released on Jan 29, 2021

Hrot is a single-player retro FPS set in a small socialist country neighboring Soviet Union (Czechoslovakia) after an unspecified disaster in 1986. Those times were dark and terrifying and so is the game.

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What happens when you mix in former member of the Eastern Bloc Jazzpunk with a Boomer Shooter.

A mix of Quake, Doom 3 and Duke 3D with a very unique, personal and genuine premise. It's pretty obvs where the quake influence goes, the author clearly loves Quake's brown textures but knows how to make the game not feel samey visually, it's more brown than Quake ever was but you'll never get tired of it. There's some Doom 3 in the more limited mobility and resources being scarcer than average for the genre. Duke 3D plays a big influence in the level design and soul of the game, levels feel like real places that are also made for a videogame like all good Duke 3D levels do, also the frequent and many elements of interactivity and humor which give a one man feel to game in the best possible way. The gameplay loop isn't as good as other games of it's ilk but it makes with level design and charm, most I can complain is that some projecticles might as well be hitscans but it's not a big issue.

Feels a little like a shitpost, but it's fun.

Another modern boom shoot. Made by one dev from Czech Republic that takes place in a brown, yet absurd and dangerous 1986 Czechoslovakia.
The great thing about indie games, especially solo devs, is how much insight you're given into the creator by simply playing their game. They aren't bounded by many restrictions, which makes the games feel more personal. Especially considering the setting here is a exaggeration of the creator's home country, albeit after a certain disaster that spawned monsters and imparted madness across the country that the silent protagonist must trek through. Hrot balances horror and comedy surprisingly well. It forces you into many cramped, dark tunnels where even your flashlight uncontrollably flickers as you nervously hold your weapon forward, then the next level will allow you to feed a dog so many treats that they puke. To explain every crazy enemy and encounter would ruin a lot of this game's charm, albeit the wildest of shit happens in the second and especially the third episode. If Episode 1 is not gripping you, you're free to skip to Episode 2 or 3 whenever; and I have seen people struggle to engage in the game early on.
As for the gameplay, it's Quake-like with high importance on explosives and shotguns, but doesn't retain the sequence breaking rocket jumps even with the high movement speed. Gunplay is nothing too remarkable, but most of your arsenal have several applications to use them in fun ways. Definitely a high emphasis on the shotguns though, ammo is extremely common for them, maybe even more than pistol ammo. The most unique thing you'll get in combat is deflecting grenades back at enemies with a kick, something that they don't teach you, but once you learn it then it becomes a engaging ammo saving method where you're redirecting the explosives into crowds of unfortunate foes. Apart from that, you're encountering the frankly absurd number of enemies while scouring for secrets and even the cute Easter egg here or there. Again, nothing that hasn't been done before, but the execution of the level design I have to give credit for. Despite the endless brown and dreariness of all 24 levels, I've never found myself completely lost on where I am and what I need to do. I have backtracked before, but a lot of times it's because I miss a frankly obvious sign that'd point me in the right direction, without ever being a literal sign.
Certainly a dev to keep your eye on, what Hrot lacks in exceptional combat it makes up in atmosphere, level layouts, variety, and some splendid humor. A game that, embarrassingly, got me to laugh at potty humor surely is doing something right... or maybe I have low standards.
After beating the final level of an episode, you get a recipe. As in, a real life recipe on something you could actually cook.

brown with the sickness
czechoslovakian sewercore shooter in the post-dusk vein. folks will tell you it's "like quake had sex with quake" because fps fans are beyond help, but behind all the fawning, borrowing, and that familiar colour palette lies something that finds a distinct middle ground between old and new
the core of its identity is the push and pull between grotesque industrial horror and absolute shitpost grade irreverence. hrot darts between monolithically bleak atmosphere and physical comedy that ranges from absurd to outright surreal; props becoming enemies, slapstick homages, and goofball interactivity pull the rug out from beneath it, only for it to revert back to straight faced doom and gloom moments after. it doesn't all land, but the wildcard eccentricity goes a long way to distance it from its dustier, more neurotic contemporaries
unfortunately, the oops all sewers! vibe of the first episode doesn't work that well for me, and the game repeatedly struggles to make its levels and encounters match the memorability of its texture and tone. by E3 it finally feels fully confident and momentous, but most of the lead up just doesn't have the necessary spice to send it over the edge from good to great. drawing from an established pool is smart, and hrot makes good use of the quake bestiary and then some 40+ more, but its hard not to see most of the game blending together under the rigorous adherence to one track minded homogeneity. everything performs good and fine, I just wish it found its groove a bit sooner so I could've seen it hit even higher peaks
still, I have no doubt that spytihněv's best work is ahead of them, and really, isn't that just the dream?

i feel like hrot really hits the platonic ideal of the 'Boomer Shooter Throwback' which has become so popular in indie game circles during the past few years. its really a very Simple game compared to its peers, it cuts back on a lot of the more flashy cinematic bits & direct callbacks to older shooters (see: new blood interactive) and tighten up the shooting & level design (see: shit like project warlock) to much success. what i enjoy about it more than anything are how important the little interactive details are to the developer - you look at his twitter feed and hes barely showing off the weapons and enemies and combat, its all just videos of an astronomical clock simulator he programmed in or a model railroad set that you can make drive around, it's a cute game. the world of post-monster-invasion czechoslovakia is inhuman at its core, groaning and spilling steam and oil from the grounds pores, all clattering pipes and dark brick corridors with rusty grate flooring or putrid water (silent hill esque?). none of the enemies have visible faces or entirely human body shapes, theyre all a little stretched out and bloated and they love to puke all over themselves. even the ceiling turrents make a sickly moan when you kill them (definitely silent hill)
and so, when combined, these two things (the careful extraneous details & the generally diseased atmosphere) intermingle and make you feel like the only two characters are yourself (as the player) and the world; the industrial parks and sewage tunnels all creak and shudder like a big big gross animal and the levels are designed in such a way as to loop around on themselves very well so you really do picture each one as a singular Thing rather than the discrete vignettes a lot of these type of games operate in (see: new blood interactive once again). i think the developer wants you to feel sad at seeing what this place has become post invasion and humanizes it to do that but i dont know much about the history of the czech republic or anything so thats where my train of thought ends.for me personally, the gunplay is kind of secondary to everything i just mentioned but its very satisfying, they use a straightforward reasonably varied pool of weapons and it all looks and feels good. i love to shoot guys, its just that simple