Impaler Review – Sensational Spike Steals Souls
Developed by Apptivus
Published by Retrovibe
Available on PC
The world is busy. We’re all busy. There’s so much going on at all times. It’s an often-parroted sentiment that us old folks – 25+ – just don’t have time for long games anymore. Sure, it’s great to sit down with a 100+ hour Ubisoft open world collectathon, but the time commitment, ya know? I am 32. I’ve got one foot in the grave, and the other is frantically searching for the solid ground of shorter, but still fulfilling experiences. Impaler is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
Short form experiences give me time. With Impaler, I can beat the game in less than 30 minutes, and still feel accomplished. So what is Impaler? Imagine if The Binding of Isaac, Tower of Guns, and Vampire Survivors adopted a child from old school Doom‘s orphanage. That unwieldy metaphor explains Impaler pretty well. It’s a first person old school arena shooter roguelite. The entire game takes place in one room. You’re tasked with defeating waves of enemies and earning cash. That cash is then used to upgrade different aspects of your character for that run.
Upgrades fall into a few categories: Cash upgrades will upgrade how you interact with money. For example, a cash upgrade might spawn boxes filled with gold, or up your gold collection radius. Body upgrades deal with your health. Gun upgrades deal with your guns, and spike upgrades modify your spike. Oh? Have we not talked about the spike? Impaler isn’t called that just because. One of the gameplay twists is your spike. It can be summoned from the ground with the click of the mouse and has quite a few interesting gameplay synergies.
The spike is what really makes Impaler shine. Sure it’s fun to mow down enemies in an arena, but how much more fun is it when you can summon an unholy spike from the ground to impale them? Not content to just be a tool for impalemement (is that a word? (editor note: nope.)), the spike can also be used for movement. You can spawn a spike underneath your character to shoot them into the air, landing with a satisfying shockwave that blasts wooden stakes across the arena. Like all retro-style shooters, movement is king. The arena is ever-shifting, with obstacles and traps being added in along with new enemies on each wave. Being able to use movement effectively will mean the difference between a successful run and a hilarious defeat.
A driving, bombastic soundtrack provides back beats to the wanton slaughter of Impaler, and you might even catch yourself bobbing your head to it as you do your dark work. The visuals are an absolute treat for boomer shooter fans, who for some reason love 2D sprites on a 3D plane. While the environment is 3D, the enemies and player are decidedly not, if you’re into that. The enemy variety is top notch, with each wave bringing new horrors down upon you, that you can then brutalize. Each run takes only about 20 or so minutes to beat, and even less if you can’t handle the challenge and die prematurely.
Impaler is the perfect length, and requires the perfect amount of engagement. At the start of each run, you can pick a single weapon that you’ll carry throughout. New weapons can be unlocked by completing simple challenges during your run. These challenges aren’t anything insane and can be completed over the course of a handful of runs by just playing the game normally. It’s accessible. Even the extra stuff that you need to unlock doesn’t require you to go out of your way to not enjoy the game. There is no secret weapon hidden behind a 200 hour grind. Impaler wants you to have fun from the outset, and continue that fun even as you unlock new weapons and upgrades.
Much has been said about short experiences vs. triple A epics. There is definitely still room for both in the minds and hearts of gamers. It’s just nice to see a developer putting out something small and fun. I’ve spent more time in Impaler doing the odd run than I’ve put into most recent releases like Evil West. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like Evil West (I very much did), but that in-between meetings and other commitments, it was easier to sit down, start Impaler, and get the full experience in less than 30 minutes, and that is something to lauded.