When it comes to the recent wave of so-called “boomer shooters”, Viscerafest has so far been hidden a bit from most people. Despite the game being shown at Realms Deep last year, the game has so far only been available via the game’s official Discord server. Though that has just changed, as the game has now been made available on Steam, as part of the Steam Game Festival.
So far the retro shooters we’ve seen all seem to take inspiration from certain classic shooters. Dusk, which was one of the first, was obviously heavily inspired by classics like Quake and Half-Life, with a fair amount of influence from Redneck Rampage. Amid Evil soon followed with a heavy influence from Heretic/Hexen. Ion Fury was a modernized take on Duke Nukem 3D, with its villain voiced by the same guy who voiced Duke Nukem, Jon St. Jon.
We later received titles like Prodeus, which itself seems almost like a carbon copy of Doom at times. There’s also Project Warlock, which could easily have run on the Wolfenstein 3D engine and felt really inspired by classics like Catacomb 3D. So where does Viscerafest fall in this regard?
A Loving Homage To Blood
Viscerafest feels thoroughly influenced by what is arguably the undisputed king of 90s Build engine shooters. A certain game called “Blood”, which was originally developed by 3D Realms until Monolith Software took over the project. The game lived up to its namesake by including extreme amounts of gore and blood for its time.
If you didn’t see the game in action, it might even come across as a bit of a ripoff. Both games feature anti-hero protagonists that both would fit as villains in a horror movie. Caleb is an undead ex-cultist who feeds on the hearts of his enemies. Similarly, Caroline, the female protagonist of Viscerafest, is an eldritch horror creature masquerading as a human, who also does the same.
Caroline even says a ton of similar voice-lines to Caleb. She even copies a lot of his mannerisms, such as breaking into show tune singing randomly. She’s also seemingly inherited his thirst for blood. In many ways, Caroline feels like some kind of strange alternate universe version of Caleb.
But that’s also where Viscerafest takes these obvious influences and kind of runs with them. In a similar manner to how Prodeus feels like a unique take on Doom, Viscerafest feels like a similar spin on the themes from Blood.
Blood In Space
Despite it being a loving homage to Blood, Viscerafest still has a distinctly different setting. The demo at least is entirely set in space and has you fighting mostly aliens. So even if the game has a ton of gore and blood in it, most of it is multi-colored. The game overall has a really cartoony style that somewhat offsets the gruesome tone to it, which contrasts Blood’s more realistic horror influenced style.
The main gameplay centers around most of the boomer shooter hallmarks. Find the key to open the doors, defeat increasingly powerful enemies with increasingly powerful guns, and get to the end of the level without dying too much. Though Viscerafest has a few twists that make it a bit more challenging.
For one, the enemies are more than capable of dealing a lot of damage to Caroline. Like Blood, you’re pretty fragile and can’t tank a whole lot of damage. This is especially notable on the higher difficulties. It’s not helped by the fact that health pickups are fairly rare, and you mostly heal by hacking up enemy corpses and eating their hearts.
There’s also the fact ammo is rather scarce. The game forces you to think tactically and conserve your ammo and use the right weapon for the right situation. Your melee attack is fairly powerful against the weaker enemies and can even kill multiple enemies in a single punch. More powerful enemies might be better taken down with a single shot from the quad barrel shotgun than several shots from your weaker weapons.
You also have a limited amount of saves. So you need to use your saves tactically, much like everything else. It feels similar to the save mechanic in Wrath, which is also another retro FPS currently in Early Access.
A Work Of Passion
It’s clear to see though that there’s a lot of passion behind Viscerafest. Despite it wearing its influences on its sleeve, it’s clear the developer behind the game is trying to make something original and special. A lot of effort is put into the voice work, with Caroline’s voice actress lending a high degree of likeability to the character. The other voices mostly sound like pitch-shifted voices from the same voice actor, though for the most part, it works fine.
The sound design as a whole is solid, with satisfying gibbing noises when you punch enemies. I also love how the weapons sound, with a lot of focus on making the guns sound satisfying to use. Especially the rapid pew-pews of the Shredders.
Oh, and the music is definitely worth mentioning! Most of it is a mix between heavy rock and synthwave, courtesy of Markie Music. It fits the game’s sci-fi style perfectly, and the heavy guitar riffs mixed with the driving synth beats make for a perfect combination for some mayhem.
What’s In The Demo?
The demo contains a Prelude level and the first four levels from Chapter 1 of the game. The levels are fairly short but offer increasingly difficult challenges. I especially love how the end of one level sort of leads into the opening of the next level. So if you end the first level in an elevator, the next level starts in the same elevator. It gives some sense of continuity to the levels.
If the demo is anything to go by, we definitely have something special to look forward to when the full game comes out. The levels are all very well made, and fun to explore. I also love how the game foregoes the rogue-lite trap of randomly generated levels. That’s thankfully a trend that, at least in the boomer shooter genre, seems to have died off with Strafe.
If you wish to check out Viscerafest for yourself, the demo is currently available on Steam for free. So go check it out!