Metalvania Madness: The games of Steel Mantis

There are, in the Skunk Tower, many touchy subjects that we unhealthily (and yet wisely) tend to ignore. The touchiest one of them all is Religion, of course.

Being a pagan god, the Indie Skunk expects Its minions to worship It like, well, a god. Its Stinkiness is that kind of pagan god that has to make EVERYTHING about Itself after all.

It has tried to convince us in many ways, like when It told me that It comes from the lyrics of a Celtic Frost song (it became clear soon enough that Its Stinkiness does not know the first thing about metal and that was poppycock).

It also insists on how “It made us” (you can learn the truth checking our origin story) and has tried, unsucessfully, to establish certain rites and festivities in Its honour that have never really sat well with Its loyal minions.

A festivity during which we have to clean the Skunk Tower twenty four times while “chanting Its Stinky Holy Works” does not sound like much of a holiday. And it is also difficult to take seriously a demigod that claims that is “becoming a Mormon” and that is “going to be a Buddhist” next day.

So we do our best not to talk about it. We never mention how brother Tagonius apparently worships Cthulhu (he actually says “Cachuli” so that sounds like poppycock too) and that yours truly only believes in the one true god, personified in the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and their respective Holy Bands.

Yes, dear follower, this minion only believes in THE METAL.

All these ramblings should make more sense once I FINALLY stop rambling and begin today’s article about the games of Steel Mantis, a.k.a. Andrew Gilmour Studios.

Games that pay tribute to classic arcade games like Castlevania, while imbuing them with pure, unadulterated METAL MADNESS full of references to the holiest of musical genres and are bathed in the most glorius pixel art.

May the Gates of Valhalla stay always open for Sir Gilmour and Sir Thomas Jenns, the other half of Steel Mantis.

Honour your blade with violent deedsSlain: Back From Hell

Back when the world was young and yours truly much younger, there was a game that opened this minion’s eyes and showed him how really awesome, dark and bizarre video games can be. That game was Shadow of the Beast (1989).

Back then, it was unparalleled. It managed to put to shame the plot of Sword & Sorcery classics like The Beastmaster (1982) and the world of other games like Altered Beast (1988). Everything was darker and way more over the top than on those titles. That this minion still loves, all being saidbut Shadow ot the Beast was BETTER.

That was a long lost, once cherised but then forgotten feeling. So imagine my joy when, not that long ago, I came across Steel Mantis and the first of their insane video games, Slain: Back from Hell. It was like discovering Shadow of the Beast all over again.

In Slain: Back from Hell, our hero, Bathoryn (as I said before, you will find many references to the holiest of musical genres, dear follower), is awaken from his slumber by a dark presence. He must cleanse a Gothic, medieval world and dispose of the demons that lay waste to the same. Only this time the world is the cover of your favourite metal album from the 80s in all its glory.

In order to do this he must travel a beautifully crafted dark world, solve puzzles that usually have to do with platforming and fight hellish minions, mini-bosses, sub-mini-bosses and proper bosses.

The demon slaying part is, of course, the most satisfying oneWe must master our weapons, their timely use and when to use each one of them in order to prevail. We also have access to some dark magic that depends on our mana bar.

The difficulty is high (even higher if you have two left thumbs like yours truly), yet satisfying. There will be much trial and error until we master the mechanics of Slain: Back from Hell.

All of this is beautifully sustained by and amazing OST composed by Curt Victor Bryant, former member of Celtic Frost.

All awesomeness becomes even more awesome when underlined with good metal, after all.

Honour your guns with violent deedsValfaris

If you think, dear follower, that the first game from Andrew Glimour and Thomas Jenns was kind of over the top, you have seen nothing yet. Yet another deranged, insane cover of a metal album comes to life in Valfaris.

If Slain: Back from Hell, was all Sword & Sorcery in its most glorius insanity, Valfaris goes now 40K. Our hero, Therion, follows the trail of blood and guts of Bathoryn (both games are related, it is up to you to discover how) to the far future, commanding his wolfship to the distant world of Valfaris.

That is the homeworld of Therion and the place where we must annihilate a bunch of foul, futuristic and insanely cool fiends.

In the grim darkness of the far future of Valfaris, magic has been replaced by the most METAL kind of weaponry you can imagine. Besides our melee weapon and our gun, we have access to an arsenal of special weapons that rely on what was the mana bar in Slain. As in Back from Hell, we can replenish that bar in glorius close combat carnage and by destroying certain items.

There are plenty of the three kinds of weapons we can find and wield, and when Therion finds one he will literally headbang. It doesn’t embarrass this minion to admit that is one of the greatest things he has seen in his long gaming days.

The headbanging brings us back to THE METAL, which of course prevails during the gameplay. We owe the incredible OST, once more, to Curt Victor Bryant and, also once more, to Andrew Gilmour and Thomas Jenns how it is implemented in the game. Delivering death and mayhem was never as satisfying as in Valfaris.

And if you, dear follower, don’t start the game and start headbanging the moment the main menu is there, I really pity you. May the Great Horned Metal God have mercy on your wrecked soul.

Honour your Mech with violent deeds Valfaris: Mecha Therion

Andrew Gilmour, Thomas Jenns and Steel Mantis will raise the stakes and gift us with an even more over the top proposal: Valfaris: Mecha Therion. Therion goes Mecha, what else is there to say?

There are not as many games as there should be that rely on the holiest of musical genres, yet even less that provide such fun as the Steel Mantis games.

Valfaris: Mecha Therion, should arrive soon according to its Steam page.

Needless to say, this minion of the Indie Skunk can’t wait to play it.

(Yes, Master, I was totally doing my best to get “more fools” to praise you. Do you know about brother Tagonius and that Cachuli guy?)

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more religious fundamentalism. Also for more reviews of the most amazing indie games. Also listen to more metal, that’s what’s missing in your sad life.

Hail the Indie Skunk!

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