Everyone loves Llamazon, that mega-corporations who deliver packages to customers across Santa Lama City with online-purchases every day. But when they moved to using drones for deliveries instead of Llama’s, the camelids combined with the Llamanati have become hell-bent on destroying Llamazon and everything else in their path.
VALA begins with a spoof-video based on Anonymous with the Llamanati pledging their allegiance with the Llama’s so now it’s up to you to stop them, inside your LZS-50 spider-like warship, you’ll head into the city to clear each area of Llama’s.
Heading onto the battlefield, you’ll find the top-down twin-stick shooter feels immediately familiar, your left sticks controls movement with your right stick aiming, the triggers control your left and right weapons with the bumpers reloading or swapping the desired weapon with a new one (If you’re stood over a supply drop). Llama’s you’ve killed will occasionally drop energy which can be picked up to refill your energy bar, this can then be used with special abilities on the face-buttons, which can ground-pound, dash or provide a shield, there’s also plenty of special powers such as confusion which once picked up will provide a one-shot proximity blast which will confuse the llama’s just enough for them to start eating each other.
With quite a substantial arsenal of weapons and powers, you’d think that it’s an easy game, but these aren’t your everyday zoo animals, these guys are vicious and will charge at you trying to take a nibble out of your armour, there’s a wealth of different sized llama’s both big and small, with some providing an extra problem such as the screamer who yells to others when it get’s close to you pulling in a large wave of llama’s to defend against.
Having a separate weapon on each arm works incredibly well, you might opt for a more defensive water blast to keep your pursuers at bay with a machine gun on the other side to kill them a little quicker. There’s also the choice to dual-wield the same weapon, while two lasers are great at dispatching llama’s, you’ll want to be ready with the abilities for when you get overcrowded.
The overall presentation of VALA is fantastic, there’s more puns than you can throw a llama at, and if you think I’ve mentioned the word Llama a few too many times in this review, you’ll want to head into options and turn down the pun frequency before you start playing.
Graphically it’s all pretty dark and you’ll find the streets will soon fill up with the blood of your fallen foes, it’s always easy to tell where you are thanks to a glowing light of your choosing on the walking tank, this also helps for co-operative play for 2-4 players both online and local. I couldn’t figure out why (even on the Xbox One X) there’s a PC like graphics slider in the menu’s, but maybe this is just to make the play anywhere ‘universal app’ a little easier to handle though I didn’t notice a massive difference even in 4K. Sadly there’s not a lot of variation in the llama’s you’ll meet and many of the levels look a little too similar to the last, but I found myself caring less about the environments and more about the hundreds of llama’s trying to take a bite out of me.
The soundtrack mostly consists of up-beat arcade music which doesn’t feel out of place, but especially during gameplay all seems to fade away amidst the constant weapon sounds and llama screams and groans. I really couldn’t class the sound as a high point, but the voice acting and scripts make up for the less impressive music and effects.
One thing for certain is the value, costing only £12, VALA is already good value, but when you add couch co-op and online co-op with enough rogue-like luck and progression to keep you coming back for more, there’s also the added benefit of Xbox Play Anywhere.