The Ancient Art of Staying Alive Review

Screenshot of the main game screen for The Ancient Art of Staying Alive
This is generally how every level starts: you are the blue character in the middle, surrounded by many red pursuers

Quick Info
Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
Developer: Dave Seaman
Publisher: Team Disaster
Release Date: 19 Jan 2022
Time played: 1 hour


Dave Seaman, developer of games such as Captain Diasaster in Death Has a Million Stomping Boots and The Rat Pack, has once again generously given me a review key for one of his games. So thanks again, Dave! This game made its way to the Steam Store only a couple of months ago and seems to be yet another AGS game that isn't your typical AGS game (i.e. a point 'n' click adventure). It was nominated for a couple of AGS Awards in 2020: "Best Non-Adventure Game created with AGS" and "Best Programming".

The game is apparently based on a very old game called Daleks which is in turn a variant of a 1970s game called Chase. There are many variants and ports of this game that exist but the basic concept of the game is you have to escape a mob of enemies that are chasing you but the only way to eliminate your pursuers is to move in such a way that causes them to collide into each other or obstacles on the level.

The Ancient Art of Staying Alive is a modern interpretation of this piece of computer gaming history, but does the gameplay from over 40 years ago still hold up today?

Screenshot of main menu from The Ancient Art of Staying Alive
This is the busy and loud main menu screen you'll encounter when you boot up the game

For the retro arcade enthusiasts

As you enter the game you'll be treated to the sound of PC bleeps and a robotic voice that sounds like Creative Labs's Dr. Sbaitso before coming across a busy, bright and colourful main menu screen with WordArt style images and animated sprites. For some, this gaudy screen will be an affront to the senses, but to others, it could be somewhat nostalgic, reminiscent of indie games of the 80s and 90s. The main menu gives an overview of the controls which is good and most of the options are self-explanatory although I would've liked to know from the start what the difference between playing Individual levels and Challenge Mode was. I'm also not sure why the music is disabled by default since I love playing with it on, but I guess it's for the same reason people might find the main menu screen gaudy or nostalgic: it's probably a reprieve for those that aren't into retro chiptune style background music.

When playing the game, running circles around the horde of enemies seems to be an effective tactic in causing them to collide with each other, like a dog herding sheep. You have to be wary of not getting too close though as if they touch you, it's game over. This definitely becomes a significant risk on harder difficulty levels when there are more enemies around and you'll probably have to take advantage of two abilities available to you: Teleport which, as its name implies, teleports you out of harm's way (well, usually) and Bomb which wipes out enemies within a certain area around your character.

By default, the game plays in real-time mode but there is a turn-based mode available if you prefer to have more time deciding your moves. From what I've read about Chase's history, this is probably a closer experience to what the original game was like but I can't say I'm a fan. For impatient n00bs like me, it just prolongs the inevitable if you happen to be having a particularly poor run: it only further emphasises how bad I am with the game and I'd much rather finish the round as soon as possible so I can return to give it another go instead.

Screenshot of boss level in The Ancient Art of Staying Alive
This is an example of a boss level where you have to avoid being stomped on by this giant red enemy

Steam integration FTW

Like many retro arcade games of the 70s and 80s, these games would probably not be much fun if it weren't for the addition of a high score system. Thankfully, The Ancient Art of Staying Alive has this and not only that but the game is integrated with Steam Leaderboards. This definitely encourages you to replay the game as you try to not only beat your own personal best but the high scores of friends and Steam players in general. The game also has 21 Steam Achievements you can work towards which also increases the game's replay value.


For the fans of retro arcade games from the 70s and 80s like Chase or Daleks, The Ancient Art of Staying Alive is a modern take on it that is worth a look. The addition of Steam Leaderboards and Achievements definitely encourages replay which makes it pretty decent value for money (only $3 AUD at the time of this review and even cheaper when on sale).

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