Guns of Icarus
Good co-op game-play is relatively difficult to come across.
Even today, when you can't click one link on the Steam store page without running into a co-op game, it's surprisingly difficult to find a co-op based game that blends both action and strategy perfectly for a fast-paced, challenging experience.
Guns of Icarus accomplishes both of these things.
Guns of Icarus focus's around the cargo airship called the Icarus, flying the skies of a Steam-punk based future while repelling pirates attempting to shoot it down. Game-play is focused around two main areas: manning the guns mounted around the outside of the Icarus to shoot down the massive numbers of pirates who show up throughout each round, or repairing the different critical parts of the Icarus to prevent it from going down.
While most co-op games focus on one part of the game-play and neglect the other, not taking care of either the Icarus OR the pirates will quickly end your cargo run. After the first few levels, the Icarus takes damage at an alarming rate, and being brought down is not the only thing that can happen if you ignore the damages.
Damage is broken up into 5 categories, each indicated by a small dial at the bottom right corner of the screen: The rigging, the zeppelin, the cargo bay, and the two engines located on either side of the ship. If the rigging or zeppelin are excessively damaged, the ship will automatically go down. If the cargo bay is damaged, you start losing the cargo that you're carrying, leaving you with less of a score (or money in single-player); and having either of the engines damaged will greatly increase the distance that is counted down to the end of the flight. Despite the fact that the Icarus is very small, keeping all of the individual pieces in working order is a challenge all by itself.
The only way to help keep the damage down is to take down the various pirate air-craft that show up during the flight. To do this, the player must take control of one of the six mounted guns located around the ship. In single-player, as the player earns money after each round, they can opt to purchase and sell the different weapons available for the ship. Each of the guns present many different strategies, and each one is balanced to a tee.
For instance, the chain-gun, while quick and accurate, does little damage. The cannons are slow but powerful, the rocket launchers are ridiculously powerful but load quite slowly and have a limited number of rockets; and the tesla cannons can take down a large enemy air-craft, though they load at the speed of runny cheese and run out in the blink of an eye.
While it is possible to make it through the single-player campaign by yourself, the true challenge lies in the multi-player. While the player doesn't have to worry about purchasing better guns (which is done automatically), the difficulty rises staggeringly with each level the players progress, ultimately leading up to a 20 minute (real-time) flight with enemies constantly coming from every direction. With a 4 player cap, the challenge never disappears, and Guns of Icarus remains gripping no matter how it's being played.
Guns of Icarus, while seemingly a simple indie game on the surface, turns out to be one heck of a challenging title. With every aspect of game-play kept closely and cleanly tied to the other, nothing feels tacked on, and the overall experience is a delight.
The only detractor for this title is the fact that, as far as the online community is concerned, it's a dead game. Finding players is nigh impossible. If you want to play, you may need to get a few friends together to do so.
Otherwise, Highly Recommended.