In a year we’ve spent mostly locked in our rooms avoiding a bombardment of nasties trying to kill us, what better way to escape reality than by playing a videogame where you’re locked inside a room attempting to avoid a bombardment of nasties trying to kill you?
At A Glance:
|Visuals||7 / 10|
|Sound||5 / 10|
|Gameplay||5 / 10|
|Overall||6 / 10|
|Positives||+ Nice backgrounds & character sprites
+ Tight controls & hit recognition
+ Enjoyable dialogue between the characters
|Negatives||– Tiny arenas limit diversity
– Very limited soundtrack
– Too many “Gotcha!” moments
Brought to us by brothers Carlo and Pietro Orlandi who make up Village Bench developers, Killer Chambers has a very simple premise – survive a hail of bullets in a confined space, collect the key and move on to the next deadly room. But what sounds like such a simple feat in theory actually proves to be significantly more difficult when it comes to execution!
You play as Lord Brave, a hat wearing nobleman who’s snuck his way into the castle and discovered that the king is dead, and his killer, the evil spectre, Lord Grave, has trained the castle’s security system on our hero to keep him from claiming the crown! Tackling each room requires you to jump and dodge your way through waves of bullets until the timer runs out or until you’re killed – it’s one-hit-kills here so you have to have your wits about you!
Upon surviving a room you’re rewarded with a key and some sassy back-and-forth interactions between Lord Brave and Lord Grave that are a lot of fun to read through. The player may then proceed to the next ruthless chamber of horrors, or replay the same room at a higher difficulty in order to earn coins to spend later on. If you’re brave enough, you can replay the level a third time to earn gems that grant you access to the best rewards in the game. Complete enough levels and you’ll have to defeat a floor boss before moving on to a fresh set of levels with a new theme and enemies.
It doesn’t take long to realise that conquering Killer Chambers requires a better memory than it does quick reactions. Whilst packaged as an action-platformer, it’s actually more of memory survival game where trial and error plays a huge part – it’s rare to complete any of the 60 second levels on the first, or even tenth try if you’re playing with reactions alone. Surviving sequential waves of bullets is a tricky memory puzzle and dodging all 10-15 waves in one run makes the game genuinely difficult, straying sometimes into the realms of too difficult.
There’s plenty to praise about Killer Chambers however, starting with the nicely drawn backgrounds and characters sprites, and extending to the cast of characters themselves – they’ve been wonderfully brought to life, with some funny dialogue that’s overflowing with pop-culture references right to the last. There’s also a good variety of threats thrown at you throughout the game which is impressive considering the limited scope and the tiny arenas. That said, I felt the decision to give threats audio reminder cues rather than having stage music gives the game a rather sterile feel. If the impressive title theme is anything to go by, some level music would have added a little atmosphere and would have been better received than the repetitive ‘clicks’ and ‘clunks’ of oncoming missiles and the inevitable ‘splat’ of you dying over, and over, and over again.
Sadly though, there are some significant gripes that work to spoil the party. Too many times I found that I’d avoid a series of tricky but manageable patterns of bullets, before being assailed from literally every angle of the room at the same time, with only a lone square of safety available. There’s no way of knowing this was coming beforehand and it’s incredibly frustrating to have all your hard work undone by a seemingly unavoidable attack. This irritating issue raises its head in a lot of levels throughout game, and it eventually feels like they’ve been added just to infuriate players and allow the developers to pop out and yell “Gotcha again!”.
While being attacked from all angles is a staple of bullet hell games, the claustrophobic nature of the levels in Killer Chambers means that no amount of skill allows you to escape – it’s simply about swearing loudly and trying again from the start now that you know what to expect. As the game draws on, Killer Chambers becomes more of a test of patience than a test of skill, with the standard rooms becoming ever more repetitive and anger-inducing.
The ‘Passage’ levels do come as a breath of fresh air when they’re finally introduced though. In these levels the survival countdown is eschewed in favour of a more platform-oriented style, with Lord Brave having to jump, duck and dodge his way from one end of a corridor to the other, collect the room key and move to the next level. Unfortunately, these rooms are few and far between and only require a single play-through; had they been used more frequently or been given the same three-tier difficulty ranks as the timed survival levels, the Passages could have added some much-needed diversity to the level design.
Each floor of the castle contains a shop where you can trade in coins and gems for items and new hats for Lord Brave to use, offering help in surviving the upcoming rooms. Using these items is optional but they make the game a lot less rage-inducing and I’d highly recommend them, even if they do become a bit of a crutch in the later levels. In a nod to console fans, the Xbox and Switch editions of the game each offer a different custom hat belonging to a famous character from the platform which is a nice touch.
As maddening as the standard levels can be, I have to applaud Village Bench on the job they’ve done with the boss levels, as they’re each genuinely fun to play through. By adding various attack mechanics, some theme music and a few new sprites, these stages have a very different style to the standard levels and feel important to the progression of the story. But as welcome as these additions are, they really drive home just how little variety there is through the rest of the game.
In the end, it’s clear that the Orlandi brothers have put in a lot of time and love into the creation of Killer Chambers, but the limited scope of the premise and the emphasis on difficulty over enjoyment ultimately left me feeling a little underwhelmed. It’s a game for the most dedicated of players, or those particularly keen on testing their patience with a series of punishing memory tests.
In the interest of full disclosure, the Village Bench provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.