Encouraging Their Arrival
With a simple premise, addicting gameplay, intuitive controls, and beautiful pixel art, Let Them Come, developed by Tuatara Games and published by Versus Evil, is a surprise, must-play pleasure.
This $7.99 indie title ($4.99 on PC) is essentially a real-time tower defense only you are the defense. You play as Rock Gunar, a lone surviving mercenary that is the only thing holding back a throng of aliens from crash landing onto Earth. Using the left analog stick to aim up and down, the goal is to use a stationary machine gun to shoot anything that comes toward you. The left trigger fires normal bullets whereas the right trigger can fire more powerful but limited special ammo. The face buttons are reserved for grenade throwing and melee attacks for enemies that get too close. To see this in action, watch at least a few minutes of my stream below.
On paper, Let Them Come actually sounds pretty terrible. Only aiming and shooting up and down from a stationary position to constantly shoot repeating aliens might not seem to be the most entertaining gameplay. However, the addicting nature of the leveling system makes each wave more entertaining than the last. Each killed alien rewards the player with money. The more baddies you kill in succession, the greater the combo bonus, and the higher the bonus, the more upgrades you can purchase. In time, the player will be able to unlock perks that don’t let the gun overheat, the ability to shoot electric bullets, the even tear up aliens with a chainsaw, and many more. The gameplay not only encourages experimentation, it is designed in a way where the player should never feel bored, repetitive, or discouraged as there is always something new to purchase even if you just died. Also, say you died on wave 11. You just start wave 11 over again and keep replaying until you beat it. But if you die a couple times on this wave, it isn’t a big deal because the player can save up enough cash to buy a perk or ammo to clear the stage. The game also realizes that you might be struggling so the player has the option to start the next wave with a random buff or to shuffle enemy placement, helping to ease any frustration that might occur.
Buffs also are unlocked once the Combo meter fills. These buffs include things like a restock of health or ammo, having a barbed wired barrier built around Rock as a layer of protection, or a floating gun turret that essentially acts as an AI controlled second player. What is cool about this buff system is that it adds flavor to the gameplay but the player also is given the choice as to which buff to select. The key detail to note, however, is the player has to select each of these buffs when the growing meter reaches the top without going over, acting as a simple mini game. Because of this, each of these random perks can be stuttered, sort of like missing a reload in Gears of War.
There are also many different types of aliens to kill: from the Zerg-like spiders, to crawlers that drop eggs, to shielded baddies, to exploding puss bags and more. Bosses also appear at the end of each stage and usually require a decent stockpile of special ammo or require shooting in a gimmicky way. But shooting these gross aliens is always fun thanks to the plentiful upgrade system and amazing pixel art.
My only issue with Let Them Come is the lack of balance when facing a couple bosses, specifically the Level 3 crawler boss. The only way to take down this giant centipede is to stockpile grenades and armor piercing bullets. Unfortunately, if the player goes into this fight without the right grenades and ammo, you can essentially get stuck since there is no way to travel back to a previous stage to grind for money or upgrades (this happened to me). The same goes for the final battle as the riot shield is required. If the player didn’t buy this item, which was assumed was optional, there would no way to defeat this boss if the player already spent all available upgrade money. These severe balancing issues could throw off the entertainment value of the entire game if players are not careful. Hopefully these issues will be patched or an item selling feature could be added if a player needs to purchase something else. Once the campaign is finished, the player has the option of starting a New Game+ in which all upgrades are carried over into the campaign again.
Even if the gameplay was terrible, there is no questioning the quality of the visual presentation. Using a detailed pixel art style, Let Them Come is basically a really, really good looking 16-bit game. Animations are especially expressive and give the game its personality. Before each wave, Rock flicks his cigarette like a badass. All death animations result in a squishy explosion that smears on the background. Like the original Wolfenstein, there is no health bar. Instead, the player can get an understanding of how much health Rock has left by viewing the bloodying avatar face in the bottom left corner. Rock even opens and closes his mouth in rage when firing the gun and letting it cool down. There are these little visual flourishes that did not need to be in the game but ultimately add that special charm that drips with personality.
Topping off the high level of presentation is not only the quality soundtrack itself, but also how it is implemented into the game. The developers could have easily just included a few different musical tracks and called it a day. But no. They instead give Rock a boom box that plays his music as he is destroying enemies. The player can also push buttons on this boom box from the menu screen and can be seen pumping out music in the background. The kicker, however, is the short animation that plays after each boss fight; Rock drags his machine gun, smokes, and boom box to the next location. The fact that he physically carries his music machine with him just, again, adds to that personality and makes this game what it is. These little details are totally appreciated. I mean, here is this guy, all alone, beat up and fighting aliens, trying to survive and prevent these hostiles from landing on the planet below, but yet he takes the time and energy to drag his huge boom box to the next fight, as if he needs it just as much as he needs his gun. Since Rock doesn’t speak, these small details provide insight on just what kind of a badass this guy really is.
Other than the five stages of the campaign, which are composed of many waves, the player can also compete for a top spot on the leaderboards or test their skill at a boss rush mode. Uniquely, the online leaderboard competition is different from the progressive nature of the campaign as the player starts with limited funds. After spending this initial cash, the player then plays until the inevitable death. This is a different approach from the main story mode, which lasts a couple of hours, as the player needs to think long term instead of short term. Unfortunately, I do have one issue with this and that is actually viewing the leaderboard; I didn’t see any option to actually view the leaderboard at will. This screen only appeared when I died and my score was posted. However, I am playing an earlier build of the game and perhaps this will be fixed upon final release. Also, there are optional boss challenges that are unlocked but are exceedingly difficult and I was not able to complete a single one. There are a few Achievements tied to this challenge mode too.
Let Them Come is basically the new Jetpack Joyride. The player does the same thing over and over but remains addicting thanks to the thoughtful upgrade system, random rewards, and charming presentation. Without question, Let Them Come is a hidden gem of a game that had me addicted from beginning to end even with some make or break balancing issues. Don’t miss this. Also available on Steam.
Better Than: Angry Birds
Also Try: Toy Soldiers: War Chest
Wait For It: a sequel with two player co-op
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com