Gunmetal Arcadia

A game by Minor Key Games for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
Gunmetal Arcadia is the follow-up to Gunmetal Arcadia Zero. The original game was a straightforward action-platformer with gameplay reminiscent of the sidescrolling action sequences found in Zelda II. Gunmetal Arcadia, on the other hand, has a roguelike structure that sees players sent back to the start of the game upon death, with procedurally arranged environments and random loot drops altering the course of each run. Both games share the same aesthetics, with four tilesets representing each of the four geographical areas, chunky 8-bit low-color visuals, and an authentic-sounding chiptune soundtrack. The game also has an optional CRT-style display mode.


Gunmetal Arcadia once again stars Vireo, a member of a race called Tech Elves. There are two factions of Tech Elves at odds with one another, with the Gunmetal Vanguard focusing on brute strength and the Seekers of Arcadia focusing on agility. Players may choose to align themselves with either faction, which allows them to receive discounts at the affiliated shops (with the trade-off being higher prices at opposing shops), or they may choose to remain independent, which grants players with a currency bonus at the start of the next run.


Both factions are at war with the Unmade Empire. Vireo defeated the Hive Queen in the first game, and stripped it of the source of its power, called a Seed of Unmaking. The goal in his new quest is to seek out other hive queens, defeat them, and collect their seeds to defeat the Unmade Army.


At the start of each run, Vireo visits his friend Wren, who offers him a random treasure, along with some instructions about the controls and systems, and lore of the game’s world. From there, Vireo sets out and begins facing enemies with his short sword. By default, he can only attack to the left or right while standing still or ducking. He has a slow movement speed and a nonvariable 1x jump. By collecting treasures and purchasing upgrades and equipment, he can significantly increase his damage output, jump height, attack speed, movement speed, and health.


Since loot drops are random, players must also hone their core skills rather than simply relying on upgrades to see them through. However, powerups and new abilities are stackable, so players can alter their strategies when they find a bunch of damage output modifiers in succession, allowing them to take a more direct approach to enemies. Or, with greater speed and jump height – and even the ability to double jump and perform upward and downward strikes – players can more easily dodge attacks and fight more strategically.


There are dozens of items and upgrades to be found throughout the game, including weapons that allow the player to strike at a distance, deal heavier blows, or strike more quickly. Secondary weapons allow the player to fire off various sorts of projectiles (these are the same secondary weapons featured in the original game), each of which draws from a counter represented by stars, working similarly to the way in which sub-weapons are used in the Castlevania series. There are also powerful relics that can be used in place of secondary weapons, each of which offers continuous effects while slowly draining the star counter, and these include greatly increased damage output and total invincibility.


As before, the player has access to a limited stock of bombs (and his carrying capacity can be increased). These can be used to bomb through the occasional destructible wall or to defeat enemies, but the player must be sure to move clear of the blast lest he take damage as well. By default, bombs pass through enemies when tossed, but a purchasable upgrade causes them to explode on contact with enemies, making them more useful in combat.


Environments are structured with a main path, which allows the player to make narrative progress (though the narrative is extremely limited), moving from one area to the next and taking on various bosses and minibosses. Along the way, there are various side rooms – the presence of which becomes more apparent as you play – that feature shops where you can purchase items or equipment, and inns where the you can heal, with the cost for healing increasing in later areas.


Money is hard to come by in most runs, and it’s easy to waste it if you’re relying on inns for healing, but many chests contain crystals that can be sold for high prices, and the player is able to sell unneeded equipment as well.


Most upgrades are found within challenge rooms, which appear frequently and are indicated by doorways along the main path. Here, the player enters a sealed room and must kill all of the enemies within in order to reveal a treasure and leave the room. Some rooms are locked and require keys to enter, with keys appearing as occasional enemy drops or as purchasable items within shops.


Entering these challenge rooms represents a risk, especially given the player’s generally limited health reserves, but the payoff can be substantial. Since these rooms are entirely optional, the player can determine whether it’s worth the effort, or if he would rather stick to the main route and move forward.


The player’s low default starting stats and limited movement abilities make progress difficult, especially given that environmental layouts often play counter to the player’s strengths. For instance, you often find enemies located on tiny platforms or at the tops of ladders, making it difficult to reach them, and often resulting in taking a cheap hit… or a bit of lost progress if you are knocked off a ladder.


Some enemies are capable of lurching forward and striking quickly – much more quickly than the player’s ability to move out of the way – and their limited animations often don’t do much to telegraph the strike, again resulting in the player taking unavoidable damage. Some enemies are capable of firing projectiles all the way across the screen, and even through solid objects, but they are often placed in such a way that the player has limited ability to dodge their attacks – and sometimes no way to fully dodge attacks – as he tries to reach the enemy to kill it, or simply to navigate from one side of the area to the other.


Much of this appears to be the fault of the procedural arrangement of levels, but just as much is a result of enemies having abilities that are not equally countered by the strengths of the player character. This discontinuity between player and enemy skills carries over into the bosses and minibosses as well. Most minibosses are so simple to defeat that it’s incredibly unlikely you will take any damage, as walking forward and repeatedly swinging your sword will win the day.


On the other hand, standard bosses have complex movement and attack patterns that require the player to pay close attention to their movements, and even then, without some speed upgrades, the player may find it impossible to avoid certain attacks. At the end of some battles, players receive a large heart that restores two units of health, but in others, the player is given no health restoration, leaving him to venture into a new area with little chance for survival.


The goal of the game is to make it through four themed areas and reach the boss at the end. Failing in your quest returns you to the start of the game with a few possible modifiers based on your previous run, and you can unlock the commonality of better loot drops by completing small side quests. As you make progress, you begin unlocking new playable characters with different starting stats. In particular, the Wayfarer – a character from the developer’s previous work, Super Win the Game – presents a challenge as the character begins the game with a health meter containing only half a heart, which means taking damage of any sort results in instant death.



2D CRED
Gunmetal Arcadia was developed by Minor Key Games, a US-based studio founded in 2013 by twin brothers David and J. Kyle Pittman. The game is a follow-up to Gunmetal Arcadia Zero, a linear action game released a year prior.



You Have to Win the Game
Prior to founding Minor Key Games, Kyle worked on his own to develop You Have to Win the Game, which was released as freeware in 2012 under his Pirate Hearts label. The game offers an open world, exploration-based gameplay, and a metroidvania progression system. In 2014, leading up to the release of the sequel, Minor Key Games released an enhanced version of the game, offering a tougher set of remixed levels and the ability to play the entire game as a cat (but with a limit of nine lives).


You Have to Win the Game is presented in a 1980’s computer style, complete with a (optional) computer monitor border with a curved screen and glare effect, and it can be played in 4-color CGA mode or 16-color EGA mode. The player character starts out with just a 2.5x jump as he explores a large world made up of interconnected single-screen rooms.



As the player collects items, the world slowly opens up, allowing the him to backtrack to previous locations and reach new areas. New abilities include transforming blue and red block outlines into solid blocks to use them as platforms, as well as a double jump and wall jump ability, allowing for some much tougher platforming sequences. The player must explore the world, collect money bags that count toward a completion percentage, and eventually… win the game.



Super Win the Game
Super Win the Game is the sequel to You Have to Win the Game. While the original game hearkened back to the days of 1980’s computer games, the sequel offers an NES-style aesthetic with an expanded color palette, a larger world, and a wider variety of themed locales. The game also features multidirectional scrolling rather than the interconnected single-screen rooms found in the original game.


Rather than presenting a single contiguous world, Super Win the Game offers individual towns and dungeons, with an overworld map to connect them all. Similar to the presentation of Zelda II, the world map is top-down with icons representing town and dungeon locations, and entering these areas reveals sidescrolling platforming environments.


While the original game featured an open world design, Super Win the Game is even more of a non-linear experience. The bulk of the world map is open to the player from the start, and the player may gather many of the gameplay-altering powerups in any order. This is in contrast to the original game that offered red and blue block switches to open new paths that eventually led to the double jump and wall climb abilities. In Super Win the Game, even the first dungeon offers multiple branching paths and navigation that is impacted by the abilities that the player has acquired, thus encouraging a return trip after new powerups have been collected.


Eldritch
Minor Key Games’ first commercial release was a 3D first person action game called Eldritch, based on the stories of H. P. Lovecraft. The game offers melee-based combat, traditional FPS gunplay, and the use of high explosives to cause massive damage and even blow holes in the walls. The game’s block-based levels are randomly generated.


The player wakes up in a library and discovers a series of glowing books that transport him to several strange worlds filled with monsters. A number of traditional Lovecraftian creatures make an appearance, including fish people, cult members, and strange tentacled beasts, each presented in a somewhat cartoony fashion.


Players are able to kill enemies and loot their bodies to get ammo and money. Money can be used to buy weapons, keys, and gameplay-altering powerups like high jump boots, speed boots, the ability to pick locks and lock doors behind you, and the ability to resurrect yourself (for a price). But beware, looted enemies will respawn elsewhere in the level.


Stealth plays a large role, as the player needs to conserve health and ammunition in order to survive, and the player is rewarded for killing enemies silently or merely sneaking past without engaging them. The game is a roguelike, so if you do manage to get killed, you are sent back to the start of the game with most of your progress reset. The game also features an expansion called Eldritch: Mountains of Madness which places the player in a 10-story dungeon in Antarctica, with a new set of enemies, weapons, and items.


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