Gamers of the 90s may feel nostalgia when opening Total Party Kill, despite it being a brand new game, released only a few days ago at the time of writing. This is a retro-inspired puzzle-platformer, with the emphasis on the puzzle aspect.
This is a PC and mobile platform release. I personally played through the PC version. It was originally the winner in several categories of the Ludum Dare 43 game development competition with the theme “Sacrifices must be made”, but has since been expanded into a full game.
In Total Party Kill you make your way through sixty progressively more difficult puzzles where you need to make your way through obstacles to get to the doorway. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is most often to sacrifice your allies.
You control three characters which you switch between. A knight, a mage and an archer. They each have unique skills which can be combined to get at least one of them through the level safely. If even a single character makes it to that door, it’s a success.
The knight can hit the other characters and send them flying. This might be used to knock a character into a button for example.
The mage can freeze the other characters, turning them into a block of ice. They can then make a good surface to step on, either to get more height for a jump or to avoid spikes on the ground.
The archer shoots arrows which can pin the other characters into a wall. This might be used to push another character into a button or make a surface to step on.
Quite often the puzzles require some thinking of how to combine their powers to the best effect. For example, the mage might freeze the knight into a block, then the archer can use his arrows to slide them across a floor of spikes.
While the puzzle element is certainly the most important, there are some light platforming elements. There are levels where positioning and timing are important to safely make a jump across.
I quite enjoy some of the gruesome solutions to the puzzles in this game. In one level I had the knight jump to his death, then froze his dead body. I then had the archer jump on the knight’s remains, then onto spikes for the same to happen to him. This lets the mage hop his way over their corpses to victory.
In another level, I had intended to try pinning one of the characters to the wall to use as a platform but actually found a way to get around it without having to make any sacrifices. There is a Steam achievement if you can find a way to do this.
The puzzles did often make me think, but the answer was not usually too difficult after learning the ways to combine character skills. Like many retro games, you are left to figure things out yourself for the most part.
While I never had to think too hard, it had that ‘one more turn’ feeling, whether I tried something which failed or just wanted to complete the next level. It’s quite an addictive game. I would say that it’s too short, but I cannot complain due to the budget-friendly price of less than $5 USD or £4 GBP.
One small complaint I did have was that the controls were only shown as keyboard controls. A nice feature in many games nowadays is automatically changing to show standard gamepad controls when using a controller. This was added to by the unusual fact that it defaulted to controller two, whereas all my other games default to controller one. It didn’t take long to figure things out and get used to it, but it caused a bit of confusion at first.
The graphics for the game are well done I feel. It’s a particular style of art which suits the game and all graphics are clear and as detailed as they need to be.
I felt like the music was very fitting too. It was a big part in bringing that nostalgic feeling of early 90s console games.
I personally enjoyed Total Party Kill. I’m not usually a huge fan of puzzle platformers, but this kept me quite entertained. The mechanics are fairly simple, but the puzzles are well designed and the concept is unique. If you have a dark sense of humor and enjoy puzzles, I recommend it. If you are not quite convinced, you can try the prototype of the game for free here.
Many thanks to Adventure Islands for the review copy.
Nook has been gaming since the Amstrad and DOS. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.