New games: Valfaris is a wonderfully overblown shooter with heavy metal in its blood

The team behind Slain: Back from Hell cook up an eye-searingly pretty spiritual successor

Sitting somewhere between an Iron Maiden fever dream and Roger Dean’s early Psygnosis box art, Valfaris’s aesthetic is a heady concoction. That’s hardly surprising given that this unsettling, raucous 2D action-platformer is being cooked up by the same team which brought us 2016’s heavy-metal themed Slain: Back from Hell.

Valfaris doubles down on its metal influence, tossing together bio-horror, a far-future setting, brutal combat, and riffs. You play as Therion, a square-jawed, remarkably violent chap with a striking mane of flowing blue hair. Your former home – a sprawling paradisiacal space citadel – mysteriously vanished at some point in the recent past, but has since reappeared in orbit around a dying sun. It’s now beset by an “ever-growing darkness”, and it’s your job to hop back onboard and investigate. Should be fine.

Supporting your efforts are a giant blue energy sword and an expanding collection of ever-more-ridiculous guns that you liberate from glowing-green energy vats dotted around the levels. This colourful armoury includes such delights as the Wolflight pistol – which makes enemies explode in a cloud of ethereal wolf heads that seek out other targets – and a destroyer-class weapon called the Hellwraith that flings molten skulls at anything you point it towards. Using your sword will also build up a special attack bar which allows you to deploy spectacular, screen-filling assaults.

You’ll face all manner of horrors along the way, including a giant ‘Cydog’ that launches homing missiles from holes in its back, creepy plants with bulging eyes, and irritatingly coordinated spikey grubs who’s equidistant marching patterns make navigating certain sections a (sometimes fatal) headache. Some rooms will lock you in and throw waves of enemies at you just to make things tougher, too, but you should view this as a great opportunity to splat as many gibs about the place as you can.

While the game offers up a fairly robust challenge, checkpoints are plentiful. You can save at these, of course, but you can also change weapon loadouts and apply upgrades. There’s a catch, however: you’ll need to spend a save crystal to activate them. These are dotted about the levels, many squirrelled away in hard-to-reach locations, and set up a risk/reward element to proceedings.

On first play, then, Valfaris reveals itself to be a joyously unapologetic dose of gory catharsis. Living long enough to experience the next ridiculously overblown, wet-neon weapon effect is motivation enough, too.

Valfaris will be released sometime next year, but there are plenty of other upcoming PC games to get stuck into before then.

PCGamesN logo Free newsletter