As a kid, there was one game that we played over and over as, unusually, it allowed 3 players. It meant that my friend and I could play together, while including my little brother at the same time, negating the inevitable "Mum, Jon won't let me play!" complaints from him. It was a Kaiju (although that word didn't exist to us yet) game where three giant monsters would team up to destroy a city. That game was called Rampage and it's a well-loved classic of yesteryear, remembered fondly by people of a certain age. But why am I bringing it up? Well, Terror of Hemasaurus is a modern-day love letter to that childhood classic. It updates the concept, adding a conspiracy theory-filled, parody packed, played-for-humor story and pairs it with gorgeous modern-day pixel art to create a game that not only tickles the nostalgia buttons but becomes something that surpasses its initial inspiration.
There's actually quite an involved and well-written story for a start. As I mentioned, it's packed with humor and is definitely played for laughs, despite what could have been rather serious and heavy subject matter. You see the tale begins on the coast of Svalbard in Norway. With a backdrop of giant icebergs and glaciers, we join a televised climate debate between scientist Hans Pissenschaft on one side and industrialist Richie Hoarderson on the other. Hans, a scientist, warns that if we do nothing climate change will unleash a terror on humanity that could mean an end to life as we know it. Richie on the other hand, speaking as the head of PollutaCorp International, belittles this argument. The economy is all that matters as far as he's concerned and that the liberal fear-mongering scientists are just "making a monster out of a molehill". In the distance though, as the two argue, the glacier behind them begins to crack and crumble. A giant shard snaps off, splashing into the water, and begins to float away… Cut to the tropical, and privately owned beach that just happens to be where "The Church of the Holy Lizard" has there base, and where the giant ice block has just happened to wash up. The cultists, in their little white robes, bow, and dance and pray before the huge lump of glacial ice, rejoicing when it cracks open to reveal the giant form of Hemasaurus! Their leader, the all-powerful and all-knowing "Shepherd of the Holy Lizard" explains that his cult has been awaiting the giant monster and that they have a plan to save humanity. Heatwaves, disease, flooding, wildfires, and extinctions have not been enough to make humanity take climate change seriously but the Cult has a way to make them finally do something about it… By utilizing a time machine that they've (somehow) managed to acquire, they sent our beloved Kaiju back into the past, making sure it was also trapped in the ice at the same time. After a long period of cryo-induced hibernation, it would be released as temperatures rise so that it could be here today. With humans then making the connection between the melting icecaps and the release of Hemasaurus, they'll jump to the conclusion that more climate change equals more Kaiju attacks and begin to clean up their act. Makes sense. Right?
Guided by the cult, and after being taken through a series of tutorials, you'll take control of the Kaiju as it travels through a series of different areas, and carries out a series of objectives, hoping to terrify the population. You do this by killing people and doing as much damage as possible. Each level is a side-scrolling 2D area, packed with buildings and civilians, cars and police, with helicopters, blimps, and more appearing as you advance. Your Kaiju must usually cause a certain amount of damage, and kill a certain percentage of the population, before then being allowed to move on to the next area where the chaos continues. Controlling the Kaiju is easy, you can walk left and right, jump into the air and climb up buildings. You can punch, kick people and cars, pick them up and throw them or even gobble them down to restore health. Using a combination of these moves you'll do as much damage to the buildings as possible, climbing up them and trying to completely demolish them. What's quite cool here though is that most of the skyscrapers and such have a physics-based destructibility to them. For instance, by punching out the low levels on one side, you can cause the floors above to topple into the neighboring towers, creating a domino effect of destruction. Manually punching out sections can take a little bit of time though so it might just be easier to pick up a car that's driving past, and launch it through the bricks and mortar to bring the whole thing down quicker. Or you might want to climb as high as possible and leap towards the foundations, unleashing an atomic butt bounce onto the ground below, and causing the entire structure to collapse in on itself. In fact, this move becomes a necessity for some objectives. To keep things fresh, the game doesn't just task you with random destruction but quickly begins to add conditions and objectives. Sometimes you'll need to bring buildings down using a giant monument in the style of a metal globe. Other times you'll be taking down blimps. Or armored helicopters. Sometimes you'll need to take down only red buildings while preserving blue ones, which is where the aforementioned atomic butt bounce comes in handy. When done from really high, and smashing into the exact center of the foundations, you can bring the whole building down in a controlled way. It will fall straight down, rather than tilting left or right, allowing you to avoid damage to the blue buildings on either side. Sometimes you'll have trampolines all over the level, allowing you to drop from huge heights easily. Hell, sometimes you won't be destroying anything at all. With public opinion turning against you, the Cult decides that, as people love cute animals, saving burning animals might be a good idea and you find yourself grabbing pets from burning buildings and throwing them into cages dangling precariously from helicopters flying high above. There's a good variety of mission objectives to keep you busy and, while they ultimately don't stray too far from the "destroy X" variety, they're different enough to change things up. Plus your small base collection of moves are all fun enough to do that the game keeps you interested. And that's before your Ultimate attack is even brought in.
Now I haven't mentioned this before but you can control 4 different Kaiju and each has its own specific mega-damaging move. It's powered by eating humans (this reduces their carbon footprint apparently, so it's a good thing lol) but by eating a…more portly individual, it'll instantly fill the bar to maximum. The titular, Godzilla-inspired, Hemasaurus will let out an ear-shattering roar that shatters windows and damages everything the closer it is. The mechanical Autonomous lets out a barrage of missiles, destroying everything around it. Salamandrah breathes fire in a super hot blast, while ClockSloth slows down time to a crawl. These abilities are great for quickly taking down a large building, or clearing the screen of tricky opponents. Because, of course, humanity can and will fight back. They don't just stand by as the city gets smashed to smithereens. At first, you'll face the occasional cop and you can easily take the damage from the few bullets they'll fire your way. Redneck good ol'boys will exercise their 2nd amendment rights by firing off shotgun blasts at you too. As things get more hectic though the army will get involved. Swat will drop from 'copters, while squads of troops will launch waves of machine gun fire at you. Helicopters let off guided missiles. Surprisingly they can quickly do significant damage and take out your chosen Kaiju and this is when I came to a point I found a little annoying… You can restore health by gobbling up the little humans that scurry around your feet and usually this is enough to restore you to full health. An enemy shoots and, if hit, you run forward and devour the perpetrator getting rid of both the threat and restoring any lost health. At later levels, though the amount of enemies and the rate of damage done by the waves of bullets becomes almost constant. Just to keep at a steady level you need to constantly eat humans and by the time the eating animation is done, you'll have lost as much health as you would have gained. It becomes a constant battle of attrition, trying to eat as many humans as you can just to keep alive with no time to do anything else. It was only occasionally, and you could keep on top of enemy numbers to stop them from reaching critical mass, but it happened often enough that I felt a little annoyed by it. Of course, you could also munch on a fattie, completely filling your health again, but sometimes they got hard to see, and accurately target, amongst the mass of dead bodies and fleeing pedestrians. And while we're talking about little niggles. There was one other I found. Aiming. Now you don't have ranged weapons so it's not that, it's actually when you pick up something to throw or when you kick it. By holding the left stick in the direction you want the object to go, and pressing the kick or throw button, you'll launch the car/human/metal ball/cat/dog in that direction. I found it inaccurate a good bit of the time. Even something as simple as throwing something 45⁰ or straight into the air vertically, could be a little difficult with the thrown item sailing through the air in an arc that was obviously going off target. A little on-screen reticule for aiming would negate this but for the most part, it isn't a problem… Except for the burning animal mission I mentioned. Grabbing the kitties and doggos, and then trying to launch them to land in a tiny cage dangling below a helicopter piloted by a terrified idiot while also having this imprecise aiming, was bad enough that what should have been a fun change of pace became a frustrating element that I just wanted to be over. It's my little bit of criticism, nothing major, but thought I'd mention it.
Something I wouldn't criticize though is the game's artwork. It's bright and colorful, packed with little details, while still having that clean low-res pixel art style that's extremely popular right now. The buildings and people look excellent, as do the cars and other vehicles, but the real stand out is the destruction! The structures take damage, getting worse with each blow and it's SO satisfying to see it come crashing to the ground. Having them fall into one another, one building crumbling into the next, not only feels fulfilling but looks great too. Sending a bunch of people flying through the air, then kicking a car through a building, only for that to then collapse and take down the building next to it, fills the screen with chaos, and not once did I see any slow down, stuttering, or frame rate issues. It runs as smooth as butter on Xbox Series X, though I can't comment on the other systems. So to sum up, Terror of Hemasaurus plays like an updated version of the old classic "Rampage" game. You control a giant Kaiju creature and smash, bash, kick, throw, and butt-bash your way through a series of different cities, basically trying to do as much damage as possible. Its story, a climate change parody, is not only funny but accurate too. The opinions made are real arguments (taken to ridiculous levels, however) used by both sides of the debate and it might actually make you think about the subject while having fun as you do. Great pixel art, and excellent animation, make it a feast for the eyes as well and you'll discover that smashing up a city gets rather addictive. Now it might get a little repetitive long term, the different objectives seem varied at first but basically come down to you using the same moves you've always had, to kill and destroy the same cities in the same style over and over. In the short term though, as a great little distraction, it's definitely one to consider. It's a great "no brain" game where you just pick it up for a quick play and have fun.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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