What happens when you take guns, exotic locales, riveting action, and mix them all up with scenes ripped from The Mummy (The Brendan Fraser one -- not the terrible one)? Well, you might start to approach the majesty that is Strange Brigade.
With characters and a story ripped from the tomb raiding pulp fiction of 1920s dime novels, Strange Brigade is a unique shooter that keeps on giving. First, the aesthetics. Oh, the aesthetics! You play as one of four members of the titular Strange Brigade, a sort of band of explorers/secret agents/supernatural killers. Dispatching from the airship that serves as your mobile base, the Brigade is given missions by their faceless leader via radio. From the moment the campaign story began I was sucked in. The radio has vacuum tubes that glow as she speaks, the airship's interior is lined with trinkets Lara Croft would envy, and then of course there's the Brigade themselves. The leader, Frank Fairburne, gruff and tough soldier with a little extra health and a killer headshot. Professor Archimedes de Quincey, the scholar and magic user. Nalungu Rushida, the demon huntress from the heart of Africa. And of course, my favorite, Gracie Braithwaite, the factory working pugilist with a mouth as dangerous as her fists.
The game is a third-person shooter with tons of customization options. You start out with a fair number of guns, explosives, side-arms, and special magical powers. Add to this each character's unique perks and you'll have tons of combinations to try out. Each level presents a progressively harder series of undead menaces, or as Gracie calls them “wrong 'uns,” to try your ammo out on and puzzles to test your mettle. Make sure to scour every inch of the map for secret rooms because treasure is out there! Decimate your foes with over-the-top magical maneuvers and don't forget to spend a little money on the supply crates. They leave the best weapons, good for when you know you're about to face a horde undead mummies (my personal favorite is a shotgun called Krakatoa.)
I'm usually not a fan of shooters, especially against monsters and other spook 'ems, but this game does everything it can to make every moment entertaining. From snide anti-cat comments every time you shoot a cat statue to making funny remarks when you pause the game, I'm never not enjoying myself. The levels are wonderfully planned out, letting you often observe the entire map from certain points. They twist and curve around on themselves, giving you previews of what's to come. See enemies up ahead that you won't run into for another twenty minutes? Shoot them now and drain their sweet, sweet life force! Add to this the nearly endless amount of collectibles and challenges and you have a recipe for replayability.
There's really not much more to say about Strange Brigade. It's fun, pure and simple. The spooky elements are always offset by humor, the aesthetics are so over-the-top as to be cartoonishly fun, and best of all, the game never takes itself too seriously. It makes you feel like an adventurer! Despite it's genre and themes, the game is bright and colorful. The world is gorgeous, the puzzles are fun, and … well... the narrator makes a Phantom Menace joke at one point. Its just perfect.
If you love the feel of high adventure, tomb-raiding, radio dramas, you absolutely must give this game a try. Now if you don't mind, I need to get back so I can see what perilous pits and dangerous dungeons await the brave heroes of.... THE STRANGE BRIGADE!
Final Score: 9 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.