Death’s Hangover

A game by Retro Army Limited for PC, originally released in 2017.
There are very few entries in the fantasy-themed Arkanoidlike sub-subgenre, with Wizorb and Strikey Sisters standing as two of the finest examples. Death’s Hangover takes this already absurd premise and ratchets it up a notch by featuring Death – freshly awoken and nursing a terrible hangover – who has taken it upon himself to pick a fight with Bastard Dracula, who has stolen a number of souls. Death decides to resurrect a pair of dimwitted warriors to aid him in his cause, upon threat of a second death should they fail, and sends them off to Bastard Dracula’s castle… but before doing so, he transforms them into women, as there is apparently some prophecy about women being able to defeat the lord of bastard vampires.

The entirety of the game is filled with crass humor, mostly coming from between-level conversations between the men-turned-women, including boob jokes, several poop jokes, actual poop monsters, and a poop boss at the end of one of the levels. (Freud might have something to say about all of this.)

At any rate, one of the women runs along the bottom of the screen, while the other takes up residence inside the ball that bounces around the room. The game offers 1P or 2P play, a level creation and sharing tool, an arcade mode with three difficulty levels, and an unlockable story mode that adds even more crass humor with sidescrolling interstitial levels mixed between block breaking arenas.

Players move from one themed area to the next as they ascend Bastard Dracula’s castle, with keys to be found in some levels that open alternate areas, the locations of which are hinted at by some twitching blocks. The map screen shows the number of souls to be found in each level, and these descend from broken blocks and must be touched with the paddle in order to be collected. Souls are very important because the player can trade them to Death to cheat… er, death when losing all of their lives by spending souls to spin a wheel of fortune for a chance to get back in the game. Souls are also required to open the doorway to Bastard Dracula’s chambers in the final area.

The game starts out with a few tutorial levels to explain that players can move the paddle along the bottom of the screen, break blocks, and smash monsters. Players can also speed up and slow down the movement of the ball at will, which makes the game considerably easier than other Breakout-style games. Per Arkanoid conventions, breaking certain blocks releases powerups, but there is a twist here in that many of these powerups stack.

Powerups include the bog standard paddle-lengthener, but picking up multiple powerups of the same type causes the paddle to get even longer. There’s also a spike powerup that allows the player to fire pairs of spikes from the paddle, taking down enemies and breaking blocks while the ball is bouncing around the screen. Collecting additional spike powerups allows the player to launch more spikes, and send them out at angles. Other powerups include explosives, a turret that can be dropped to fire continuously in a straight line, a multiball, and glue that allows the player to catch the ball each time it touches the paddle and then release it on command.

Projectile-based powerups make quick work of enemies and most of the game’s bosses, so once the player is fully powered up, much of the game’s challenge is eliminated, especially given that many levels can be completed as soon as the exit door is opened. The player can have two powerups equipped at any given time, and can switch between them at will. When killed, the player loses whichever powerup was active at the time.

Some levels feature specific challenges where the player must contend with flowing water currents, indestructible blocks that pop up and drop down, and switches that open other sections of the level, and some levels lock the player in a room until he defeats a certain number of enemies. Bosses appear at the end of each 6-level area, and each of these has unique attacks that must be dodged, and some bosses can defend against direct hits from the ball, requiring players to bounce the ball behind the boss… or just lay on some heavy firepower with a fully-upgraded paddle, reducing most bosses to ash in a matter of seconds.

The game features dozens of levels and a number of alternate routes and bonus levels, although most levels end in a matter of seconds once the door at the top of the screen is unlocked. There are a whopping 18 different endings for players who want to go back to the game again, although once the player has uncovered the bonus levels, taken on the Hard mode, and experienced the story mode, there isn’t much left to compel him toward a dozen or so more playthroughs.

Death’s Hangover was developed by Retro Army Limited, based in Scotland, a one-man studio headed by Paul Stephen-Davis. The studio previously released Dungeon Marathon, a game about running through dungeons without fighting; Verdict Guilty, a 90’s-style 1-on-1 fighter; and the Super Trench Attack series of goofball shooters with crass humor.