Ever since Smash TV (and Arnie vehicle The Running Man) popularised the idea of game show contestants laying waste to everything in the name of big prizes, the concept has become increasingly prescient. In 2021, it’s almost indistinguishable from our own parade of reality TV nonsense and YouTube dumbasses pulling off silly stunts for social media clout.
Having played the game’s demo (available now on Steam), I’m happy to report that yes, the visuals are a bit pants, but it’s a chaotic blend of Nuclear Throne and Smash TV and shows a lot of promise.
Playing the game is oddly intense. Laser lights and neon bathe the arena as you pirouette through, turning the oddly nondescript enemies into meat paste with a constant stream of hot lead. Picture-in-picture segments of audience members losing their minds or giving interviews are overlaid on the carnage as you dodge roll past spinning blades or razor-sharp spikes embedded in the floor while explosions fill the screen. Every kill, whether it’s on an unwitting member of Deathrun’s staff, a mindless zombie, or the gun-toting adversaries that charge up to you every now and again, leaves you with a small cloud of thumbs up symbols: a visual representation of how much the audience likes what you’re doing.
Your character can carry any two weapons at a time, firing them with a click of the right or left button on the mouse. There’s no reload: tapping R tosses a grenade, which will wreck enemies or blow apart walls. It recharges constantly, meaning there’s always a grenade when you need one and you can be liberal with all of your firepower. This makes you feel like a force of nature. Upgrades are a little bland, but let you move faster, shoot for longer, and a variety of other incremental abilities that’ll make you into Deathrun TV’s very own Ken Jennings.
Unfortunately, the enemy isn’t quite up to the challenge of dealing with you in this demo and it’s rare to encounter any real problem. In the 20 minutes that I spent with the game, I only died once after dodge-rolling into a wall and getting stuck there, taking damage despite my concrete exterior. The rest of the time, I just milled around shooting stuff while under aural assault from the game’s throbbing soundtrack, without a care in the world. The weapons have a nice kick, whether you’re using a shotgun, assault rifle, or even a Golden Uzi, so now I just need an enemy worthy of gunning down with them.
We’re playing an early version of the game with this demo, but if developers Laser Dog read this, I’d suggest the biggest changes they could make would be to up the feeling of peril, and to make the upgrades more wild and wonderful: it’s a game-show after all, where are the big prizes?
Either way, Deathrun TV is worth a play right now just to scratch that Nuclear Throne-shaped itch.