Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon: Poor cook, good recipe

September 7, 2011

You can’t really blame a company for trying to work off a formula that found lots of success. And that’s what you have here in Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon. Sure, it’s a twin-stick shooter, but from there, developers 345 Games seemed to operate from the Castle Crashers playbook.  

In the game, you control one of the show’s four main characters, shooting things with a gun that can fire basically whatever you find in unlimited amounts until you stop the apocalypse. Presumably. Basically, you’ll walk down a street in beat-em-up style, taking down lots of waves of enemies until you get to the end. (Occasionally, there’s a boss level.) While the side-view camera angle is awkward for a twin-stick game, you eventually get used to it.

We really should address the production quality first. There isn’t any. The game relies on animated cutscenes to tell this story, which makes sense given the license.  The problem? They only have a frame or two a second, using a cheap technique that’s weird given how closely the game ties into the show otherwise. Why not get these collective five minutes done by the original animators? It largely follows the plot of one episode anyway.

During the game, there are a lot of “hey, that was in the show” references, which may work for fans but outside of the context of the show are not that funny. Enemies all spout one-liners directly from the show. They spout them a lot. When there are forty of the same enemy on screen, you want to throw things. (Protip: turn down all sound effects and voices by at least half in the options menu, and things will go a lot better.) There are only about ten enemies in the entire game, so that part’s rather monotonous, and of the game’s dozen levels, there are only about five different places to walk a straight line through.

So we’ve been painting a fairly bleak picture here, and much of it is justified. Here’s the thing, though: despite the complete lack of care in crafting the game, that Castle Crashers playbook begins to shine through eventually. For some reason, the first three levels each feature only one enemy apiece and, with low-level characters and base weapons, it seems like the game will just be horrible. Then, you get further, finding exploding weapons, upgrading the stats of one of the four characters (who each have their own strengths and weaknesses), and finding babies.

Yes, babies.

You can equip one of four babies when you find them, strapping them to your back and giving yourself a passive bonus like Castle Crashers‘ Animal Orbs. They aren’t nearly as interesting, but each is useful. Want more experience? That’s a baby. Want to deal more damage when your health goes down? Baby. Shields? Baby. The weapons each have damage ratings, different rates of fire and trajectories, and some are better at some waves than others as a result. Adding to the craziness: each weapon has a bonus or two depending on the character, adding damage, stun or other effects to the shot if you’re the correct wielder. (That’s a tightrope, too; the low-damage Mark can stun with low-damage shots, but would you rather put a strong bullet on him to compensate for his shortcomings?) Combining the right baby with the right weapon and character is actually interesting, and it makes the second half of the rather-short game rather fun.

Ultimately, if you enjoy the game depends on whether you can get a crowd together. Playing with four people, locally or online, is the only way to experience it. Not only are levels balanced for large groups, but the teammate-revive functionality makes the game more popcorn-worthy than rage-inducing. If you like the show, that’s a nice bonus too, but we played with a mixed group and all were mildly entertained. (Also, for some reason, there’s an entire episode of the show you can watch available in the extras menu. It’s nice to have it, but I bet those with smaller hard drives will be less than thrilled by its inclusion.)

Pros: Local co-op with different weapons can be fun. Oh, and babies.
Cons: Level design? Enemy variety? We have no idea what you’re talking about.

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.