Much like half of a Sonic The Hedgehog popsicle, Friendship Club is fun, short, sweet, and incomplete. This enjoyable, chaotic multplayer game will be available for early access on Steam starting March 24th. It’s the perfect game to play when you have rowdy friends over to visit.
That being said, you can only play it when you physically have friends over to visit. In its current form, the aptly named Friendship Club only supports local multiplayer. On top of that, you can’t use a keyboard and mouse – you and your friends must use an Xbox or PlayStation controller to get the party started. I spoke with the director at Force Of Habit, Ashley Gwinnell, and he did say that they’re working to make the game work better with keyboards but that the game was designed to be played with controllers. Once I actually got my pile of controllers and mirco-usb cords plugged in, then I got to enjoy the Friendship Club mayhem in earnest.
Two to four players, which can then team up or run solo, play in the two different randomly generated arenas. The mechanics are pretty simple: One joystick to aim, one joystick to move, one button shoots, and another melees. Even though that’s the extent of the controls for the combatants, the gameplay itself lends to more complicated, frantic, but nonetheless smooth experience. In some of the game modes, the players only get a limited number of bullets. The melee ability then also doubles as a bullet catching skill which allows you to survive an attack and pick up some ammo.
There are a variety of game modes including Classic Mode, Assassins, Turbo Bullets!, Trick Shot, Bullet Hell, Stand Off, and Headbutt. All of these modes can also be played at five speed settings between 25% and 200%. 200% speed rounds of Bullet Hell tend to end quickly, but they can be wildly exciting when players can dance across the level while trying to bounce bullets off of walls and into their furiously retreating opponents. Even better than the different speed settings and preset game modes is the ability to create custom game types. There are a huge variety of options include the typical rounds and lives, but then options like turn based gameplay, turbo bullets, or the post death time lord ability can be activated. These add even more craziness to an already hectic game. Actually, at one point when I had most of the speed effects and bullet augments turned on, the game did in fact crash because of everything going on. There was also more than one instance where a round would end and the game would get stuck on a black screen. This is an early access game though, so some bugs should be expected.
From the game’s starting menu, Friendship Club defines itself as a fun, almost childish game. The art style is fairly simple and includes levels with mainly one pallet of colors in each of the two levels while the characters run around blast each other and bits of destructible environment. In fact, the whole thing really reminds me of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. The whimsical creatures, the play-fighting, even the level which is simply called Timmy’s Bedroom is all reminiscent of care-free fun of being a kid.
Speaking of the whimsical creatures, the Canardinal, Chud, Old Man Ricketts, and Shakey Jake are the different characters from which the players can choose. They all play the exact same way. In fact, they way you choose your character is by controlling one of the headless character bodies and picking up one of the disembodied heads. It’s only macabre if you think about it too much.
If the visuals, characters, and gameplay weren’t enough to make you think “this game is just plain fun,” then just watch the trailer to appreciate what the game sounds like:
The old-timey radio voice that narrates the trailer is emblematic of the audio feel as a whole. The music for the Friendship Club sounds like a comedy radio drama. You know, the kind we assume our grandparents would’ve listened to 70 years ago. And the sound effects satisfyingly zap, biff, and pop as you wheel around the colorful bullet storms.
This game is really shaping up to be a spectacularly fun title. I would hope that more levels will be added, some kind of single-player aspect could be built, and ideally it would be great to have online multiplayer. Even if all that couldn’t be thrown in, I think I would still buy the game if I could buy it on the PlayStation or Xbox store. Getting four console controllers hooked up to a PC or Steam Machine is just a bit too much of a hassle for me (and I would assume the average gamer). I would definitely recommend the game to indie-lovers and anyone looking for a fun party game. For more information or to try out the game through early access, just visit the Steam Store page.
Tyler Davis a gaming writer and contributor to PN2. Go say hi on Twitter @TDavis179