Gigapocalypse was not what I expected. Seeing only a few screenshots, and knowing only that you controlled a selection of Kaiju as they destroy a variety of cities, I had the impression I'd be in for a "Rampage" style experience. One where you'd directly control a monster and move around the place, doing damage to buildings and avoiding attacks from the military as you try to gobble any little people who come too close. What I got though was something rather different. A game of two halves, it was part virtual pet and part…well, part clicker game actually. The premise is this: A military organization, far in the future, is responsible for capturing and containing the many giant monsters and creatures that have been stumbling around the earth since time immemorial. A mixture of primal creatures, cosmic horrors, and seemingly divine beings from a "heaven" dimension, they're all held in a secure facility that's hidden away on a secret moon base. But we all know what happens in fiction when you try to imprison a monster, it inevitably escapes and wreaks havoc. You choose your monster, from the 9 available, and are given control of its fully powered up nigh invincible form as it runs rampant through the base. This section is simply a tutorial though, quickly teaching you the basics as you make your way to the nearby time portal, using it to escape to freedom via the timestream. Things go wrong during its activation though, and your monster is regressed back to a helpless baby before being dumped into a safe and secure nest location in prehistory. This is where the game begins proper, and where the "virtual pet" half of the game kicks off. Your ickle baby Kaiju needs to be fed, needs to be played with, and needs someone to clean up its poo as well. And, of course, the only person available is you. So get to it. It'll make them happy, and more importantly, will also reward you with valuable experience points. These are the game's currency and are used to buy all the upgrades you'll need to improve your little monster. You can increase your abilities, making attacks more powerful, improve defense, increase health, and a myriad of different things depending on your chosen Kaiju. You can buy new skins for them, drastically changing their style and adding a new trait. Regenerative health, a second life, adding elemental attacks, and more can be gained by unlocking a new style, and again, they're all different depending on your chosen monster. You can manage the pets you've collected, assign them to the five slots you can eventually unlock, level them up and swap them around as you please. Some work as turrets, others regenerate health, and a whole host of other effects. They all look great and have their own quirky character to add to your monster's uniqueness. There are also decorations to buy. Each creature has a ton of different little things that can be added to its nest, making it look less empty, but also granting some stat boost too. Just like everything else, these vary wildly depending on your chosen monster and are all themed around their style. The ice monster for instance has penguins, ice cubes, and other arctic-themed items to collect. You'll want them primarily for the stat boost they provide, which can be substantial, but they all add some cuteness to the otherwise empty environment, which is also a bonus too. It's also here you can check out the game's achievements, which all grant some stat-boosting stickers for completing, as well as the 3 optional missions you have assigned. These are always relatively simple, destroy X moving cars, burn Y buildings, use a certain skill Z times and so on. Not only do they provide something extra to focus on during a level, but they all also give a bonus to your monster's experience or grant points to spend. It's an upgrade screen with an integrated virtual pet and it feels more fun to use than simply unlocking icons on a skill tree. It's a fun way to make a common system feel fresh and I'm all for it. However pretty quickly your monster will be all fed, all cleaned up and all played out. You'll have no more points to spend, and no way to earn more, so you will have to move on to the second element of the experience.
The more substantial part. The actual rampaging through cities part. The fun part! Now before we get to that though, it'll help if I explain that all 9 Kaiju play slightly differently. Each has a health bar, which is self-explanatory, but they also have a second bar that powers all of their abilities, from their most basic attacks to their most powerful skills. Each attack will cost some points from the overall total and, while it will very slowly regenerate on its own, the only way to refill it quickly varies from Kaiju to Kaiju. Ro'Gath the Ragezilla, a tank-like Godzilla-style Lazer shooting lizard, is powered by Rage. Doing or receiving damage will quickly refill his bar, allowing him to continually launch attacks as long as he's in the thick of combat. Nebular the Star Eater however is a cosmic space entity living inside a hollowed asteroid like a hermit crab. It uses rocks to attack and must refill its supplies constantly to keep attacking. It does this by sucking in fragments of destroyed buildings, making them your prime targets in the middle of combat. Or there's Annonam The Blight Queen. A huge building-sized hooded cobra-like spirit of nature, it's ridden by its priestess and is armed with 6 razor-sharp scythe-like arms. It's powered by the souls of its victims but only if they're gathered by the minions it continually spawns. All the creatures you control will have a gimmick like this and it's important, especially in the early game, to keep in mind exactly what powers your chosen creature as running out of energy means no attack, not even the most basic, will be available till it refills again. So although it's important to remember this, the rest of the gameplay is pretty much the same regardless of which monster you decide to go for. You'll be terrorizing civilians, killing military personnel, destroying vehicles, and pulverizing buildings across various time zones. However, it's all done in that sort of clicker game style I mentioned earlier. You don't control your behemoth directly, it starts on the left side of the screen and slowly walks to the right until it reaches the end of the level. Instead, you control a crosshair that directs where your attacks will be aimed. People will attack you from the ground and the air, launch exploding barrels, set up ground damaging devices, man turrets, and more. You'll need to move your cursor across them as fast as possible, frantically pressing A to fire off your basic attack. Buildings will bar your progress regularly, stopping your Kaiju from continuing on his journey, so these must be smashed to smithereens as quickly as possible. The longer you stay in one place, the more damage the opponents can do to you. Survival requires quick cursor movement, rapid button pressing, and effective use of your monster's special abilities. At the end of each level, all themed on a different timeframe like modern day, wild west, prehistoric, and so on, you'll then face a boss that provides a quirky challenge to be overcome. The first boss will randomly stop the fight to have you solve math problems for instance. Simple addition problems, they're easy to beat, but later bosses have more significant challenges. One requires you to complete a geometric pattern by choosing from a selection of pieces. Another will have you remember a sequence of cards which you must then match afterward. These little minigames add some variety to the mostly button-mashing combat of the level and were a big highlight. But don't expect to reach these bosses straight away; especially in the first few runs when beginning the game.
Gigapocalypse is rather punishing at first and is designed to be played over and over again, grinding points and leveling up your monster, before jumping back in and hopefully getting a little farther. Each level does have a checkpoint about halfway through, and you can start from there if you want in the next (or subsequent) runs but you probably won't as you'll earn more upgrade points by doing the entire level over again from the start. Besides each stage isn't long, about 5 minutes in total, so won't take much time anyways. Plus you'll want to check out the lovely sprite work as you play. The monsters themselves are all GORGEOUS and SO well done. Each is unique, full of character and reference elements of pop culture. Real effort has gone in to fill them with personality. The tiny human enemies skitter around like crazy and, although basic, all ooze charm and come in huge numbers. The vehicles and buildings from each timezone look great too and it is a pretty, if chaotic as hell, game when it's all moving. It does get a little repetitive though, not gonna lie. Especially if you plan to play this for hours at a time. It's not going to be for everyone. I literally got cramps every time I got as far as halfway through a level from rapidly pressing A all the time, with my thumb no longer able to quick press without a pause and a rest. Even though each Kaiju does have its unique powering mechanic, simply hammering basic attacks is a HUGE part of the gameplay and it can get old in the long term. Luckily with the short levels though, it isn't a major problem. You'll get a break after a few minutes and be back on the virtual pet section to relax and spend those points to increase your abilities. It's more of a problem in the early days too. Once you've powered up your Kaiju, increased its damage output, and earned a couple of special skills, it's much less of a problem as each press does so much more damage. What's a little more frustrating though is the cursor. Not only is it used during the actual fighting, but is used in all the option and upgrade screens too. It's like they just kept the mouse control focus but just had the joystick do the work instead. It makes all the menus feel extremely clunky as the slow-moving cursor inches around the screen and you try to center on the tiny buttons you need to interact with. Where it REALLY frustrates though is during boss battles. The puzzles that pop up during combat are extremely tight time wise and the slow-moving cursor can add significant seconds to the whole affair. To give an example, in the medieval world a boss requires you to memorize a series of cards, then replicate the pattern. You do this by pressing A on each card, switching through the deck until you get the picture you need. Go past the wanted picture though, and you need to go all the way through the whole series again to get to it again. Then you need to move the cursor, which is a little unwieldy when using a joystick, to the next card to match it up too. When 4 or 5 cards are present, and you have maybe 6 seconds to complete the challenge, the time needed to go through all the cards while watching for the correct one and making sure you accidentally don't skip past it, can be too much. Losing the challenge through your own fault is one thing but losing through fiddly controls is another. Ultimately though, Gigapocalypse is an interesting little game. Its blend of virtual pet and clicker games, along with a charming art style and focus on Kaiju, make it a fun experience. Hammering attacks and smashing through a city is fun in any game but introduce the "leveling up and coming back more powerful" mechanic and you've got something that can be addicting. There's a "one more run" feel when you first start up as you're desperate to increase your Kaijus capabilities and see what it can ultimately do at full power. Although it might be a little repetitive, the inclusion of 9 different monsters can help keep things fresh. While a bit samey to play for hours on end, by dipping in and out for a few runs every now and again, you'll find an experience that can entertain for a long time.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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