Why Is Madshot Early Access So Addictive? The Marginal Gains?

Cthulhu is back again, this time in the rogue-like shooter Madshot Early Access. Featuring handcrafted procedurally-generated levels and some amazing perks, this is a must.

We’re back in Lovecraft county once more (not the book) as Overflow’s Early Access title, Madshot, takes us through the cosmic terrors ‘through Cthulhu and beyond’ in this twin-stick shooter.

Ok, twin-stick if you’re using a controller, but the recommendation is to play with the mouse and keyboard. Ignoring the rules in my pathetic attempt at rebellion, playing with a controller is a lot of fun, but after the countless deaths, I dabbled with the mouse and saw the benefits.

You play a chap searching for eternal life, scaling an Eldritch mountain of madness, clearing zone after zone of ridonkulous bosses. That is, if you can get there in the first place. Madshot is a procedurally-generated 2D action platformer (ish) with rogue-like elements, but the levels are all handcrafted.

Madshot Early Access - Snot good
Snot good. Source: Screen capture

First impressions of Madshot were of another Lovecraft-inspired game, Source of Madness, as the characters look very ‘cut out’. Our hero flips about as if affixed by butterfly clips, making Jackie Chan look like a plank of wood. Movement flows very well, and it’s effortless to gain some air. You’ll need it to move around the stages. You’ll never be standing still, and it’s one of the most dynamic games I’ve played of late.

From the outset, you’ll face a stage full of spawning enemies. After killing them all, you move on to the next section, which is selectable from a map. A legend on the left shows what each stage will reward you with – from upgrades to money, aether to mid-boss encounters. Typically you’ll see these on the map in advance, but there’ll be options to scout ahead and pick the path that best suits your needs.

Emphasis on needs as this was where I applied my Madshot strategy. As a rogue-like, upon death, you lose everything except for aether. This material is used to equip and upgrade transmutations to make each run more bearable. For an hour or so, I stupidly hadn’t paid attention to these and believed there were only two options available. However, you can activate a challenge to unlock a new transmutation between runs, pending you fulfil the requirements.

These requirements might include completing the first area in under seven minutes, evading five enemies in succession, or getting through a stage unscathed. Naturally, some are easier than others, but they’re essential to progression. With that in mind, the best power-ups are those found in-game (which you’ll lose on death!). Power-ups might include health restoration, poisoning enemies, stunning them, slowing them down, etc.

I enjoyed the challenge in Madshot, but then it got to a point where I hit a wall and couldn’t seem to beat the main boss. After a lucky run, I purchased an item from a vendor (quite rare to find in my experience), which launched homing missiles on the enemies. The boss was a cakewalk. Following that, the stages got much bigger, and the enemies were fiendish.

I inadvertently found a few NPCs to interact with during these later stages and the occasional healing point or similar. If only these were in the early stages, there’d be more of a chance. Low and behold, Muggins here didn’t realise that the first zone also has NPCs and doorways (slightly understated in the stage backgrounds), and this made the game even better.

It’s fair to say that Madshot Early Access is an addictive game. Perhaps a little too much. After those initial doubts about whether the game was too hard (it certainly isn’t easy!), the perks kicked in, and I have to say, I love this game, I really do. The controller was best overall, but I did note that the controls would freeze a handful of times. Swapping controllers (8BitDo thingy for a DualSense) didn’t make a difference, and the keyboard always worked. On that basis, the latter is recommended, but it can be tricky to initiate the dodge this way compared to a gamepad.

The skinny? Madshot is excellent. It’s another fine example of an Early Access title (see Age of Darkness: Final Stand and V Rising) and is definitely recommended.