Here’s a great joke: An alien walks into a bar. In this bar, a band named Machete are playing a gig. The next thing we see is the place completely empty with three guys wondering where all their gear has gone and a body of a fourth mysteriously slumped in the corner. Ha! Hilarious! Hahaha. Ha…no.
On second thought, this joke doesn’t really work. It’s a good thing that developer Upper Class Walrus decided to turn it into a game instead.
On with the story then. A hilarious Russian commando guy named Jim Jungle bursts through the wall to explain that the aliens have looted the band’s gear, and they should follow them to get it back. He then hands over his machete and the game begins. Where the hell has Jim Jungle come from? (yes, a wall, but you know what I mean), why is he there? If he’s such a tough guy, why doesn’t he just go after the aliens himself? This is one of those games where such existential questions don’t matter. Just get to the killing.
There’s a strong 80’s action movie vibe about the whole thing, which immediately wins points with me, because I’m a fan of 80’s actions films. To be fair, everyone should be a fan of 80’s action movies, this is a no-brainer.
I’m not 100% sure who you play as, but he looks like some sort of trucker complete with faded baseball cap. Armed with Jim’s machete as well as a bow and arrow (because truckers with faded baseball caps always carry a bow and arrows), you head into four different stages to slice and dice the alien scum. In a nice touch, you’ve also got a set of themed offensive and defensive smart-bomb powers which are offered to you from your band members based on their role in the band. Directional arrows on the left hand side of the screen control your movement and an attack button on the right swings your sword. You’ll find yourself wishing for a floating joystick, as it’s easy for your thumb to slip away from the button and have your character stand still while you wonder why it’s so unresponsive. Because of the fixed position of the buttons, the screen ends up feeling cramped, and the slither of extra time it takes for you to reorient your thumb to the correct spot sometimes leads to grizzly trucker death.
For some reason the game also feels like it needs a jump button. To be fair, there isn’t really any practical in-game reason for this, but it just feels like something’s missing. Feelings, they’re important. Especially mine.
Aliens approach from every direction, and mini UFOs hover above your head dropping bombs (which annoyingly, don’t kill the aliens). The bow and arrow helps with dispatching the flying machines –Robin Hood would’ve loved that – and this is activated by swiping back and holding to aim, a bit like one of those Angry Birds-esque physics puzzlers. It adds a cool bit of variety, but it can get quite difficult to be accurately find the correct angle in the midst of a full-on alien attack.
It’s a strictly old-school 8 bit affair with graphics that are nostalgically rough around the edges and hark back to the days when stuff like shading didn’t exist. A blue box is a blue box is a blue box dammit. In true ‘Doom’ style, a mini graphic of your character’s face acts as your health bar and becomes increasingly bloody and bruised as the game progresses. Does this count as real time damage modelling? It’s something to stick on the blurb, in any case.
And just like all those 80’s action heroes, the game’s pretty tough. You can of course purchase power-ups and upgrades, but they’re more expensive than a punch in the gonads; have you seen what punches in gonads are going for these days? Scandalous I tell you.
There’s also a wheel of fortune which you spin to win gear. Unfortunately the basic concept is broken because all the prizes are covered with a question mark and you don’t see what you’ve won until the wheel stops spinning. Kind of misses the point.
The music is pumping and perfectly fits the macho retro tone. There’s also an endless mode, which is a wave based survival affair, so that’s pretty much two games in one. In these recession-hit times, that my friend, represents value for money.
In fact, as the game is completely free, you’re actually getting fantastic value for money…or value for nothing if you want to take things literally. ‘Take My Machete’ wouldn’t feel at all out of place at £1.49. The developer is either very generous, or so loaded that in his mansion getting downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast requires the use of a helicopter. People like that don’t need £1.49 from the likes of you and me, you’ve got nothing to lose.