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Metal Tales: Overkill Is Underwhelming

Metal Tales: Overkill Is Underwhelming

Metal Tales: Overkill Is Underwhelming

Posted by Lawrence Rennie

26 May, 2022

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For the metal heads out there comes Metal Tales: Overkill, an action-adventure roguelike combining metal music culture with the deadly fight against the demonic forces of evil, newly released on Xbox, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PS5.

Through the power of metal and music you have to take the fight back to the evil God Kuk and stop him from erasing your beloved metal culture as he uses his power to possess the greatest metal players around and strip them of their creativity.

 

Unfortunately, aside from a head banging metal soundtrack showcasing works of real metal bands, Zerouno Games’ new roguelike leaves very little to be desired, failing on multiple counts to either do anything new with the genre or even get the core concepts of a roguelike down properly. Metal Tales: Overkill ends up more akin to someone’s poorly scribbled copying of another roguelike’s homework before hand-in at the last minute—scrawling together just enough parts to present the impression of a roguelike without any of the actual work done. You may have a fun enough 20 or so minutes with the game but beyond an hour Metal Tales: Overkill will have already exhausted all of its worth—at the very least you’ll have a couple of metal bands to then go look up. 

A Buggy Mess

When starting Metal Tales: Overkill, you are treated to a brief comic strip intro detailing that the God Kun has influenced the most prominent metal players and turned their fanbases into a zombie horde to erase metal once and for all. This intro provided me with my first head scratching moment; however, since the entire cutscene was completely silent. No music, no dialogue. A silent entrance into a game that is quite literally all about a music culture. 

As it turns out this is because the audio options for the game were all defaulted to mute. I’ve no idea if this was a bug solely isolated to my game, but after a cursory look online I found someone else mentioning that their intro was in the wrong language so it’s likely that the entire menu is just broken. This would also at least help explain the settings tab that I couldn’t access either. 

The omen of the broken menu served as a warning for the gameplay, which saw me twice get stuck inside of a chest and once get teleported out of the very final boss fight which then also seemed to cause my game to run in perma slow motion, meaning one, I had to spend 5 minutes getting back to the boss zone and, two, I had  to endure the entire final fight as a Zack Snyder movie.

Poor Design

I can be somewhat forgiving of bugs, especially in a small budget game like this. The wild west of programming is a cruel and so often uncertain mistress; testing is difficult in a small team—bugs happen. However, in this case the bugs are probably more indicative of a game that is ultimately just quite poorly designed. 

Presented in a top-down view with low-res cell shading, Metal Tales: Overkill sees you fighting from room to room collecting upgrades and rewards that enhance and change your abilities along the way. It is The Binding of Isaac with a metalhead filtering. However unlike The Binding of Isaac the combat rings fairly hollow with enemies largely lacking any creativity or enjoyment to them. Metalheads geared in band outfits either run at you or fire slow projectiles that are rarely difficult to dodge. The result of boring to fight enemies is a boring gameplay loop—the very thing that a roguelike fundamentally depends on since by its nature you are doing the same thing over and over. 

The dullness of the enemies is also not alleviated by their challenge; even as the game throws more slightly varied enemies at you the combat still feels pretty easy throughout which again is not what you want from a roguelike. The challenge is intrinsic to the roguelike genre, purposefully punishing you early on so that you have to level up and try again until you’re strong enough to progress. Metal Tales: Overkill fails here outright, which to me begs a fundamental failing of its place as a roguelike altogether. The points I accrued from my first death gave me enough to upgrade my health and armour one level, and that alone was enough for me to then finish the game after a couple more runs. I didn’t get close to unlocking any of the other abilities, nor did I evidently need to. Though the later levels are a little better once the enemies start to become more aggressive and the numbers increase, the challenge still never quite gets steep enough to qualify for that roguelike grind of pushing ever so slightly further each time—the very thing that usually keeps you coming back and where the enjoyment of roguelikes is mostly derived from. 

A lot of the abilities and power ups that you pick up also feel much of a muchness, often not noticeably changing much about your attacks or making you feel notably more powerful. You can change out your “guitar” which changes your basic attack, and then there are one use abilities to help clear a room or teleport you to the shop. A lot of these are not discernible from each other however; there is no indication of damage differences or how one power might be better than another. The only ones that do seem to have an effect are any that multiply your projectiles or make them faster, and once you have one of those the game becomes a pretty simple romp thereafter. 

The environments are not the most exciting, and the low-res cell shading really doesn’t do them much justice either unfortunately. Design details are largely lost with the graphical style leading to environments that don’t feel all too alive or exciting. The levels chart the types of gig events you’d find for metal concerts, increasing in scale the further you progress—i.e. a grungy bar, to outside festival fields, and, of course, hell.

Flourishes at the Boss Fights But Leaves Little Else

At the end of each level you must fight one of the possessed guitar lords. These guitar lords come with a small intro cutscene scored by a distinct metal song (these are labelled on screen too so the artist and song gets credit, a nice touch). The bosses themselves are all of a nice design, each with their own distinct demonic transformation making them into bullish monstrosities, and each with their own attack style. The boss you get at the end of a level also seems to be randomised from a small pool for each area, meaning in theory you’ll get different fights every run however the pool isn’t exhaustive so even just a couple runs will mean you’ve seen everything. 

I enjoyed the boss battles the most out of anything in the game and the use of the metal songs is done very well with some perfect tracks for the chaotic fights that you endure. It makes good on the promise of metal and action finally. However even still though the bosses look impressive the difficulty they present is once again limited with most fights being straightforward enough to get past on first attempt. 

Once you complete the game you then unlock two new characters to play with (4 in totality). However beyond a couple of stat differences and different starting equipment these new characters don’t really entice much other reason to keep playing. The challenge doesn’t change and since you’ve beaten the game once already further upgrades aren’t going to mean too much either. After an hour the game has become exhausted of content and the gameplay loop itself is not enjoyable enough to pull you back in alone.

I can appreciate trying to marry something that the developers are obviously passionate about and that will mean something to a relatively niche but hardcore audience. But beyond its exposure to some great metal bands from around the world Metal Tales: Overkill just has very little going for it. A huge disappointment with poor design choices that fully lacks an understanding of the roguelike genre beyond a couple of easy to recognize mechanics. 

Final Score: 3/10

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About Author

Lawrence Rennie

Lawrence is a Scottish-born writer with a love of games and films that he fortunately turned into a career grumbling about online. When not firing away the hours buried in a game or film he also co-writes 'Mechastopheles', an original comic series published by the UK’s leading comic magazine 2000AD as a naturally born-grumpy Scot; however, he asks that you don’t ask him too much about it though! Lawrence’s other musings include podcasts, fitness, his cat, and one day developing his own screenplay.

 
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