There’s usually something compelling about games that take influence from Hotline Miami‘s frantic neon-tinged, room-clearing violence. In my experience, the style doesn’t fit well with first-person games for various reasons, although Animalistic does a few things to iron out some concerns. Animalistic is now available in Early Access, and has 13 of a planned 20 levels included for preview impressions. I shot my way through the first three, but had to stop due to photosensitivity issues I’ll get into in a bit. Still, this is an interesting game with solid mechanics, especially if you want to violently decimate anthropomorphic animals.
As should be clear from the Hotline Miami name drop in the previous paragraph, Animalistic sees you fighting your way through levels to get to the end without dying. Unlike Hotline Miami and most of the games that ape it, this one has the good sense to lose the one-shot-and-you’re-dead ethos that can plague other first-person games. Instead, you have regenerating health like in more mainstream shooters. It does take a while to kick in, though, so you can’t necessarily coast through levels. That being said, it’s nice to have some breathing room, as these games are quite frustrating in first person with the standard approach.
At the start of each level, you’ll find yourself spawning with a specific gun or your bare hands. You can punch, which will immediately demolish doors and enemies in a single hit. Guns are the usual suspects — pistols, rifles, SMGs, pump-action shotguns, you know the drill. Shooting and aiming are fairly satisfying, and the guns can provide a suitable amount of punch. The enemies all look like cutesy cartoon animals, save for the fact that they’re all out to eviscerate you. Visually, the game has a trippy look, blending neon colors with dark mood lighting.
That mood lighting can constitute a bit of an issue, however. Levels can be so dark that it’s hard to see certain things. I spent minutes wandering at the end of the second level without realizing that there was another opening in a vent that I could make my way through. As Animalistic is very much about split-second reactions, it’s a bit obnoxious that seeing what’s in front of you isn’t always as easy as it should be. There are also occasional problems with enemy placement, which can require equal helpings of memorization and luck.
The aforementioned vent section at the end of level two has you drop into a room where the end goal resides. But two melee enemies attack you as soon as you land. If you don’t know they’re there ahead of time, you’ll die and have to start from scratch. Even if you do know they’re there ahead of time, by the time you’re able to see them you may get killed anyway. The game isn’t really shy about this sort of thing, which works in top-down games, but certainly not in first-person ones. But the general gameplay loop is fun enough and I enjoyed picking up the randomized weapons enemies drop.
After committing enough acts of wanton violence, you’ll gain access to a super mode of sorts that speeds you up and renders you invulnerable, which is great for getting out of tricky situations. These 13 levels obviously won’t last you all that long, since you’re meant to clear most of them rather quickly, but I can’t say how long that might be considering that the third level has strobe lights so intense that I had to pack it up. I’m photosensitive and really can’t afford to take chances, so if you have similar issues you’ll also want to steer clear of Animalistic. If not, the game retails for $7 USD and there’s certainly fun to be had.