no replay value in this game at all. It is a fairly linear progression of challenges and, once you’ve completed them, the game is done. However, I know people who will pick this up again and again for hours of mindless fun. So while I personally consider this to be the area of the game that falls short, your mileage may vary. Just keep in mind that if you’re looking for a compelling reason to play the missions a second time, the only one is the next highest difficulty, and if you started on hard, there is nowhere to go but down.
Who should buy this game?
People who enjoy retro top-down shooters
People who want to support an Indie Game Studio
People who desperately miss the 80’s
Who should not buy this game?
People who can’t deal with bugs in an Early Access game
People who don’t understand what Early Access means
People who want their games to be a bit more complex
Kick Ass Commandos has a goal, and it’s on the way to achieving it. It’s mindlessly fun, but still offers enough of a challenge to compel you to beat level after level. It has bugs, but all early access games do. The price is low, and the entertainment value is astronomically high in comparison. Overall I think this game is exactly what it promises to be. It struggles a bit in terms of replay value at the moment, but it is also a very cheap game and as such does not need to strive to be played a dozen times for people to feel they got their money’s worth. I would personally rate this game a solid 8.5/10 for a game in development, and I say that anyone who enjoys retro style top-down shooters will not be disappointed in Kick Ass Commandos.