Strange Brigade, the new game by Sniper Elite studio Rebellion, is a charming beast, a breathless romp right out of the pages of a hammy British adventure mag. It's Brendan Fraser's rolled up shirt sleeves in the sandy archaeological action film The Mummy, his beefy fists thumping mummified monsters because they jolly well deserved it! It's all "Treacherous Tombs!" and "Chaps!" and smoking card character portraits. It's fairly irresistible.
And Strange Brigade barely pauses for breath. The level I play at EGX 2017 (the level demoed in the video below) throws me and one other person - you can play with up to four, or alone - into a baked and crumbling North African temple overgrown with vines, and immediately we're set upon, undead around us, behind us, everywhere.
They're not deadly but they're no pushovers, and they're enough to be a very real problem when Strange Brigade starts mixing cocktails of enemies for you, slinging in armoured kinds of mummies and mini-bosses like a hulking minotaur. Focus for too long on the big danger and a pack of smaller dangers shambles up behind. It's a bit like Serious Sam in some ways, enemies constantly appearing from all quarters, and it keeps your heart pumping like a good Sunday afternoon action film should.
You deal with all this chaos with a mixture of punchy weaponry - upgradeable and unlockable - exploding barrels, obviously, and a selection of traps dotted around the fighting arenas. It's tower defensey as you shoot orbs on pillars and temporarily deploy spinning blades, spikes from the floor, or jets of flame. Each of the four unique characters also has a powerful special ability, which charges as you kill enemies and helps even the often overwhelming odds.
Puzzle sections offer respite and a chance at a different kind of teamwork, as one player reads the order of hieroglyphics somewhere while another player shoots the corresponding images on a wall somewhere else, for instance. And therein lies the allure of Strange Brigade, really: a hearty dose of good old fashioned fun with friends for a few evenings. It has that Dead Island kind of B-movie charm but in a tighter, pacier, more action-packed package. I don't see great depth but does Strange Brigade really need it? Not every game has to be as persistent and everlasting as, say, Destiny, and Strange Brigade feels all the more refreshing for it. Tally ho!