Terror of Hemasaurus is a sidescrolling arcade beat ‘em up from Loren Lemcke and publisher Digerati that takes clear inspiration from the Rampage series. As an adorable yet massive kaiju, you’ll wreak havoc on a number of locales, with the goal of teaching humanity to take the climate crisis seriously.
In the same way Godzilla is a fanciful allegory for the dangers of nuclear warfare, the Hemasaurus is released from a glacier thawed by climate change and trained by an extremist cult to punish humans with wanton violence and destruction for their apathy. The story attempts to poke fun at the subject matter by using “exaggerated” characters like a scummy billionaire or cocky news anchors to flatly point out hypocritical behaviors and twisted values that can be attributed to real people. But despite my agreeing with many points being made, the game’s dark humor and nihilistic character rants would often feel at odds with its own messaging, an issue I feel is exemplified by its gameplay.
Each level drops you into a city and tasks you with either destroying a certain percentage of it or killing hundreds of its civilians. The Hemasaurus can punch buildings, jump and scale their sides, and butt-stomp for a satisfying explosion from great heights. Civilians can be kicked, picked up and thrown, or eaten for health. All of the carnage you inflict will charge an ultimate ability, unleashing a devastating roar that damages and pushes everything around you.
Combining your kit strategically and making use of your surroundings allows for some fun combos that can level the physics-based 2D structures in an instant. Throwing people into helicopters to force a crash and kicking cars clear through buildings are gratifying interactions. Even with gradually increasing resistance in the form of armored vehicles, tanks, and gunships, the loop does begin to grow stale, especially as the increased damage you take necessitates you stop to eat several dozen civilians at a regular clip.
While the gameplay seems like it’s meant to be over the top and comical, the framing provided by the cynical narrative kind of made me feel guilty about it. I opted not to try the co-op with my young son because of the harsh language and multiple disturbing plot points, like a child asking you to eat him because you’ve already killed the rest of his family. Over the course of the story’s four-hour runtime, I never got the sense of what tone the game was actually aiming for, but there are three additional monsters for local co-op and an endless mode that serves up stages to go to town on without any of the narrative to dissect.
When you’re in the thick of destruction, the game makes full use of impressive particle effects, dynamic lighting, and an excellent soundscape. The catchy chiptune soundtrack also does a great job of providing an appropriately epic yet bleak feeling.
Terror of Hemasaurus adds a couple new tricks to an old arcade dog’s classic formula but can’t escape how quickly the novelty of a city beat ‘em up wears off. What will stay with you much longer is the strangely haunting story that all but yells in your face that humanity is fucked and hopeless. Perhaps that’s the intended takeaway, but whether intentional or not, it sucks a lot of the fun out of the experience. The game is out now for $12.99 on PC and launches in early December on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Terror of Hemasaurus.