Published on June 27th, 2014 | by Claire Donner1
Die for Metal Again Review
Last year, a fast-paced musically-themed game called Die for Metal was conjured into the world by a Norwegian musician/graphic designer/developer known as SinSquid Games. SinSquid put all of his diverse talents into crafting this handsomely realized platformer, which stars a bug-eyed berserker racing through a Nordic hellscape to earn his place in an epic metal band called Gory Wardeath. This year witnesses the bloody birth of a sequel, Die For Metal Again, with a new headbanging avatar, 45 new levels of play, 16 new unlockable tracks of original music, and of course, newer and gnarlier ways to die for metal.
Die for Metal Again picks up where its predecessor left off, with Gory Wardeath’s new album spreading far and wide. The record is so brutal that our hesher hero Rob Grinderface suffers an exploding death on his first listen. Unfortunately, it turns out there is no more room in hell, so Rob has to fight his way through 45 levels of purgatory to earn a place in his infernal new home. You bound over spiked pits, swim through lakes of blood, dodge whirling blades and jets of flame, and wield an ax against your enemies to secure your spot in the underworld.
This sequel’s format is essentially the same as the original, with a few welcome embellishments. This is good news if you are a fan (and you should be) of Die for Metal’s panic-inducing obstacle courses, which demand brains, nerves and guts in equal measure. The controls – left-right buttons discretely tucked into the lower left side of the screen and a jump button on the right – are exquisitely responsive, allowing for a high degree of acuity in spite of your character’s extreme speed. Double tapping the jump button allows you to bounce between walls to ascend to the upper reaches, leap over gaping pit traps, and snake through especially tricky arrangements of land mines. Each level is too short to justify save points, with only 2-3 major obstacles to traverse, but the learning curve can be steep and the difficulty extraordinary. An isolated complaint is that it can be hard to tell exactly how close you can inch up to, say, a wall of spikes for it to kill you, but this subtle proximity issue does not make the game prohibitively hard.
The 45 levels are divided between 3 worlds — the desolate North Domain, the gore-drenched Guts and Hell, and battlefield of War Ensemble — and each world concludes with a boss fight. These battles represent some of DFMA’s major improvements. Die for Metal offered only obstacles and no minor enemies, and its boss fights involved outsmarting or simply outliving a self-sabotaging monster. Die for Metal Again ups the ante by putting legions of the undead and “enemies of metal” (roving nuns and armed police) in your path; the bosses themselves are a zombified metalhead, a pig-faced cop, and a marauding army tank. The ax, which in Die for Metal was a cumbersome and temporary tool for breaking down barriers, is now a weapon with which you can run, jump, and waste enemies. You opponents won’t enter a melee with you, but if you run into one of them, you’ll explode in a darkly hilarious shower of bloody body parts.
In spite of this new action element, you will still spend most of your time trying to avoid death traps, but you can also chase off ravens and collect bonus skulls along the way. Unfortunately, Die for Metal Again carries over DFM’s unclear scoring system. At the end of each board you’re shown a numerical score, plus 1-3 golden pentagrams depending on your performance, but it’s hard to tell why you might only get one pentagram in a level with no deaths and all bonus items collected, but 2 or 3 when you’ve died more but perhaps played through faster. As if in comedic apology for this opaque grading method, the game triumphantly announces at the end of each world, instead of your achievements, how many times you’ve died for metal.
Die for Metal, by the way, takes its name from a song by Manowar; this insidery homage is the first sign that metal music is not an arbitrarily selected motif. The soundtrack lets you know that metal is no joke to SinSquid, in spite of the game’s satirical vibe. SinSquid has included an LP’s-worth of original music as part of this app, composed and performed by the developer along with bands Novembers Doom and These Are They. Songs run the genre gamut from blistering thrash metal to sludgy doom metal, and each tight, precise composition perfectly compliments the pace of the game; you can also play them as a full album.
The game’s visuals are every bit as good as the music. The animation is perfectly smooth, and the designs are spectacular. Darkly glistening rock walls are swathed with grimy chains and caked with curling, hairy underbrush; a literal fog of war envelopes the battlefield’s mechanized carnage; everything is awash in thick, ropy splatters of gore. Rob Grinderface is such a cutesy metalhead caricature that he seems almost out of place in these forbidding realms, but SinSquid maintains the balance of humor and horror with an expert hand.
In spite of some minor missteps, Die for Metal Again an excellent little time killer whose brief and simplistic campaign is elevated by exceptional craftsmanship. Although the game is essentially a glib gag about the Norwegian metal scene’s over the top severity, its insistence on beautiful graphics, intense challenges, and the kind of aggressive music the title promises, all outstrip the basic requirements of casual gaming. All of this bodes quite well for the future of SinSquid Games; we can only hope he continues to summon forth even more heroes to die for metal.
IS IT HARDCORE?
Summary: Die for Metal Again blends humor, horror and highly addictive gameplay in an effective tribute to harsh music.