The profane, not-for-children-to-see-or-your-boss-to-read name of the hardest difficulty mode in the next Matt Hazard video game can by abbreviated as FTS.
That stands for "F—k This Shit!"
One-hit kills (except for grenade splash damage). No continues.
The middle level of difficulty is called "Dame This Is Hard." The easy level is called "Wussy".
The early 2010 downloadable game Matt Hazard: Blood Bath And Beyond has that sense of humour. I played it yesterday and can confirm that it's a game that was made to reproduce the frustrations (and joys) of old-school games while laughing at them.
Blood Bath and Beyond is an ode to Contra, an eight level downloadable title for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network developed by the same Vicious Cycle team that produced Eat Lead, the 2009 third-person comedy shooter that parodied a generation of video games. Eat Lead was in 3D. The new game, a throwback, is a side-scrolling shooter.
Both games put players in control of Matt Hazard, a self-aware video game character who has seen his star fade as he was (fictionally) made to star in increasingly lame games. He was a badass action star reduced to kart racing, of all things.
In Blood Bath and Beyond, Hazard is sent back into games he (again, fictionally) starred in in the early 90s as he hunts down Neutronov, the villain who has stolen Matt's 8-bit self. A second player can join as Dexter Dare, Matt's '90s sidekick.
Contra fans would recognise the gameplay. The left stick moves the character across a scrolling battlefield full of angry enemies. One button makes the player's character jump. One button fires his gun. Holding a shoulder button locks Matt or Dexter in place so they can easily fire from all angles. A pull of one of the triggers allows Matt or Dexter to shoot into the background. Weapon upgrades fall from the sky, providing temporary access to machine guns, rocket launchers, flame-throwers and guns that shoot a tall spray of bullets.
The levels are ripped from a fictional version of Hazards' '90s games, though you might need to be told that. While they play like a '90s Contra, they have the more polished look of a modern game and sometimes riff on products from a few decades. For example, 2007's BioShock gets a send-up in this level called Hate Boat:
There's also a level that has players fighting Mounties and Moose Tanks. Anyone know what that's a reference to?
I watched a Vicious Cycle developer play through a pirate level based on a fake game called Chest of the Pirate Queen. Pirate skeletons ran in from the sides of the screen. Some parts of the level, on a boat, swayed with the motion of the sea. Then I tried a more cutesy level with demented Pokemon-style trainers spawning colourful monsters I needed to eliminate. Another reporter and I shot our way up several floors of a big house that was full of fighters, snakes and these Pokemon-like creatures. The level felt like it was ripped, amusingly, from what I believe was the 80s Kung-Fu game I long ago played on my friend's Nintendo Entertainment System. Surprisingly, though, it ended with a boss battle against a large mechanical rhino who had a long health bar. The fight against him was as pattern-based and tough as a lot of old-school gaming fights, the kind of thing that will make one gamer laugh, one gamer relish the throwback challenge and another run away.
Publisher D3 of America has no price to announce yet for the new Matt Hazard, but the creators promise about two to three hours of first-time play through on lesser difficulty levels, with support for local co-op, online leaderboards, and of course, that hard difficulty mode.
Want to laugh at how people used to play games? Then this one's for you.