STRAFE is the is a juxtaposition of anachronistic gameplay and visual nostalgia that work across many degrees of success. Pixel Titan’s Kickstarter success is a game that reminds you of FPS days gone by, but introduces modern gameplay sensibilities in a roguelike setting to keep the game feeling fresh every time you play. And rather than memorizing patterns, STRAFE becomes a game of survival and strategy in the first-person shooter genre not to be missed.
Editor’s Note: STRAFE was started after Patch #1 (5/10/2017) was released. The review was then finalized after Patch #4 (5/21/2017) was released.
From STRAFE‘s VHS-styled FMV intro, there’s an aesthetic going on here that evokes a feeling from your youth. Even the tutorial level has a visual filter that reminds you that when you’re done, you should “be kind and rewind”. After listening to the lady introducing you to this company and what you’ll be doing, you’ll teleported in front of three weapons to choose from: a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a railgun. Flip a breaker, and a 4th weapon becomes available. But it doesn’t have any ammo, and I never learned what it is or where to get any from. There are many disposable weapon pickups, each with limited ammo. Once depleted, you can use it as a baseball bat as it disintegrates against the enemy you hit next with it. I haven’t found them all, but I’ve come across a pulse rifle, pistol, and rocket launcher most commonly. Each weapon better than the last, and wishing you had more ammo for them.
The graphics of STRAFE are the most reminiscent to Quake which encapsulated the 90s as first-person shooters began using 3D models for the action. While STRAFE has Quake-like visuals, the game plays more like Painkiller or Serious Sam over Quake or Doom. Despite the name, there’s little strafing that happens in the game. The arenas in which you roam around in, have pretty dumb enemies that seem magnetically attached towards you, and march towards you as you easily take headshots to kill them one by one. ToyTree composed the music for STRAFE, and has some very catchy and memorable tunes that fit into each level that you play.
There are 4 areas with multiple levels to each of them. It’s a bit weird how the par times are attached to them as the layout will change each time. STRAFE is a difficult game, and the randomization keeps it that way. This is a game you can’t ever learn for speedrun purposes. One of my favorite things to discover in terms of staying alive was that any enemy that spills acid can be covered up by the copious amounts of blood you spill by shooting limbs or heads off. The blood can also be used to track where you’ve been in a level, or if you’re looking for secrets. Being able to kite your enemies, lets you have an edge without always needing to watch your back.
As you kill enemies, not all, but some of them will drop scrap. Collect enough of it and you can use it at specific crates to craft half or full ammo or armor. It’s a minimal crafting system that doesn’t either get in the way, or give you too much of an edge. There are food pellets that can be picked up in certain stations, but it is always sparse on what it gives you and when. I will say that the par times that a level has work against the crafting locations.
STRAFE doesn’t quite do everything you expect, but being able to go into a game that looks like Quake that is infinitely replayable keeps the challenge up where memorization wouldn’t. I was never able to finish STRAFE, but that’s all well and good for its mindless and nostalgic return to classic-feeling FPS in the modern day era. STRAFE feels like a game that would have existing alongside Quake and Doom, but was accidentally sent forward in time and has learned the ways of 2017 gaming.
A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes