The Crackpet Show Early Access Preview: Awwww

Step into the arena to fight to the death in The Crackpet Show Early Access - a rogue-like that has more than enough weapons to tinker with.

The Crackpet Show Early Access is a game that can get you hooked. Back in the days when the internet was in its household infancy, I used to watch Happy Tree Friends – like anyone else with a 56K modem – and loved it. The art style here reminded me of those glorious, bloody days.

But screenshots and trailers can give the wrong impression, and by the time you play, it’s nothing like your expectations. It’s part your fault for expecting something else, part the marketing for luring you in. This isn’t Happy Tree Friends, but the art style throughout and the unwritten promise of gore was as per the invisible description.

Starting as a cute lil’ bunny, you head off into the arena and have to survive a series of animal-based waves. Whether that be zombie-like creatures, monkeys that fire projectiles over their amplified sphincters or hypno toad wannabes – there’s enough variety to compete with.

After each wave, you choose your path. That may be rewarded with a new weapon, a unique passive perk for that particular run, a surprise, or a harder round that doesn’t necessarily offer any goodies. Surprisingly, I went for the harder stages often and smashed them. And no, I’m nothing special. Then I got to the boss and re-read the ‘bullet hell’ bit in my news piece.

The Crackpet Show Early Access - Boing
Boing. Source: Steam

While I defeated the first few bosses featured in The Crackpet Show Early Access the first time, I’d be lying if I hadn’t had said about the squeaky bum moments. These guys are heavy hitters, often with multiple phases to up the ante, with a mini-boss to contend with in later levels. In later episodes, or seasons, the bosses return, only two of them at a time. 

With the bosses, you concentrate on avoiding attacks more than combat as the aiming is automated. That may sound boring, but it’s not. I enjoyed it, especially as items you pick up can make or break a battle. Though it sounds like cheating (the automatic aiming), it works well in practice, but die-hards/try-hards could benefit from manual targeting that isn’t just switching focus.

What happens when you die? Nothing. Sorry kids, there’s no meaning to life. But in The Crackpet Show Early Access, you start that episode again (it’s a game show environment a bit like Smash TV and the more recent Gone Viral). There are four characters to pick: cosmetic, but cool. From the hub, you can unlock sponsor deals that give you permanent upgrades to your arsenal, or perhaps extra health, an increase in fans – a.k.a. XP points, as well as upgrading your weapons. 

The latter is a roulette where you choose one of two items to upgrade. Sometimes it’s something you don’t want to use, like the indecisive gun, but note that all upgrades are permanent – it’s only the perks you lose for that particular run. Once you’ve upgraded and picked one of four builds to start with, you head back into the arena with a strategy to find a better gun.

The Crackpet Show Early Access - FIGHT!
FIGHT! Source: Steam

Other than the boss battles, which can get quite frantic, most stages don’t feel that urgent in The Crackpet Show Early Access. That’s not a negative comment, but it feels manageable – even if you fail – as the evasive roll is so good, and you don’t have to focus on the aiming. The latter might be a problem for some, but as stated, it works well. If you want to spruce things up, you can add three other friends, but as I lack those facilities, I was more than happy to go solo.

I very much enjoyed my time with The Crackpet Show Early Access, and it’s genuinely been the game I’ve been playing the most, these past two weeks. Let me be clear – the game didn’t blow me away, hasn’t made me go full vegan or want to learn a new language, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and it’s so much fun to unlock your new favourite gun, only to be surpassed by something better. The current love of my life? The Mega Railgun. 

The Crackpet Show from Vixa Games and Ravenage Games, is out in Early Access on the 16th of December.