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Hands-On with ‘The Executive’ – Flame-Kicking Werewolves Like it Ain’t No Thang

theexecutivelogoIt was nearly two years ago that developer Riverman Media announced The Executive, a game about a corporate CEO whose co-workers turn into werewolves and stage a massive attack against him. Naturally, being a bad-ass corporate CEO, he fights back, and fights back hard. Ok, if that sounds like a crazy premise, remember that Riverman Media were the ones responsible for the awesome Pizza vs. Skeletons ($2.99) a few years ago. So in that context, this is just another day at the office. Anyway, two years is a long time to wait for anything as awesome-looking as The Executive, and the only real update we’ve had on its progress was also a very long time ago in December of 2013 when a new trailer was revealed.

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but Riverman Media has been in touch to let us know that The Executive is currently in beta and is finally very close to releasing. In fact, they shot me a beta build that I took for a spin, and all I can say is that The Executive is So. Damn. Awesome. Like their previous Pizza vs. Skeletons, it’s hard to explain exactly what The Executive is, but I’ll try.

First I’d describe The Executive as a timing-based platformer. It’s not exactly an auto-runner, but it sort of is. During traveling sequences you’ll tap an icon to send your executive running, and as you’re running you’ll come across icons that will perform various types of actions. So like, a slanting up arrow icon will allow you to jump over a pile of rubble, for example. The icons are timing-based using that old familiar “a larger circle enclosing on a smaller circle" and you’ll need to perform an action when the two circles meet. It’s not really a rhythm game in a musical sense, but it certainly has a rhythm to it and you’re judged on how well you time your swipes and taps as you make your way through each level.

In between those traveling sequences you’ll come across enemies, and this is where I’d describe The Executive as a beat’em up, or a lightweight fighting game. When you run into an enemy you’ll stop and square off against them. Controls are simple. The screen is split into four quadrants, with the two quadrants to the right of your character performing high and low attacks and the two quadrants to the left of your character performing high and low blocks. It’s super simplistic, but not in a bad way at all. Much like the traveling portions of the game, brawling is reliant on quick timing and picking up queues from your opponent so you know when to appropriately use a high or low block or attack.

flamekick upgrades

The basic combat is very fun, and very satisfying, but goes to a whole new level when you take into account the massive upgrade system in The Executive. I can’t comment a whole lot on this, as I’m still fairly early in the game and there are certain things I don’t fully understand yet (like a portion that takes queues from the clicker genre), but what I can tell you is the very first upgrade I purchased was the FLAME KICK. What’s cool about these special abilities that you can purchase is that the increase the depth of the basic combat. To perform a flame kick you drag from the lower left quadrant to the upper right quadrant. It’s similar for other special moves, so once you’ve unlocked a fair share the combat actually becomes pretty complex.

Like I said, I’m not too far into the early version of The Executive that I’ve been playing, but I’m easily sold already. Before, I was excited for it based solely on its wacky premise, bad-ass art style, and inclusion of werewolves. I mean, werewolves in business suits, what’s not to be excited for? After having played it, however, I can see that this will be an excellent game all on its own. It blends together familiar concepts but still manages to feel wholly fresh and original. There’s currently no hard release date for The Executive, but the beta testing is well underway and the build I’ve been playing feels incredibly complete. Expect this one really soon. Oh, and as an added bonus, Riverman Media has put up the entire soundtrack for free. The music is great in this one, so give it a listen and a download if you dig it, and look for more on The Executive in the near future.