Currently Available In Early Access For PC

Zombies and side-scrolling brawlers seem like a perfect match, and Infected Shelter combines them into a gory, goofy roguelike. Players punch, throw, slash, and shoot their way through ruined city streets. Along the way they find assorted limited-use weapons to demolish the undead horde.

The frantic action provides players with plenty of powerups to collect. Split between permanent benefits and new weapon unlocks, progression drives the action.

Unfortunately, this formula comes across as somewhat generic because Infested Shelter suffers from a bland paintjob hiding its skillful execution. Characters have a simple, almost hand-drawn look that resembles matte cardboard cutouts. In motion it looks fine, but visuals aren’t going to be a selling point.

This game’s sense of humor matches the doodle-like appearance of its characters. There’s over-the-top cartoon violence, poop jokes, and a generally light tone. Players who chafe at puerile humor may want to steer clear.

At the start of a run players select a character, each with different stats and traits. The stats are predetermined per “class”, but traits randomize per run. To its credit, the Traits are creative – for example, I don’t think I’ve seen Keto Diet as a characteristic before. These Traits can swing in beneficial or disadvantageous directions, though.

Starting in a camp, players gear up with NPCs they rescue on the runs. Most survivors give more powerful starting weapons, extra special skills, or consumables. Once on the streets, players enter discrete rooms filled with zombie hordes.

The action’s pretty standard for a side-scrolling brawler. Defeated enemies drop money and items, and players will find limited-use weapons to wield against the undead, which encourages various playstyles that keep the combat fresh for a time.

Unfortunately, this novelty only lasts so long. Weapons fall into one of a few categories, and upgraded versions feel like previous models but with better stats. There are some nods to diversity, such as a shovel that summons a big blue shovel-wielding knight (wink wink). These quirks extend the shelf life of the play in the game, but again, can’t support it long-term.

Enemies also suffer from a lack of diversity. In the preview build, roughly a dozen enemy types show up. About half are generic human zombies that share a moveset, and most enemy groups can be approached using the same strategies. Without a demand for differing tactics, the beat ‘em up side gets stale.

To Dark Blue Games’ credit, they went all-out on persistent powerups, which are an element that can elevate a roguelike, and even in this early access build, players can unlock over 100 bonuses. The majority of the unlocks feel meaningful and powerful, and their quality kept me moving forward when the repetitive enemies and weapons dulled my interest.

Infected Shelter shows promise. Solid action and an extensive selection of powerups will keep players moving along, but limited enemy and weapon variety are an issue. If Dark Blue Games adds more weapon types and special enemies, Infected Shelter could be a great roguelike for fans of the genre.

— Michael Prehn

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