The Vampire Survivors formula is extremely versatile—enough to even be adapted into a third-person cooperative shooter.
Atomic Picnic is a co-op shooter where you survive time-based waves against large quantities of enemies, showing that the Vampire Survivors-likes can come in all shapes and sizes.
The game has a really fun and colorful art style, with the mechanically-augmented characters especially reminding me of Hi-Fi Rush‘s character designs.
The demo only gives us one character to play around with, who can use his dash to escape enemies or grapple to gain some altitude. These skills have a cooldown that can be lowered with power-ups and permanent upgrades.
In this demo, we also have access to four weapons: the assault rifle, shotgun, grenade launcher, and sniper rifle, and they all work as you would expect. Coordinating with other players to each use a specific weapon is probably fun, but co-op in this demo has a slight issue.
Each match can host four players at the same time, but the demo has no matchmaking, meaning that unless you have three people readily available to play with, you are stuck playing solo.
That wouldn’t be an issue if Atomic Picnic was balanced towards solo play, but it really isn’t. Enemies ramp up in health very quickly, and dispatching of bosses alone is a herculean task.
Playing solo becomes nearly impossible after the 10 minute mark, when three bosses show up at once and instantly annihilate the player by slowing them down with a gravity field.
The game has some meta progression in the form of mementos, which increase stats such as damage, health, movement speed, and fire rate. Unlocking these is a bit slow, so if you want to get strong, you’ll have to grind.
The mementos are bought with a yellow crystal currency, which is obtained in very small quantities by breaking clusters found during matches. The game doesn’t give you a lot of time to breathe, so you have a very limited amount of time between rounds to go and collect these crystals.
It really isn’t viable to play the game without mementos, but you are almost forced to. Each memento has five upgrade tiers, but it takes so long to grind for the crystals that I was only able to upgrade a few of them once, which barely made a difference.
Atomic Picnic doesn’t have that many augments to unlock during matches, meaning that you can see almost all of them in roughly 10 minutes. They are all pretty straightforward, and none of them have any crazy mechanics that change your gameplay drastically.
Most of them don’t even trigger super often, so it never feels like it would in Vampire Survivors where you are constantly ramping up in power. In Atomic Picnic, you just feel weak throughout the entire thing.
Enemy attacks are also difficult to see and can come from all around you with no visual indication of where that enemy even is, so it’s very common for a bunch of explosive crystals to land at your feet without you knowing where they came from.
Enemies hit like trucks, and healing is a very infrequent thing, meaning that you have to make the most of your evasive skills.
There is some enemy variety in Atomic Picnic, but none of their designs are particularly good; most of them are just small robots without any interesting features.
The developers did say that the bosses are at least going to be changed in the future, since at the moment they are just regular enemies scaled up, so that’s something to look forward to.
Overall, Atomic Picnic looks great but is extremely rough to play. The developers have said that this is a super early demo, but I don’t think that this was the best foot forward, as the game is still bare bones.
Making the game completely unbalanced in solo play without including matchmaking is a particularly baffling decision, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me.
This may be an interesting title in the future, especially if matchmaking actually gets added, but for now there isn’t much to look at.
Atomic Picnic is set to release soon on Microsoft Windows (through Steam).