Tuesday 22 April 2014

Rubble 'N' Strafe (PC/Android/Ouya)

[This review was originally written by J. Monkman for indiegames.com, and has been reposted here with the editors' permission].

Based on an ancient Amstrad CPC 'classic', Rubble 'N' Strafe from one-man studio Far From Sleep is a near-perfect example of rose-tinted nostalgia done right. An endless flier/shmup hybrid (yet refreshingly NOT a Flappy Bird clone), RNS clearly draws its inspiration from Durell's Harrier Attack, bringing the 8-bit gameplay up to date by adding the unpredictability of procedural generation and some heavy duty explosive action to the mix. Oh, and the crashes are awesome, almost to the point where you'll want to nose dive into the enemy troops to see how much destruction is caused by your hopeless plane as the wreckage tumbles through watch-towers, skyscrapers and ... flocks of incendiary sheep.

With your two-button-controlled assault taking place over land, sea and the skies, Rubble 'N' Strafe keeps you on the edge of your seat in true old-school arcade style. One minute you'll be skimming over the ocean taking out cargo ships and deftly avoiding rocket-firing helicopters, then the next you'll be on land, dropping bombs over a heavily defended city and blasting holes through buildings, with hapless victims falling to their demise on the rubble-strewn streets below. And then a few seconds later you'll be zipping through open countryside, avoiding ground-to-air turrets and pot-shots from enemy soldiers. In fact, within less than a minute you'll probably see all the game can throw at you - but that doesn't make it any less fun.

It's not all mindless shooting though. Similar to Konami's Scramble, you'll need to regularly top up your fuel gauge by regularly shooting at fuel crates and collecting the pick-ups trapped within - and the same applies to your arsenal of bombs too. I personally found that the best strategy when playing was to use the open country and sea sections as a chance to top up on fuel and power-ups, and then furiously tap the bomb button as soon as the background changed to the cityscape, blindly hoping that my ammo would hold out for the next few screens. Not that I cared too much when it didn't, because the the goofy cartoon physics observed during your final airborne moments are hugely rewarding.

Recently updated, the game now offers cross-platform high scores, missions to complete, an additional plane and loads of other improvements that have been made since my initial write-up. The missions (typically in the format of destroy n of x) work particularly well, causing you to alter your playing style constantly in pursuit of the generous score bonus.

As with Far From Sleep's other releases (GemHex and Snowbrawl in Hell), Rubble 'N' Strafe is currently available on PC, Ouya and Android. Although Jay has announced that he'll be "experimenting with different payment models", the game is currently completely free, leaving you with pretty much no excuse to not give it a try.

Download the Windows version here (from the itch.io page).
Download the Android version here (from the Google Play store).
Download the Ouya version here (from the Discover store).
4.5 out of 5

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