Impaler review

2023-01-18 by George P

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Jumping, Shooting, and … Impaling?

Impaler is a gory old-school 90s-inspired arena shooter with roguelike elements that promises fast-paced retro action and innovative new mechanics. The game does not contain a story so we can directly jump into the Impaler’s heart, the chaotic gameplay. In Impaler you enter a constantly shifting arena filled with all kinds of dangerous monstrosities, ranging from your standard imps and slimes to flying minigun-wielding abominations and ancient laser-shooting statues. To defeat this wacky collection of otherworldly opponents, the protagonist has a diverse arsenal at his disposal as well as a giant twist that completely changes how Impaler is played. Apart from the more predictable standard guns that go pew pew and the rocket launchers that go boom boom, the game’s hero also comes equipped with probably the most unique FPS weapon I have seen in a while. A magical staff-like gun that can summon piercing stakes from below ground and impale any unlucky foe standing in its way. And what is especially interesting about this lethally spiky weapon is how it manages to be much more than just a gory gimmick. It is a feature that provides multiple additional layers of depth as fundamental mechanics of the game’s core loop are either directly integrated into the “stake gun” itself or they can be indirectly triggered by it. For example, damaging enemies with your conventional gun and finishing them off with a stake will grant you HP, or by using a spike on yourself you can launch yourself into the air to dodge attacks and stomp enemies on your way down.

Speaking of launching in the air, momentum is a key component of Impaler. When you are in the arena you will have to be moving, dodging, jumping, strafing, and be in a constant state of awareness of the environment itself and your position within it. Speed and momentum are foundational elements of arena shooters, and Impaler does a simply wonderful job at both designing their corresponding mechanics and executing them on a technical level. It is these elements that help bring the gunplay to life and make the entire experience feel much more dynamic and adrenaline-packed.

The New Retro Strikes Again

Just a few weeks ago on SameOldGaming, in my retrospective article on indie gaming in 2022, I briefly talked about the “New Retro”. The colossal trend in the indie scene where developers inspired by the earlier days of gaming, create retro projects, not with the goal of replicating the past but instead with the goal of uniting it with the modern. Of combining the old with the new. And Impaler is a great example that perfectly demonstrates this larger trend. It is a game that immediately feels nostalgic and familiar from the very first run. And that can be attributed to many different layers of craftsmanship. First of all, the game nails the retro vibe it is going for on an aesthetic level.

The pixel art enemies, the centered gun, the old-school 3D visuals, the sound design, the gory death animations, and of course the awesome music; are all elements that help bring the author’s retro vision to life. And the same can be said about the action-packed gameplay which feels true to its retro roots on multiple levels. And while Impaler uses these carefully reconstructed old-school aspects as a foundation, it does not stop there. The game introduces fresh and unique ideas, utilizes more recent game design concepts, and implements modern polish, modern conveniences, and plenty of modern visual effects. Impaler is not just a great example of how one can unite the old and the new but it is also one of the best “New Retro” games I have ever played.

The Joy of Starting Over

“Roguelike” has been one of the most popular indie labels of the past few years, and while it does not always work on every game, I am more than happy to say that is a perfect fit for Impaler. The game’s use of roguelike elements enhances its core gameplay loop, makes each run feel different and unpredictable, and of course, improves overall replayability. Impaler achieves the above through numerous methods. First of all, each stage uses procedural generation for its obstacles, interactive objects, enemy types, and more. At the end of each stage, you will have the opportunity to purchase randomly-chosen temporary power-ups from a varied collection. At the time of writing this review, there are 42 available power-ups separated into 7 main categories: Health (effects that influence your HP gain), Map (effects that alter the levels themselves), Gun (effects that increase your main weapon’s damage, projectile speed, rate of fire, accuracy, etc.) Mind (more unconventional effects), Body (effects that boost your hero’s movement or resistance), Gold (effects that influence gold gain), Spike (effects that upgrade the stake gun). These power-ups allow for a ton of potential combos and builds, and figuring out different strategies while doing runs was one of the most fun parts of my playthrough. And on top of all that, before starting a run you will choose to equip yourself with one of six primary guns, all of which play very differently from one another.

The above roguelike elements combined with Impaler’s very well-designed gameplay loop and awesome aesthetic, allow for a great amount of replay value and dozens of hours of fun. Considering the game’s low price, replayability is already at an ideal level but of course, more additions would be welcome, especially concerning enemy variety. It is therefore important to note here that Impaler has already received its first content update since the game’s launch in December of 2022 and, according to the developer, more and larger free expansions will become available in the near future. For the insanely low price of 3$, Impaler is an absolute bang for its buck for all fans of the genre and even newcomers who want to give something different a try.


Impaler is a 90s-inspired roguelike arena shooter packed with fast-paced gameplay, an awesome retro atmosphere, and numerous unique ideas that make the game feel both fresh and nostalgic.