WoodPunk feels like one of those games you nostalgically think fondly of from two decades ago. After you rummage through an old cardboard box to find its cartridge, you blow in the back of it to be sure it works. Slam it into whichever old console occupies this metaphorical walk down memory lane and, unbelievably, it looks and plays even better then you remember. (Which never happens, nostalgia thickly coats one’s mind in a deceptive fog)
WoodPunk seriously reminds me of the kind of fun I had as a starry-eyed child playing Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis many years ago. It even looks the part, its art style is extremely reminiscent of those days. But with a super crisp presentation and smooth performance.
Its sprite-like graphics really do look great, but more importantly, the animations really sell it. Each enemy has its own personality, and they look excellent. There is a great deal of smaller touches that add up to make the experience great. The way the enemies shadow animates its death when on fire, or how the environment crumbles from battle, or how you can spear enemies and physically throw them into other poor saps
The game is a retro roguelike shooter and has many features you would expect from that genre. Including randomly generated level layouts, power ups and the like. Each world has to be completed in one life, die and you start the world over again. However, you keep any scrap you earned even in death, which can be used to buy new tech or upgrade your health and jetpack.
Each time you start a level you are given a randomized gun and melee weapon. Each gun is a hodgepodge of parts taken from a pool of tech you have unlocked. And this affects your guns attributes. It might be a shotgun that shoots arrows with a tiny clip, a rapid-fire flamethrower or a solid laser beam of light. You always have a robot companion named Theo who will help you pick up scrap. You can also have him craft your replacement weapons if the one you have isn’t cutting it for the type of level you are on.
Each weapon type has its own special characteristic, arrows push enemies back, ice can freeze enemies solid, swords can deflect enemy arrows and much more. It’s important to think about your weapon combo as each level will challenge you in different ways. There is a decent amount of method to the madness in addition to your own aim and twitch skill abilities. It’s fun and also makes each attempt feel different.
Like a 13th century Tony Stark, you unlock a wide array of different suits to wear into battle. Each one normally has an advantage, a disadvantage, and a power. Your normal suit has no pros or cons and comes equipped with a handy jetpack you can use to avoid danger and hop over fences and walls. The Stone-punk suit doubles your health, makes you slower, and replaces your jetpack with an area attack. There is a variety of suits to unlock, and they add to the strategy of the game.
You also pick up single use powers for your robot in the field. They can let him make an area attack, become a wall to block enemies and projectiles or become a powerful turret to attack your foes.
Each world is made up of a series of levels, and each one has different enemy types. The levels themselves have random layouts but are fully destructible. And each has different objectives that range from simply surviving a number of waves, to protecting a machine or destroying a number of artifacts. They are well designed, and the variety adds replayability.
The enemies also are varied and most importantly, they each have specific attack animations. You don’t take damage simply by touching most of them. They have their own attacks to hit you with and it makes the game feel really fleshed out. You have spearmen who charge at you, bowmen that shoot arrows, musket men who fire barrages. heavy shield bearing axe men and much more.
Each one is strong against and weak to different weapon types. But all of them are beautifully designed and animated. The gams also feature’s some cleverly designed boss battles, which is always nice.
You can also play local co-op with a friend who will take control of the robot Theo. The second player can fire normal bullets but cannot be harmed. The power pick-up dynamic also changes, instead of picking up powers for Theo. You fill a new bar up when you pick up scrap.
The second player can use different percentages of the bar to make weapons for the main player or use Theo’s array of powers. Each time the main player gets hit by an attack, however, the bar loses a chunk of what it has acquired.
The set up works great if you have a friend or child who is less skilled at games, they can basically fill in as a support role to play with you. However, the implementation is awkward with two equally skilled gamers. Player two relies on the main player to power up Theos abilities.
The main player gets access to the huge variety of weapon combos, but if they get hit often, it directly affects whether or not player two can do anything other than shoot single bullets. Since player two can’t be harmed at all, it puts a lot of pressure on the main player’s skill so that both of them have fun.
The game also lacks difficulty levels, which is a paddling in the house of Gideon. The game is very challenging which makes me personally happy, as that’s the kind of experience I want in a game but having a spectrum of levels up and down would facilitate more and less skilled players. In my own case, it’s always nice to have the option to challenge myself further.
The game does have an endless survival mode though. This mode lasts for as long as you can survive to see how far you can make it. It is a great feature that adds a ton of replay value.
I did run into a couple bugs. A frozen enemy that wouldn’t move and couldn’t be hit which caused me to restart a world for example. But they weren’t too common.
WoodPunks gameplay variety is limited in scope, but what it does, it does very well, and the art, style, and animations are stellar.
If you like retro roguelike shooters, check out my review of Moss Destruction!. If you enjoy this content consider supporting it via my Creator Store or Kofi Page!
- Seriously gorgeous old-school art style
- Superb enemy animations
- Fun, fast, and frantic combat
- Lots of weapon variety and suits to use
- Weird asymmetric co-op
- A couple frustrating bugs