Written by Daikon

2023年 11月 08日 Title art of HAZAMA_QUEEN

CW: This game and article contains graphic depictions of cartoon gore and death.

There are times in life when we just want to laugh and enjoy the pleasure of simply being entertained. You can let go and watch popcorn flicks, read superhero comics while eating pizza, or stay up late watching dramas on TV. But when it comes to games, you can indulge in even wilder, even dangerous expressions of creativity, and let your feelings run rampant. In that vein, I would like to recommend a game I recently fell in love with: HAZAMA_QUEEN by Bhaskara.

HAZAMA_QUEEN screenshot of a humanoid pink rabbit wearing sunglasses and holding a gun. Camera is in first-person and player character is holding a pink blade on the left, and on the right side of the screen is a blond pig-tailed girl with hearts coming out of her head.

Gunning down gangster rabbits, engorged teddy bears, and all kinds of other bizarre creatures in Hell.

HAZAMA_QUEEN is a fast-paced FPS that eschews more modern ideas like cover systems and picking off enemies slowly and carefully. Instead, it is part of the affectionately-named boomer shooter genre, so named for its obvious love of older games like DOOM and Quake. HAZAMA_QUEEN, like its forebearers, has you reflexively run-and-gun your way through maps without needing to stop and plot your way through. It's a frantic and high-speed game that rewards quick reflexes as you sprint towards the exit.

The story follows Mary the Skewered, a jirai kei (a sort of dark goth fashion style) girl who fights using the power of darkness and affliction, or as the game calls it, YAMI. In order to save the world, she storms through the depths of Hell and defeats waves of enemies to replenish her YAMI powers. Your YAMI meter acts as your life force and also a constantly ticking timer, and should it ever run out, it's game over.

HAZAMA_QUEEN screenshot of player shooting a grotesque teddy bear monster.

If you take too much damage or go too long without killing an enemy, your YAMI meter (the circle overlaid on the screen) will run out, and that's game over!

When you first start playing, you'll notice that the world and enemies are drawn with flat pixel art within a 3D environment, and that everything is both very cute and very grotesque. The screen layout has what looks like a blond VTuber in the bottom-right, as if you're watching yourself as a streamer speedrunning through the game. This layout lets you have your cake and eat it too by having you play an FPS while still enjoying the expressions and characterization of your main character. Mary talks a lot during play, and I found her lines to be very charming and fun. Seeing her reactions is a big reason why I'm hooked on this game.

I tend to get motion sickness quite easily when playing games in the first-person view, but I didn't have any problems when playing HAZAMA_QUEEN. I wonder if this is due to the tight maps that make it impossible to get lost, so I could focus on continuing to move forward without needing to look around or behind me. The narrow pathing sometimes leads to dense clusters of enemies, which helped to both draw me forward and keep me on my toes. Since killing enemies is necessary to top up my YAMI meter, I would naturally be drawn towards the next group of enemies and eventually the goal.

Black screen with three weapon and upgrade icons. The cursor, shaped like a demon's claws, are hovering over one icon, and at the bottom of the screen is text explaining what the upgrades do and what your current loadout looks like.

Between levels, you can choose from three random upgrades or weapons from God(?)

The levels are procedurally-generated and the game is roguelite in structure. Each time you clear a stage, you have a choice between three random upgrades or weapons. There are a few that you should definitely try out at least once, like the Circle Crasher's Head with its powerful spread shot. (A "circle crasher" in Japanese slang is someone who joins a college club or organization and then breaks apart everyone's relationships, leading to the destruction of the club.) There is no better weapon that demonstrates the sheer YAMI of this game.

Player character holding up a grotesque shrunken head with long black hair. Purple flames are rising up from its eyes and mouth. In the bottom right corner is another angle of the player looking at the head in shock.

There are lots of great and creepy weapons to choose from, like the powerful Circle Crasher’s head.

HAZAMA_QUEEN is designed to be cleared quickly, but due to its procgen nature, there are still benefits of playing through it multiple times. You can seek out all of the different weapons or try to beat your best time. If you are playing multiple heavy games, doing a run of HAZAMA_QUEEN can be a quick and fun break between sessions. I found myself replaying this again and again and having a blast each time.

A large one-eyed blue pig enemy filling up the screen in HAZAMA_QUEEN

Don't stop, just keep attacking and sprint towards the end of the level!

Your mileage may vary here, but I think that even people who tend to get motion sickness with FPS games can enjoy HAZAMA_QUEEN. It's also a good entry to understanding the appeal of fast-paced indie boomer shooters. Mary the Skewered and her twisted sense of fashion will give you a glimpse of the darker side of Japanese pop culture. The entire game may feel a little grotesque, but even so, it's a game packed full of charm.

HAZAMA_QUEEN is available for purchase on Steam with a demo on itch. Follow developer Bhaskara on Twitter @Cynoroid and find more of their work on their homepage. And you can watch us play HAZAMA_QUEEN on stream!