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Freeware Friday: Streemerz

Remakes of older games by the indie community are almost universally enjoyable, and even mainstream remakes (such as Bionic Commando Rearmed) tend to be quite fun as well. Along this same vein of Bionic Commando is the new freeware independent title Streemerz. A remake of a terrible game included in the now infamous Action 52 NES compilation, it is both extremely punishing and quite fulfilling. Naturally, if you are a fan of older, NES-styled games, this is exactly what you want, and Streemerz delivers.

The story, if there Streemerz is said to have one, is quite simple. You play Super Joe, a member of Streemerz. He has planted a bomb on the central computer of Master Y's base, and it will explode soon, depressurizing the base and killing everyone inside. You must make your way out of the base and to the escape pod. The game is peppered with tons of goofy Engrish dialogue, such as "I'll kill them a lot each time!" and characters are based on various indie developer celebrities, such as Super Joe, Derek Yu, Mr. Podunkian (who made the game), and Terry Cavanaugh.It's a little weird at times, such as when the game urges you not to touch Master Y's balls, but it's also funny, which overshadows the weirdness.

While the graphics and sounds have a distinct low-fidelity flavor to them, they aren't bad. It's a conscious choice to make the game look like it is from the NES, and while sprites don't use a whole lot of colors and aren't too complex, they are animated smoothly and behave well. The music and sound effects are just as retro as the graphics, which helps make you feel like you are playing an actual 8-bit game rather than a cheap remake. There isn't a whole lot of variety, though, but it's excusable given that the game was made within two weeks.

The gameplay is very similar to that of Bionic Commando. You have the ability to shoot streemerz from your hands, which can connect to any normal surface. Red-plated surfaces can not be grappled onto, and this attribute leads to some of the hardest parts of the game. These streemerz move you in a straight diagonal line rather than the parabolic curve of Bionic Commando's swing, and it is very important that you get used to this, as a number of puzzles take it into account. Beyond this, you can't do anything else. No jumping or attacking is involved! The streemer has no cooldown on its use, so you can use it immediately, and when used against a wall or on a hook it allows the player a sort of pseudo-jump. The game expects you to learn this relatively advanced technique quickly, as you can't get past the very beginning of level 2 without having mastered the timing necessary to use it well.

Streemerz is difficult mostly because of the timing. In many cases, the player needs pixel-perfect, split-second timing in order to continue. While this can be frustrating for more casual players, it is both indicative of the style the game is trying to emulate (NES) as well as a way to give the game some actual challenge. After all, without the pixel perfect timing, Streemerz would actually be quite easy. With it, it turns into an excellent game that doesn't pamper or baby you. it throws you right into the fray and expects you to do well.

The variety of enemies sent against you is... not quite so various, actually. There's only one enemy: the clown. However, there are quite a few ways to die. If you touch the glowing balls, touch a clown, get hit by a pie, or get torched by a burner, you will instantly die and restart at the last checkpoint. After a few moments of bouncing around, anyway. The game keeps track of your deaths, and trust us, you will die. A lot. Thankfully, there are unlimited lives, so dying doesn't cost you that much. At the end, the game even breaks down how many times you died to the different elements that can kill you. Dying by touching one of the balls is likely to be your highest amount of deaths.

When you finish the game, there's a number of additional options for you. You can play the game again and get better stats. You can look at your best run's stats. You can play a time attack mode which records how long it takes you to complete the game. It's not a whole lot, but the developer is planning more features for the Flash version, so there's always that to consider. It's also intended to be part of a larger framework of games (an Action 52 compilation) so the few extra modes give it a little replayability without acting as a detriment to the other games.

There's a few issues with the game that are bothersome, but don't really degrade from the experience that much. The final time attack sequence forces you to sit through a few seconds of dialogue if you fail. The sequence is not hard by any stretch of the imagination, but it does get a little irritating if you have to sit through it. There's also no save option, which means you have to play through the whole game (which should take you between 30 minutes to an hour) in a single sitting. This isn't so bad, but it's still annoying for most players, as some for of save or level select would definitely be nice.

Overall, Streemerz is a good, focused, and thoroughly hard experience. It oozes retro style while being incredibly masochistic, which are two traits we absolutely love from a freeware game. It's certainly better than the original game it is based off of, and we're sure you'll enjoy it immensely. You can download Streemerz from Mr. Podunkian's website, and you can give feedback in the Action 52 competition forum thread on TIGsource. A flash version is being worked on for release soon as well.

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