Haunted Lands: Burial Grounds

A game by Alexey Goryachev for PC, originally released in 2023.
Haunted Lands: Burial Grounds, a follow up to Haunted Lands, is a sidescrolling shooter reminiscent of Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, a 1991 DOS game from id Software that was developed by John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack (yeah, the DOOM guys). The game features a similar tone, style, and color scheme, and even offers some of the same basic movement abilities. You take on the role of a quartet of hunters on a mission to destroy an evil cult and the terrifying creatures they have unleashed upon the world.
When you begin the game, you are able to select between one of four playable characters who share a home in a walled-off protected area. You are free to roam around this space and visit the tutorial, vault, and trading post, or take on the next mission. This also gives you a glimpse into the personality of each character, as the Veteran reads a book next to a fireplace, the Ranger is brushing a horse in a nearby stable, the Salamander is doing pullups in the weight room downstairs, and the Sorceress is playing a run and gun shooter in the game room, with posters on the wall representing DOOM, Left 4 Dead 2, and Contra, and there’s a Hollow Knight figure on the shelf.
Each of the characters has unique abilities and weapons. A pair of hunters uses guns to eliminate threats from a distance, while the mage uses magic to enhance her movement abilities and strike enemies with lightning, and the beast can lunge at enemies and rip them to shreds. In addition, each character has charged strikes, invulnerable dashes, and special attacks that deal extra damage. Fortunately, a tutorial is available to explain all of the different skills, and it’s highly recommended for first time players.
The Veteran is one of the hunters, and he is the one who most closely resembles Dave from the aforementioned Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion – albeit somewhat older – as he wears a red cap and carries a shotgun that he can aim to the left, right, or at upward or downward angles. The Ranger is the other hunter and she has the same moveset, although she carries a rifle instead of a shotgun.
Both of the hunters have a 2x variable jump (as do the other characters), and they use weapons that draw from an infinite supply of ammunition that must be reloaded. The characters automatically reload their weapons after a few seconds once you stop firing, but you can also manually reload at any time with a button press. Unfortunately they don’t reload when you try to fire an empty weapon, so get used to hearing a disappointing click when you run out of ammo.
Since the Veteran uses a shotgun, he loads the shells individually, which can take a few seconds, but this gives you the opportunity to interrupt the reloading process and fire if an enemy is coming at you. The Ranger loads a full magazine, but she takes slightly longer to start reloading. Neither character can attack while moving, jumping, or aiming, but they reload more quickly if they’re standing still… forcing you to balance mobility versus firepower in the thick of battle.
Both of the hunters have similar charged attacks, which are performed by holding the ATTACK button, allowing you to unleash a wide powerful blast, and this becomes a melee strike when enemies are close. These powerful attacks don’t use ammunition but rather draw from a secondary meter that refills quickly over time. The hunters also have a dodge roll that grants them temporary invulnerability and allows them to roll through low openings.
Where these characters differ is in their special abilities, which are known as wrath and retribution attacks. These draw from a 3-bar meter that fills as you kill enemies, and these are each assigned to separate buttons, with a wrath attack draining a single bar, and a retribution attack using up all three. The Veteran’s wrath attack is a grenade launcher that fires a powerful projectile in a long slow arc, whereas the Ranger has a combat shotgun that delivers a larger blast than the charged shot. When shifting into retribution mode, the Veteran’s weapon becomes a full-auto assault rifle that rips through enemies, but it runs out of ammo quickly as a result. The Ranger’s weapon becomes a pair of revolvers that deal more damage than her regular attacks.
The Sorceress falls into the mage class. She glides instead of walking and has a floating eyeball with horns and batwings hovering behind her. In addition, holding the JUMP button while she’s falling allows her to greatly slow her descent, which draws from a mana meter that refills when not in use… but this meter is also drained when attacking. Her default weapon is a short range electrical projectile that has a shorter range than the hunters’ weapons, but she has a lot of different ways to use it.
By holding the ATTACK button, she can charge here electrical attack to three different levels, with the first changing the projectile into a long-range weak shot, the second offering a medium range with medium power, and the third unleashing a short range shot that explodes and does damage over a small area, potentially hitting multiple enemies at once. This makes her more versatile in combat but also requires more effort, and she can only take two hits before being killed (although she can regenerate the shield with her wrath ability). She also has the benefit of never needing to reload.
Instead of a dodge roll, the Sorceress has the ability to teleport, allowing her to pass through certain walls, and this can be combined with her long floating jump to reach almost any point in the environment with ease. Her wrath attack is chain lightning that strikes over a medium distance, but its range is increased if there are other enemies nearby, since the lightning will chain between them. Her retribution attack allows her to summon a dark storm cloud that slowly fires lightning bolts at each onscreen enemy, allowing her to deal 16 blasts of heavy damage.
Finally there’s the beast character known as the Salamander, who is a lizard with a long tail, and she plays very differently. She is the most vicious of all the characters, fighting exclusively with melee strikes. She’s also the only character who can attack while jumping, and her charged attack is actually a lunge that allows her to quickly move to the left or right, or at upward or downward angles, and she’s invulnerable during this time as well. This, combined with her midair dash, can be used to get her to places that the other characters can’t reach.
The Salamander is particularly effective at killing blood-filled enemies, as her lunge attack allows her to follow up with an execution where she rips into the enemy. Spilling blood fills one of four hearts at the top of the screen, making her more powerful and rewarding her thirst for gore. Her wrath attack unleashes a short-range explosive strike. Her retribution attack physically transforms her, causing her to grow wings from her back and granting her the ability to perform lunges without charging them, and this also allows her to breathe fire over a short range.
The trading post offers equippable artifacts that are purchased with silver found tucked away in treasure chests, and others are found by exploring the levels. Certain artifacts can be equipped by anyone, while others are character-specific. You have eight inventory slots, allowing you to mix and match buffs, although some items take up two slots. These include increases to your health, faster charging and reloading, a double jump (which decreases the height of your regular jump somewhat), more mana and faster mana regeneration for the mage, and increased blood drops for the beast.
You’ll need all the help you can get, because the game is tough. You’re frequently surrounded by enemies, forcing you to balance the need to reload, conserve mana, or build up charged strikes while also trying to kill as many enemies as possible before you’re overwhelmed. Most early enemies go down in one or two hits, but there are tough slime-throwing monsters in the first area that can hit you from a distance and take multiple strikes to destroy. Seemingly innocuous skulls target you with slow-moving projectiles, but they’re usually placed above you, requiring you to get close to aim at them since you can’t shoot while jumping.
Many enemies can fill the room with slow-moving projectiles, forcing you to be mindful of your surroundings while trying to get into a position to return fire, which is made more difficult when facing flying enemies. You’ll also face elite variants of enemies that can cast powerful spells, or flaming variants that trail fire behind them as they walk. Often you must clear a room full of enemies before you’re allowed to leave, and you’ll face spawning enemies after opening some treasure chests. Some cultists can worship at altars, summoning forth more creatures to deal with… unless you can blast them or destroy the altar before they finish their prayers.
Bosses are even tougher, given the limitations on your movement and targeting, plus your fragility compared to the lengthy health meters of the bosses. These beasts move more quickly and deliver an array of attacks, many of which extend over the breadth of the playfield. One early boss can even deliver attacks that knock sections of the ground out from under you, opening up dangerous spike pits and limiting your mobility.
There are a few quicksave spots here and there, which record your current state and health and allow you to pick up where you left off. And there are formal checkpoints where you’ll respawn with full health if you fall in battle, but a lot is expected of you between checkpoints. You can also retreat and head back to your home base at any time, provided you can make it all the way back to where you parked.
The world is large, with lots of branching paths (and optional/hidden paths leading to treasure), and even some traps that drop you down into monster-filled areas and force you to fight your way back out. This can make navigation somewhat confusing in the early going, as you loop back in on your previous route and try to figure out how to make your way forward.
Visually, the game nails the DOS-era aesthetic, with its low resolution, tiny color palette, garish color schemes, and somewhat grating soundtrack. However, it pushes those DOS boundaries with its smooth animations, large environments, and gruesome enemy designs… along with an incredible amount of gore. Blood flows like wine in the Haunted Lands as bodies explode, creatures reveal bone and flesh as their skin is torn away by repeated blasts, and some enemies are split apart by your weapons, leaving chunks of gore in their wake.

Haunted Lands: Burial Grounds was developed by Alexey Goryachev, a.k.a. “alevgor”, who previously developed Haunted Lands and Chromatic Fantasy. Music for the game was composed by Larrynachos and TeraVex.