Where do bad men go when they die? In Hopoo's Deadbolt, they go back to work. Zombies cook drugs, vampires deal in illegal arms, and demons bully the innocent. If the promise of death can't save the civilized world from the seediest of organized crime, what can? Well, Death.
More specifically, you. This particular sort of crime requires a law enforcement that is more... elemental. When you step into the Reaper's loafers and approach the entrance of a drug house or a night club, the weight of the tenuous planning period is one of the most atmospheric parts of the game. You take in the sights - the moody shadows and the grimy faces of targets rendered perfectly by Hopoo's evocative pixel art - and channel their calm into action. You bust through the door. You get shot. You die.
If Deadbolt is anything, it's incredibly challenging. Death sees his end surprisingly often, even at the hands of the most capable players. A standard stage in the game tasks you with eliminating anything that moves inside or acquiring certain items. Planning how you're going to execute the stage becomes the start of an elaborate puzzle, where the pieces don't stay where you place them and they carry heavy artillery. The process of completing a mission is a Hotline Miami-type affair. Guards bearing varying armaments pace along predetermined paths throughout the compound, ironically mindless. They react to you, though. When you knock on a door, they answer. When you kill one with a loud gun, they come running for revenge. From the first kill, Deadbolt becomes an exercise in goon management.
This is where the stealth elements come in. As there is no active sneaking mechanic or Snake-style crouch movement, avoiding rooms where bad guys are until you are ready to strike is key. Many of the 25 stages have multiple entrances and multiple ways to begin the domino effect of re-deading the bad guys. Locomotion isn't just limited to running through rooms; often times the air vents or plumbing pipes are a completely viable choice to slide into upper floors or hop outside. Instead of straight up hiding, speed is your greatest tool.
Should you be seen (and the gunfight is on), you have a couple of options. Doing a pretty good Not a Hero impression, Death can use elements of a room as cover. Couch end, overturned table, counter tops, you name it. While in cover (by gracefully stepping into the background of the 2D plane) enemy bullets can't hurt you. When your targets have to stop and reload, you can lean out and let a few bullets fly. The pinpoint precision of the aiming is very much appreciated, as it's important to be able to count on a shot going where you expect it to go with such limited ammo. Different weapons have different effective ranges, as denoted by the circle around the cursor that gets bigger or smaller relative to its distance from your protagonist.
Trial and error will allow you to predict the right piece for the job (which you can buy more of with souls earned from your jobs), but in almost all of the missions, precision is paramount. Most enemies get slumped into pixelated ragdoll wreckage by a simple headshot. Some can be put down by a barrage in their chest. As the enemies get higher and higher up the undead food chain, they become harder to take down.
Some of these creatures don't even have their heads on their bodies. Instead, they're posted on perches around rooms to increase surveillance. Some vampires stuff their souls in phylacteries (re: weakspot) and hide them in the level, making them a target that keeps getting up long after you first drop them. Skeletons are jumpy and paranoid, and they will begin strapping the stage with explosives at the first sign of trouble. The difficulty can spike without warning, especially when you first encounter a new sort of threat or when these enemy types start to mix.
Or sometimes, the difficulty comes from encountering too many enemies. An early mission in the second chapter tasks you with killing nearly 20 vampires at their nightclub. (Yes, they own a nightclub, because vampires.) Of course, there are more than 20 vampires in the night club, and they are all bigger, tougher, faster, and better shots than the reaper. 50 attempts later, I pass by the skin of my teeth. Luck can sometimes be a factor in missions like these. With so many bodies, they don't all react to similar conditions in relatively similar ways. Sometimes, more bodies run into the room than last time, making your weapon selection and entrance plan a bit more risky by chance. Deadbolt's chaotic nature is both a refreshing gift and a frustrating curse.
The soundtrack does a great job of keeping you in the zone. It's hypnotic and usually fits the stage perfectly. Street level zombies loiter in the living rooms and garages of their homes or warehouse, blaring hip-hop equivalents that scream with that gutter movie lifestyle. The vampire clubs boom house music that plays just like the iconic club scene in Wesley Snipes' Blade. Risk of Rain had great music, too, but the trance-like focus this soundtrack produces is quite euphoric and memorable.
I love Deadbolt's adaptation of popular indie mechanics, filtered through Hopoo Games' great sense for making challenging and mechanically sound experiences. Available on Steam now, you'd be depriving yourself of a great, unique puzzling action game that tests your wit, reflexes, and strategic acumen. When you pick this one up, you'll definitely want to hop over to the Official Deadbolt Wiki and do some research.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.