Viricide


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Rating: 4.3/5 (198 votes)
| Comments (58) | Views (305)

DoraViricide"Hey there friend, turn that frown upside-down! Have I got a happy little arena shooter for you!" ... is what I would say if not for the fact that Viricide, by Eli Piilonen of 2DArray, is a bit more complicated than that. And quite a bit more grim.

You play a nameless user tasked with cleaning up EXADI, a super advanced artificial intelligence, after a particularly nasty virus rampaged through her system and left a number of her programs badly damaged. You do this by piloting your way through 16 stages (or "waves") with an antiviral unit and taking down the green anomalies that quickly converge on you to attack. Between each wave, Best of Casual Gameplay 2010EXADI speaks to you, and you gradually come to realise there may be something else going on, and maybe the line between man and machine isn't always so clearly drawn.

Controls are simple; use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move, click and hold the left mouse button to shoot, aiming with your cursor. Hit [P] to pause the game. Shoot enemies as they appear and collect the white bits they drop to spend on upgrades. A single hit takes you down, which can be frustrating, but you still keep all the bits you earned during the wave and can retry without penalty. Depending on the upgrades you choose, the game doesn't really start getting difficult until about halfway through, which should give you ample time to beef up your skills.

Analysis: I'd actually been playing Viricide for the better part of an hour before I looked to see who in the world had made such a simple little arena shooter with the melancholic narrative, and once I realised it was from the same mind behind everybody's favourite little depressing platformer from last year, The Company of Myself, it made more sense. With its simple presentation and premise, you wouldn't expect Viricide to try to reach you on anything other than the most basic level of enjoyment associated with gaming, but Eli is quickly establishing himself as someone who takes common concepts in unusual directions. Considering the subject matter that lies at the heart of EXADI's narrative, it's no surprise that it might be touchy for some people to deal with. It can also be a bit of an unpleasant discovery when you finally get to the root of the matter after the first few comical dialogues from EXADI herself, but then, that's probably the intention. Spend a moment considering the game's title and you'll probably be able to figure out what the story's really about, and whether or not you're comfortable enough with it to actually proceed.

If you just want to play Viricide and enjoy it without dwelling on the story, you can do that too, but it probably won't have as much of an impact. The gameplay is fast and fun but exceedingly simple, the sort of thing you can sink an hour or two into, but without much reason to replay when you're done. If you stripped out the story and doubled the available levels, Viricide would not be out of place in an arcade, but would need a bit more variety to its gameplay to really shine. The upgrades available are pretty standard, bare-bones shooter fare, and it can get repetitive. Fortunately, the waves tend to be short enough that reaching the next piece of the story remains a good incentive.

Viricide's success hinges on whether you empathise with EXADI herself, and in that respect, the game does a good job, largely due to a believably emotional performance from a voice actress called Sapphire. The change of tone in music midway through is also subtle and a nice touch. The ending feels a little abrupt, but I have to ask myself how I would have preferred it to end, and to that I'm not sure. Viricide is a poignant exploration of emotion and what it means to be human that isn't exactly going to put a spring in your step for the rest of the day, but provides a different experience from your average shooter.

Play Viricide

Thanks to Ryan for sending this one in!

58 Comments

Just from the screenshot, it looks a lot like the game Areas which I enjoyed greatly. Same kind of deal?

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Anonymous April 21, 2010 1:36 PM

Stunningly bad controls, both aiming and movement. Too frustrating to play.

Either the targets need to be slower, or the bullets faster. If the ship maneuvered like something other than a wet rag, that would enhance playability as well.

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You might play for more than 5 seconds before jumping to conclusions. It's a grinding game, so the bullets and manueverability and other stuff too improve as you play.

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Pretty good. Too bad you can't get more firepower early on, the big blocks are a nuisance. For a real arena shooter try Echoes. I think I submitted it a while ago...

http://jayisgames.com/archives/2007/05/echoes.php

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JIGuest, it's called upgrading.

Get some bits and upgrade your movement speed. Voila, you ship no longer controls like a drunk ladybug. Get some more money and upgrade your fire rate and projectiles, you're now firing two bullets at a faster pace than before.

This was a beautiful game. While the controls were a bit rough, the enjoyable banter between each wave from EXADI was really nice. I have to be honest though, it did pain me to

have to blow up her (I say her because it has a female voice. Why do most AIs sound like they're better suited to receptionist jobs?) emotion core.

All in all, it was a brilliant game with a great narrative. The only problem with it was that I suffered quite a few undeserved deaths waiting for the Zero Writes to actually bomb the screen.

PROTIP: Max out Multiplier and the last stage becomes what can only be described as a joy-filled moneygrab fest.

[Hi Mattie, I'm happy you enjoyed the game, but please remember to put spoilers about the game's conclusion behind spoiler tags. I've put them in place for you this time. Thank you! - Dora]

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@Mattie, spoiler tags would be nice. The plot is pretty key to the game.

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Well, that was... depressing.

Fantastic game, though. Could have done with 20 Levels, but it did quite well for itself. I found the story to be very well done, although one other character could have used a bit more development.

The Absolutely Omniscient thing, whatever it's called.

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Anonymous April 21, 2010 5:36 PM

It makes it difficult to upgrade when those upgrades cost money earned by shooting targets which you can't kill because they are too fast, your bullets are too slow to aim properly, and you can't maneuver to catch any money they do drop (without being blindsided and killed) because you are flying a crippled brick.

I stand by my asessment.

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ChrisForsyth April 21, 2010 5:43 PM

Hmmm. Depressing ending--more so than Portal, though I think it's kind of obvious the character here was inspired by GlaDOS. Decent voice work, though.

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I don't think it's obvious at all. I honestly can't see any sort of similarity to GLaDOS, beyond the superficial: vaguely similar voice modulation and the mere fact that both are computers.

The actual characters are nothing alike, though.

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Anonymous April 21, 2010 6:17 PM

lol she says that the other computer forces people to play text adventures as torture

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Bravo!

It had a lot of heart. It was funny and sad along side a simple, clean design. GlaDOS would be proud. :)

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chipmunk Author Profile Page April 21, 2010 6:30 PM

That was fun! I liked the huge squares. :D

@JIGuest:

I had some trouble at first, but I was able to collect a few bits, enough to upgrade my movement and my firepower, which made it easier to collect more bits, which allowed me to upgrade, etc. But go ahead and rage-quit if the game is too difficult for you. :P

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Dear Lord, I did not see that coming. (I mean, about halfway through I started to see where it was heading, but the game starts so *light*. Double Entendre Inhibitor!)

Excellent game, with a minor quibble or two--for instance, if there's no reason not to always be firing, I feel like the game might as well just autofire for you rather than forcing you to hold down the mouse button.

But the writing and the voice-acting made up for a lot here.

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I loved the game, EXADI really managed to make me sympathise with her. The funnt bits at the beginning really helped the player to get to know her... sad ending though. I want a chance to save her!

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Incredible game, but very sad.
Scary thing is that this sort of issue might become important in about 50 years.

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ReverendTed Author Profile Page April 21, 2010 8:22 PM

Honestly, the ending surprised me. I was expecting...

...that clearing the "infection" or destroying the emotion core would strip the humanity from EXADI, allowing her to go rogue like the other computer - the now cliché "you thought you were helping but you were actually enabling a monster" storyline.

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@JIGuest: You ARE aware that you keep all bits you collect, even if you failed that level, right? Just keep trying until you've collected enough bits to upgrade. The later levels offer loads more bits.

I suggest upgrading your Magnetism and Zero Writes a lot. Maximum Magnetism will attract all bits on the screen, just like at the end of a level.

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Grant Thurston Author Profile Page April 21, 2010 9:03 PM

LOL. I love the computer's dialogue. xD But it was interesting seeing the gradual progression of her speech go from funny, to more serious. I was nearly in tears when she said

"I miss my dad..."

Not to mention the final boss. It's pretty sad, but I like this game a lot.

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RandomGuy April 21, 2010 10:20 PM

Oh dear. Dearie dearie dear.

I feel so sad now, even more than "The Company of Myself". Found this harder, but more enrapturing. I think I'll be truly depressed now.

*time to rush through the end of the book
I've been saving for such an occasion*

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I loved it. Not so much for the gameplay, but for the great narrative behind the whole thing. The computer's faulty sectors at the beginning were really funny!

The Obvious Instruction bit cracked me up. Yes, my computer IS plugged AND turned on, thank you very much!

And I couldn't help but feel awful for EXADI at the last level, even though it was obvious halfway through the game that it was going to happen. The voice acting was great, too, and I think the game wouldn't have been nearly as touching without it.

Now that has got me wondering how The Company of Myself would have been if it had had voice acting...

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Great game, I have to say. Enjoyed it on all levels. I have a little different view on the ending than most seem to.

I didn't feel bad squashing the core. It's not like it was doing her any favors. I know too much about CS to buy into computers becoming sentient, so I see it more as getting rid of a pet's ingrown claw or something.

Of course the whole innocence in the face of parental figure's suicide angle was somber..

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Thanks for posting the Echoes link, maybe I didn't submit it here but got it here. Tell you what though, it's awesome with a good full-size trac-ball!!!!

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infeliciter Author Profile Page April 22, 2010 3:38 AM

anyone else have the a problem with sticking controls? i was using wasd BTW.

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Game was a lot of fun, but I have to agree that the controls were pretty awful. Sluggish even when speed was upgraded all the way up. I ended up using those Zero Writes a ton just because I was fed up with aiming somewhere and having the ship take a few seconds to actually start shooting there.

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Alexander April 22, 2010 4:40 AM

Wow. A difficult game. I almost considered not playing the last level as

I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's a pretty harsh ending, but if I'd stopped playing I wouldn't have seen what happened.

As for the game, it's all in the upgrades (after controlling two points, which I'm rubbish at. Get the magnetism, get the wipes. Also, small circles are my worst enemy now.

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Anonymous April 22, 2010 7:51 AM

A great concept although it would have been even better if you had 2 possible endings.

Option 1: Destroy the core removing all emotion (current ending). Option 2: Avoid getting killed by core allowing her to keep the emotion and enabling an alternative ending...

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I had a few slips through this game, difficulty-wise, but it wasn't a big ordeal. However, now that I'm on the last level, I canNOT beat this! I don't really WANT to do it, so to have to repeatedly do it (and five stars for the use of sound in this game, seriously) is ...heart-breaking.

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Anonymous April 22, 2010 1:37 PM

I have never felt more guilty during a boss battle in my life. I agree, there should be an alternate ending.

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Dug it. Would play again.

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ChaoSpectre Author Profile Page April 22, 2010 4:53 PM

...Being aware of the grinding nature of the game... I maxed out 4-6 levels before the end. Doing that... made the story seem... not very important.

The narrative had strong presentation, but during the levels near the end, where you're simply cleaning viruses as opposed to repairing components, seem like padding for game length and to bring the story full circle.

The game was executed well, but... it feels incomplete as is, or not deserving of it's length. Significant alterations to the narrative or structure of the game would have to be made before making it any longer. And those pressures probably led to the release of the game as is.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience. Quite possible even on a LAPTOP TOUCHPAD, so anyone complaining about the sluggish nature of the gameplay is simply lazy.

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Alexiorsay April 22, 2010 6:32 PM

Loved the game, especially how you don't have to beat the level to keep the money. And the story was good- but really, female computer + witty banter + blowing up at end? Reminding anyone else of a certain space/physics bending puzzler? That involved shooting PORTALS?

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StephenM3 Author Profile Page April 22, 2010 7:25 PM

Yes, yes, we all know that AI's and humor are both registered trademarks of Valve, just like pixels and platforming are wholly owned by Cave Story.

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Ugh! The final boss is too hard.

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I found the alternate ending.

I refused to fire at the end boss. I let it kill me a few times. I tried just moving around to avoid being hit. Neither of those seemed to get me anywhere, so I used the X in the corner of my browser window.

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I honestly have to laugh at everyone who's all "awww so depressing omg :("

Go play Digital: A Love Story, which has a similar plot concept, but pulls it off way better! (Also was actually featured in a Weekend Download... link: http://jayisgames.com/archives/2010/03/weekend_download_128.php ) Or anything else has an interesting story instead just some twist that you can see coming from a while away.

ktx

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Going to have to agree with Bundt here. EXADI, while funny and enjoyable at many points, just doesn't hold par to *Emilia. Maybe it's just how this game was set up or something, but from the very first level, you know that EXADI is just a computer, and even though you were the one that activates her emotion program, you still think of her as just a computer.

*Emilia was in a different class herself - she managed to fool me -_O.

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I remember back when EXADI was called Wintermute.

(...not rly, only 3 levels in and just wanted to geek out.)

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Crazycolorz5 April 24, 2010 4:54 PM

Why is it so deprssing D:?

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I must admit that the two-handed controls were too difficult for me; I placed the cursor in the center of the screen and rotated around it.

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I liked Viricide: well-made, emotional, and not impossibly difficult (especially once you've gotten a few upgrades). The initial banter was light and silly, but the game starts getting more serious once you get to the upper levels. The ending was strangely sad, even though I didn't feel that connected to EXADI. And ABOMI's brief appearance in the game seemed out of place, since you don't see him after that one level.

My final score: 14742.

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For those having trouble getting started, try getting the magnetism and modifier upgrades first, followed by the zero write (which kills everything on the screen and sucks in the bits from all of them). Even when you die, you keep the bits you've accumulated, so with a little patience, you'll soon have plenty for the other upgrades. I was able to max out my upgrades by level 12, took me about an hour to get through the entire game.

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This game really stands apart from so many other shooters, though, in the emotional investment you develop in the main character. Graphically, it's so simple, but the voiceover and dialog conspire to really pull you in. There aren't many flash games that can make you FEEL something (other than frustration). That alone makes this one a keeper, IMHO.
It does make me wonder about the ethics of creating an artificial intelligence, as well (again, not the sort of thoughts you expect to come up when playing a flash shooter).

What if any "real" AI winds up suffering simply because it exists? What if a perfectly rational, powerful intelligence, unaffected by biological instincts like reproduction and self-preservation, comes to the conclusion that existence is just more pain than it's worth? What if consciousness is just a chance byproduct of evolution, a method to help survive and pass on genes, but not inherently meaningful in any way? What if the only thing keeping us all from jumping off a cliff is a flawed, biologically dictated set of irrational emotions, social conventions, unprovable religious beliefs, and/or the fluctuations of various brain chemicals?

Excuse me, I think I'll go turn all the lights on and watch TV loudly, with a bottle of vodka.

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That definitely made my life feel so much more worthwhile! :D

eyra

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During the final boss,

I honestly flew around the ESC for five minutes, just because I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was hoping for some alternate ending where EXADI realizes "Wait! I want to live!" But it never came. Honestly, the most depressing final boss I've fought since Earthbound.

Also

The part with her "dad" nearly made me cry. Like, seriously. Most depressing flash game ever.

Five out of five, though. Just because it's the only flash game that has ever evoked this much emotion in me.

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anyone complaining about the sluggish nature of the gameplay is simply lazy.

No need to be insulting. For me, trying to use the arrows and the touchpad simultaneously is like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time. This seems to be a feature of the genre, so that may mean that the genre isn't just for me -- I wouldn't even be commenting if you hadn't spurred me.

I do wonder why it's necessary to make us hold the mouse button (perhaps this becomes apparent later). Also, the self-adjusting nature of grinding doesn't work as well when your upgrades depend on killing enemies that have more hitpoints than you and the mouse aiming system makes at hard to aim and dodge at once.

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Well that last sentence sounded much whinier than it should've. What I mean is this: When I'm beating level 3 with 6 bits, I realize that I'm not going to be able to buy most of the upgrades without a lot of attempts where I focus on killing the enemies and hope I don't die because I've taken my attention from the arrow keys. As I've said, the genre may just not be for me (but not because I'm lazy!)

I'm always interested in Eli's stories, so I guess I'll look for a walkthrough.

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Am I the only person who experiences crippling bugs with games sponsored by this site? I have used two different computers and experienced the same problem (the directional button movements stick) on several games including this one. This issue effectively make the games unplayable and should lead people to rate them lower, or at least address the problem. Alas.

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Anonymous August 10, 2010 3:38 AM

I noticed the second time playing this.(I thought I might not play again, on account of it being so sad.) That The ESC is also short for Escape...make you think, huh.

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What kind of person designs a final level so ridiculously irritating that you are pretty much forced to give yourself a heart attack because to come that far and quit is even more rage-inducing?

Seriously. It comes from a random edge of the screen, moves pseudo-randomly, fires MORE bursts as it gets smaller and therefore harder to hit, and you even SEE the damned thing reassemble itself when you die.

Change this game so that the projectiles can be destroyed and it will make worlds of difference. (WITHOUT reducing significantly the skill required.) As it is, though, if I get killed one more time just before destroying the last shard, I swear I'm going to hurl my computer through a wall.

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My keys keep sticking. I was using the arrows but my "ship" drifts up to the top of the screen and will then only move left/right.

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The Absolutely Omniscient thing, whatever it's called.

All of the sudden...everything makes sense.

You find yourself in a room.

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For those having issues with keys sticking:
Double tap the direction that's stuck. It should unstick. I agree the problem should be resolved, but you can literally self-solve within half a second.

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Ninjat_126 March 1, 2011 9:47 AM

Not going to spoil, but this game was horribly sad. It just slides down the depressing scale, but you can't stop because you need to see it through to the end. You can't just leave, it would be worse then just ending the game.

Excellent voice work BTW. Sapphire, have an internet.

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This is getting so frustrating I'm soon going to resort to reading the spoilers to see how the ending was.

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Wait, in what level does the

ABOMI from You Find Yourself In A Room take over EXADI? Cause I played that one first, and man, was that an evil computer.

I loved EXADI already, although I haven't played the whole game yet.

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Did anyone else get a little shiver when they heard Al's voice from you find yourself in a room? I played that one first and...my god....i loved this one but that other computer is so scarring that when I realized that it was him....i seriously had a little start. Especially when he goes, "You find yourself in a room."

Shudders.....

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I made the horrible, horrible mistake of not buying the multiplier and magnetism upgrades until really late into the game xD And since I have bad aim too, I was making like 500 bits per level. Oh well, I still enjoyed it!

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