Broforce ded­i­cates a key to making your char­ac­ter flex, which ini­tially seems to tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about this side-scrolling run’n’gun homage to high-gore ’80s ac­tion flicks. Yes, it’s a game that’s all about recre­at­ing the mas­sacre scene from Hot Shots! Part Deux, go­ing so far as to in­clude its own end-of-level body­count tally. But be­neath its oiled bi­ceps and ’roided-up barks, this gun show is far smarter than the av­er­age retro-styled shooter.

Rather than blast in all di­rec­tions, Broforce only al­lows you to fire straight ahead, but ev­ery­thing in its lev­els can be de­stroyed. Need to take out a bipedal tank that’s im­per­vi­ous to bul­lets? Carve the earth out from un­derneath it, send­ing it plum­met­ing to its doom. Want to stop re­in­force­ments com­ing over that bridge? Knock it out. Heck, you don’t even need to fol­low set paths, but can use your gun and wall-hang­ing abil­ity to tun­nel to the exit flag. You may want to re­con­sider spelunk­ing into ran­dom caves when the Aliens show up, how­ever.

Well, they’re not ex­actly Aliens – just as In­di­ana Brones is not of­fi­cially a char­ac­ter played by Har­ri­son Ford, and Broniver­sal Sol­dier isn’t an al­ter ego of JeanClaude Van Damme. Ex­cept they are, and they’re near per­fect. Each of Broforce’s colos­sal cast is a triple- dis­tilled, hy­per­g­onadal version of their sil­ver-screen selves. Dou­ble Bro Seven wields his Walther PPK, and tap­ping into his four-part spe­cial bar can bring out a raft of Q Branch giz­mos, though he be­gins by quaffing a mar­tini. The Bromi­na­tor wields a mini­gun, and turns into an in­vul­ner­a­ble metal skele­ton when con­sum­ing his sin­gle spe­cial charge. Not all bros are equal, how­ever, and you get a ran­dom one each spawn, so you can be left try­ing to take down a fly­ing boss with just Blade’s blade.

There are other po­ten­tial frus­tra­tions too. Played alone, this can be a tough game: a sin­gle bul­let will end you, and only by res­cu­ing caged hostages will you gain more than your start­ing life. But th­ese volatile lev­els are so des­per­ate to go bang as to be un­man­age­able with more than one co-op part­ner, de­spite tech­ni­cally pro­hibit­ing friendly fire. All it takes is for an er­rant bul­let to clip a red bar­rel or over­head stone to send a team­mate to the next life, as­sum­ing they have one.

Still, Broforce wants to be rock hard, and would prob­a­bly call you a wuss and give you a wedgie for be­ing both­ered by a lit­tle thing like re­peated deaths. It gets away with that be­cause of its sheer cheer­ful au­dac­ity and be­cause it lets you jack straight into the hal­cyon days of two-swears-a-minute gun-porn cin­ema. So, yes, it’s hopped up on steroids and testos­terone, but Free Lives knows the score, and de­liv­ers one of the smartest dumb games since Su­per Time Force.

Ba­sic Aliens aren’t too tough, but acid-based vari­ants will nib­ble away the level and your lives if left unchecked. You may think th­ese are hellish tests of skill, but later you’ll visit Hades and re­alise they’re noth­ing of the sort

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