Gone Viral is the logical exploration of reality TV and prison cutbacks, all ready for your entertainment. Thankfully this isn’t some twisted austerity program. Instead, it’s the new roguelike dungeon crawler from developers Skullbot Games and indie publisher Akupara Games.
This cartoon death race come gladiatorial style escape just hit closed beta. We got to go hands-on with Gone Viral before it blows onto PC. Designed by a team that harbors a whole arsenal of ex NCSoft experience, the young studio is helmed by Ex Wildstar Lead Jeremy Gaffney and is launching a very different type of prison brawl. Like any roguelike, the fundamental concept of Gone Viral is perilously simple. Players are spawned into a starting zone and then shoved out into the harsh reality that awaits. That reality is a highly stylized prison life that, probably won’t be very long but looks surprisingly inviting. Despite the gangs of roving murders, bomb totting machines, and explosive decoration the isometric aesthetic that is plastered across Gone Viral is pretty jovial. Picking visual cues from games like torchlight, Wildstar, and the lighter end of the battling hordes, this is all cartoon violence. The stylized character design is coupled with some ludicrous funhouse style traps and over-engineered ideas that give the audio accompaniment of Jeff Kurtenacker plenty of inspiration to draw on. If you thought this was ever a serious Diablo competitor then you were incorrect. It was never serious.
Pretty Violent Programming
If the decoration and design of this post-apocalyptic world didn’t have you running for your hacksaw then there are plenty of other ways to lance your enemies as your very first avatar jumps into Gone Viral. As players begin their journey for freedom the control system is pretty consistent with what you’ve come to expect. WASD movement keys are accounted for and aiming is all down to the mouse. Scalping your enemies is as simple as a left-click with an alternate option bound to the right mouse button. There is the option to kick off the carnage with a controller but it’s still a work in progress, with an odd mix of positions that makes the protagonist’s dash function interfere with aiming. However, keep it to the mouse and keyboard and this doesn’t diverge much from the traditional MOBA control set.
Where Gone Viral does differentiate itself is the way each challenge unfolds before players and the manner in which each unfortunate cellmate tackles everything they face. Gone Viral isn’t any old reality show. Players that push out into the cellblock before them are faced with a series of seemingly deranged rooms filled with gun-toting villains, deadly robots, spinning blades, fire pits, and some spicy looking explosives. Enter each room and after you’re done bouncing off the scenery, you’ll need to cut through any opposition before you can move onto the next problem. This simple idea continues across several levels, punctuated with themed rooms, combat arenas, and massive boss battles. While the core concept doesn’t change too much, the individual encounters in each room can vary wildly. One run might feature a set of axe wielding maniacs, while the next time around the same level might be brimming with acid totting robots.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways to cut through the opposition. Beginning the game as a melee-focused miscreant, you’ll pick up a range of mutations. This is the future and genetic engineering has taken a turn for the interesting. Projectile shields, spinning blades weapon enhancements, and a ton more interesting mutations are available to win, loot, and buy as you bash gold coins out of the weapon-wielding extras that stand in your way. This isn’t the only way to keep yourself alive. Like the hunger games, you’ll find some patrons are generous than others. Bash enough skulls or entertain the post-apocalyptic twitch teams and there are even fan gifts that will help keep you alive.
The mutation system is sufficiently random to keep things interesting and the addition of a progression system into each run makes for some satisfaction in replaying. In a lot of ways this stylish, slightly eccentric dungeon crawler reminds me a lot of Bandai Namco’s Rad. Set in a future that’s gone very wrong, it picks on a few unfortunate individuals and revels in the absurdity of this roguelike adventure with a tongue firmly dismembered in its cheek. In the end, the cartoon capers of these skull-crushing inmates kept me flailing back for more explosive decapitation. Gone Viral is far from finished but it sure is entertaining. Now, I just wonder if twitch integration is on the cards? You can find out more about Gone Viral, and its escape onto PC, over on the official Skullbot Games website now.