Dark Blue Games releases their fourth game, Infected Shelter, to Steam early access on May 8, 2019. Infected Shelter takes the player to a zombie apocalypse where the protagonist’s life – and death – paves the way for future efforts to rescue members of the survivors’ group. This rogue-lite, beat-em-up romp takes elements of several games and blends them for a surprisingly complex, if light gaming experience. But will Infected Shelter be a must-have for your casual video game line-up? Find out below! This is our Infected Shelter review from our new writer, James Evans.
This review reflects the game’s current state in early access. Your experience may vary as development continues.
First impressions are important, and Infected Shelter made a good first impression. The game has well crafted, if cartoony 2-D graphics. The style is sillier than I prefer, but it didn’t bother me. Models and animations are appealing, although each character has only one model (so all farmer zombies look the same, etc.). Backgrounds and effects in the game are varied, detailed, and well made. Their repetition, however, becomes monotonous over the course of the game. My chief complaint in terms of graphics came when too many enemies were on screen at once, which rendered finding my character difficult or impossible later on in the game.
Unlike the graphics, there’s not much to say about the music. Although enjoyable and high quality, the music tended to fade into the background, only noticeable when the action ended. The sound effects themselves were impactful, and with one or two exceptions, fit the gameplay very well.
In terms of gameplay, Infected Shelter is rogue-lite, 2-D side scroller beat-em-up. The Steam page touts the game as a mashup of Mortal Kombat, Dead Cells, and Castle Crashers, but I don’t find that to be accurate. The game plays more like Golden Axe or Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara with Rogue Legacy’s Death/Legacy system. Even the random treasure/trap rooms – a welcome addition to the game – hearken to those in Rogue Legacy.
The game recommended a controller, which I found worked better than mouse and keyboard. A brief, wordless cutscene served as the only real story for the game. My Infected Shelter experience then began with a selection of one of two of the currently available characters: 1) a girl with a guitar and 2) a granddaughter/grandfather duo. Following character selection, I brought my teenage protagonist and her wheelchair-bound grandfather into the game’s helpful and informative tutorial.
It wasn’t long before I was swinging my octogenarian companion at zombies, military personnel, and drones and engaged in exploration of the nameless wasteland above and below ground in a quest to recover the lost scientist. Progression above ground was linear, whereas Underground, short, alternate routes could lead to treasure or an exit. That said, progression through the game’s levels was the weakest part of the game – one or two screens, access to a store to buy items, an underground zone, one or two more above ground zones, and then a boss fight, in that order. Although progression became monotonous, the ease of controls and intuitive interface made the game bearable.
Clearing a room yields a chest with weapons (which break once ammo or durability run out), items, and/or blueprints. The blueprints were the most fun element of the game for me. They function as Infected Shelter’s character progression. Each blueprint (unlocked with a currency dropped by enemies) can provide passive buffs, new weapons, special items, abilities, and new outfits for your current and future characters. The outfits were fun and functional, as they differed in resistances or buffs provided. I was disappointed, however, that my choice of outfits was limited to what random outfit the character started with or what dropped from enemies along the way.
The unlockable blueprint items shake up gameplay considerably. I specialized in melee combat and wrecked zombie faces with the right passive buffs and random character trait. Character traits unlock after defeating the first boss (~10 or so tries for me) and can upset game balance substantially. Developers have indicated that balance was an ongoing process. The difficulty curve in the present build seemed very steep at the beginning before a precipitous decline in the late game.
When your character dies, you start the process over – choose a new character, proceed through the various levels, fight the bosses, etc., which leads one to wonder exactly how many girls with guitars and granddaughter/grandfather duos this camp has. Expect to die a lot, at least at the beginning, as you’ll need to learn through experience how to fight the various elite and boss enemies.
Infected Shelter is surprisingly stable, with perhaps one minor bug that I found. The mechanics are solid and seem fully integrated. The game can accommodate up to four players, but I didn’t have an opportunity to try the game with friends. Where the game needs to grow most is in its content, which is unsurprising as the game is still in development. The Developers are active in the Steam forums, which is encouraging for those who’ve been burned by abandoned early access projects in the past.