Back in May, solo indie developer Ivan Panasenko aka BeardyBirdGames released a surprisingly great sci-fi horror game called Ailment (Free) to the App Store and Google Play. In it you play as a lone space soldier who wakes up on a ship with no recollection of how you got there or what’s going on. As you begin to explore the ship, it’s very obvious something has gone wrong and you eventually run into your old pals and coworkers who have been turned into zombie-like killing machines, and they are gunning straight for you! Gameplay-wise Ailment plays out like a top-down shooter with dungeon crawler-like maps, and in addition to shooting a crap-ton of zombies you’ll also need to do some light puzzling and exploration as you attempt to find the right computer terminals to unlock the proper doors that open the way forward. Mostly you’re just shooting the heck out of everything though, and Ailment is NOT shy about giving you a ton of cool weapons to do just that. Check out the trailer to get a vibe for what the game is like.
So as full of satisfying action as Ailment is, one of the more surprising aspects of it is just how interesting its storyline is. Retro-inspired top-down shooters aren’t exactly in short supply on mobile, but it’s pretty rare for any of them to offer up a story that’s worth caring about. Not so with Ailment. While it’s not going to go down in storytelling history or anything, if you generally dig cool sci-fi horror along the lines of Event Horizon or Alien you’ll likely get a kick out of this. So interesting is the story in fact that Ailment fans have been asking about a sequel that would flesh out the lore even more, and BeardyBirdGames is here to oblige, though not with a direct sequel but with a prequel called Ailment: Endurance.
Savvy players of the original Ailment may recognize Endurance as the ship that your main character had just visited prior to things going nuts on his own ship that you actually start the game out in. He references heading to the Endurance for a rescue mission but finding everybody on it already dead. Well Ailment: Endurance is here to tell the story of what exactly went down on Endurance prior to your arrival, and it’ll even explain the origin of the strange virus that turned everyone into zombie-like killers. You’ll actually meet characters that you met as NPCs or were mentioned in passing in the original Ailment, and the ending of Ailment: Endurance will lead right up to the start of the original game. It sounds very cool, and BeardyBird is hoping to be able to use Kickstarter to crowdfund the development of Ailment: Endurance. Here’s a pitch video.
In addition to fleshing out the story, Ailment: Endurance hopes to improve upon the original in a number of other ways. There will be multiple playable characters to choose from when you start out, including male and female characters this time around. Levels will also be bigger and more complex, and there will be a greater variety in the weaponry you come across. Also, one of the most divisive aspects of the original Ailment was that it was more or less a single-stick shooter with auto-aim, modeled after one of its inspirations, the excellent Soul Knight (Free). But not everyone digs that type of thing, some people prefer to have full control over their aiming, so Ailment: Endurance will include an option for true dual-stick controls. Finally, Ailment: Endurance will include “More entertaining boss-fights and lots of secret stuff and side-levels, to make the world bigger and deeper" as well as “some cool story twists as in the first game." It sounds awesome.
So here’s a not-so-fun fact about the world of mobile gaming: It’s hard to make money. Despite the original Ailment being downloaded more than 10,000 times within its first week of launching, it barely cleared $40 in that time. Over the course of the next six weeks, that download number ballooned to more than 150,000 but I can’t imagine the revenue scaled much with it. That’s sort of the problem with being a fair free to play game. There are opt-in ads and in-game currency IAP in Ailment, but the only real reason to utilize either was to show support for the developer, as the game was completely playable and enjoyable in its totally free form.
What can you do to counteract this great injustice in the world? Go download the original Ailment right now. It’s free, and it’s available on the iOS App Store as well as the Google Play Store for Android. Give it a play. If you like it, then check out the Kickstarter for the prequel and consider throwing some support behind it. That doesn’t always have to mean backing it financially either, as simply sharing Ailment and the prequel’s Kickstarter can be a tremendous help to the game’s success. If this crowdfunding goes well, then we should be seeing Ailment: Endurance around the November or December time frame later this year, and as a big fan of the original that’s something I really hope actually happens.