8DAYS Review

I'm not sure if 8DAYS is a right name for this top-down dual-stick shooter. I reckon "8000DEATHS" would be more akin to the truth. We old-school gamers tend to cry how easy modern games have become, so devious indie developers keep making these tough-as-nails retro games for us. It's hard to imagine anyone else reaping joy out of shooters like this!

8DAYS stars Lola "Wasp" Cruz and Mike "Ghost" Doe, two mercenaries hired by a powerful mega-corporation G.O.D to handle international crises. That is, to keep the privileged happy by killing hordes of third world baddies or dissidents. The game is absurdly politically incorrect, but no one should be offended by its intentionally stereotypical imagery of guerillas wearing rice hats and gruesome visions of mutilated bodies.

The game reminds me of those 80's shooters I played on my Commodore 64. Commando, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Ikari Warriors were the top dogs of their genre. The first was so easy anyone could beat it whereas the latter two had a reputation of demanding much attention to tackle them. In Rambo it was possible to trick the game to bypass most of its perils though. No such luck in 8DAYS. When the game says Lola and Mike are expendable in the eyes of their employer, it really doesn't lie about it. Life is cheap in the jungles and military complexes Lola and Mike infiltrate, whether you play solo or by twosome with couch co-op.

You'd be easily fooled by its crude looks to think 8DAYS was just hastily cobbled together. Indeed, it's odd to find this level of realism and depth to it. Rush in rampant guns blazing, and you'll notch cheap deaths to your tally. Your own deaths, that is. Resources are sparse, even more so in co-op. You collect guns and clips from downed enemies. Reloading a gun doesn't magically add leftover bullets to the magazine as it's strictly handled clip by clip. If you run out of bullets, you're down to your knife. Health restoring items are few and far between.

Enemies don't exactly run down to your sights as their behavior is erratic and unexpected. They might always be at their pre-determined posts, but taking each of them out differs from play to play. You have to remain ever-so vigilant and nudge forth inch by inch, baiting enemies to your advantage. Funnily enough, the boss fights are nowhere near as hard as the perilous road to reach them. You only need to kite most of the bosses and avoid their predictable projectile patterns. Completing a mission feels like a huge achievement, and there's a satisfying adrenaline rush trembling you throughout.

Hard as it is, 8DAYS doesn't feel unfair. If you died, you simply should have played better. There's no other way around it, 8DAYS requires near perfect playing - and a lot of luck doesn't hurt either. The only thing you can blame the game about to some degree is its uncompromising checkpoint system. The game is usually saved between areas, and you can guess what happens when you have barely scraped along to reach a new area. Yes, a shitty situation with only one lifebar and two bullets left. Continuing from there on is plain pain in the backside. Face it, you should have simply played better and have more resources left at the checkpoint.

8DAYS surely does look rough, but it's surprisingly vivid with bouncy animations and neat incidental effects. As often is the case with indie games, a great soundtrack compensates the pixel art. Here you can hear pastiches of classic 8-bit soundtracks, a bar from Rambo here, a note from Commando there, all enhanced with deep bass lines, driving your urge to survive in the harsh reality of 8DAYS.

But is the game any fun? Not necessarily when you die a hundred times in the same screen, too stubborn to take a break and vent out. Then again, I grew up with games with a challenge on par with 8DAYS so maybe my tolerance level is higher than average. There's only one question you should ask yourself: do you give up easily in games? If your answer is yes, steer clear of 8DAYS. But if you have a masochist bone somewhere in your body, then enroll in G.O.D by all means and face the challenge. There's nothing quite like that sweet feeling when you overcome the dangers the game throws at you, especially when you have a co-op partner to share joys and hardships with.

Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.