GAME REVIEW | Loot Rascals
Difficulty is often the benchmark that is hardest to nail for any roguelike game. You want it to be difficult enough that you won't just coast through it on the first go, but not so hard that it feels like you're banging against a brick wall. Nailing this balance like a pro, and looking great while doing it, Loot Rascals is a fantastic new roguelike from the minds of the folks over at Hollow Ponds.
Featuring a fairly simple premise, the game drops you onto an alien planet and tasks you with staying alive and hopefully escaping. To do this, you simply need to make it through each of the different areas, killing bad aliens along the way. As you defeat the baddies, some will drop loot cards that up your attack or defense stats. Constantly changing and shifting your loot as you go, the game is about keeping those numbers as high as possible so when you inevitably bump into something strong, you won't get instantly flattened.
Similar to most of the better roguelike games out there, Loot Rascals is utterly unforgiving. If you just start traipsing out into the level without a care, you're much more likely to suddenly get smacked down and suffer an early death. Luckily, another thing this game does right, you can almost instantly get back into the action. The time from death to restart is mere seconds, which makes it easy to just have one more go at it, before you look at the clock and it's suddenly 3am.
Fair warning, you're going to have to do a little bit of math when playing Loot Rascals. I know, but if you hear me out, then you'll know it's going to be okay. The combat system is pretty basic and usually just comes down to knowing you have high numbers. If you want to be really sure however, it doesn't hurt to do a little mental math going into each encounter. I won't go into the specifics here, the game explains it pretty well, suffice to say that if you are good at basic mental math, you may have a leg up in this game.
The strategy element of this game seems pretty simple on the surface, but if you look at all the systems in place, it gets complex pretty quickly. The game has you freely walking along a grid, with a turn-based system ticking down each time you move onto a new space. One of the biggest factors here is the day and night cycle the game uses. All enemies are vulnerable during either the day or night, clearly indicated on screen, and moving in for a fight during the right time is essential. If that weren't enough to consider, several enemies has special abilities, ranging from hitting you from far away to changing the time of day when you get close. You also need to make sure you keep it quick, because if you take too many turns, powerful enemies will start spawning en masse.
Online interaction is always tricky to deal with in a roguelike game, but Loot Rascals deals with it in a pretty interesting way. When you die, the alien that kills you nabs one of your pieces of loot. The enemy then gets named and sent to another player's game. If they defeat this monster, your loot drops off of them and they are left with a choice: return it or keep it for themselves. If you return it, a hologram of the other player may join you later during that run to help out, but if you keep it, you may also get attacked instead. I usually like to return the loot, but sometimes it's just too tempting to pass up.
The look of Loot Rascals is practically like you're playing a cartoon on something like Adult Swim. The art is bright and colorful with a style that both makes me smile and freaks me out a little all at the same time. It captures the tone of the game perfectly makes an already fun game easy on the eyes at the same time.
- Well-tuned difficulty that keeps you coming back
- Deep strategic elements that are fun to learn and tough to master
- Gorgeous art makes it feel like you're playing a cartoon
- Fast load times put you right back into your next play-through
- Early game can be tough while you're figuring things out
- Could use a slightly more in-depth tutorial
- Screen adjust option missing on PS4 version
When looking back at most of the roguelike games I've fallen pretty deep into, like Spelunky or Binding of Isaac, it's easy to see that Loot Rascals spent some time thinking about what makes the genre fun. Tuning the difficulty and strategic elements to make it a fun and satisfying experience, Hollow Ponds has hit the nail on the head with this one. The card-based stat building might not be for everyone, but if you have liked roguelike games in the past, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Promotional consideration provided by Lena LeRay of Stride PR.