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Have you ever found that game genre that you have played multiple times, but don’t really know why you play it as much as you do? You know which ones are good, and which ones are lackluster. You start to see why these games in that genre work and not work. For me, that is the roguelike genre. I don’t know why I keep wanting to play these games, when I know they will do certain aspects wrong and make it a chore to play. However, I usually find a lot of games in this genre that have fun gameplay, and find ways to counter-balance the brutal difficulty. So, where does Loot Rascals fall into this sea of roguelikes? It’s developed by the team at Shallow Ponds, which was founded by one of the creators that made Hohokum. It got a lot of attention for its take on the genre and its quirky art style. So, how does it hold up? Let’s find out.
In Loot Rascals’ very basic plot, you are this space guy (or girl if you choose to be a female space person) who is on their way to a vacation spot when they suddenly crash land on a planet. You then find out from your quirky robotic AI that a special contraption has been stolen from a super creepy individual that lives under the planet. You must go through five large levels to obtain it back, and beat the game. There is honestly not a whole lot of lore or story to really be worth mentioning or criticizing. I mean, you get a basic set-up and that’s it.
The gameplay is an isometric-tile-based-roguelike-action-focused RPG. You will traverse around levels, finding cards to equip to yourself and baddies to fight. The cards are your armor and weapons. You have a set number of cards that you can equip to yourself to raise your attack and defense. You also have a set amount of inventory space that can either be upgraded, or if you find useless cards from slain enemies, you can turn them into coins that can be used to heal yourself. You can find special upgrades to give yourself special abilities, like self-healing, fire attacks, and ice attacks, to name a few. Each time you take a step, part of a day or night sequence goes by, and depending on what time of day, the enemies will either attack you first, or you will attack first. Another element to be on the lookout for are special cards that are dropped from other players. If you choose to return them to the player, an AI-controlled version of the player, whose card you returned, will help fight with you for a period of time. If you keep the card, the AI-controlled version of the other player will hunt you down. If you die, you start all the way back at the beginning of the first level. There might be five levels, but they are big, and the game will be super-punishing. Outside of the cards, you can complete side-quests to gain upgrades, like more card slots or an entire map of the level you are on. The game might not be long, but due to the roguelike elements, you might have a good run or a bad run.
The game’s art style is fantastic. It has a very retro sci-fi cartoon vibes, and it fits the quirky weird 50/70s sci-fi world of the game. The soundtrack isn’t really much, but it’s also silly sci-fi, with a small creepy melody for the lead villain. The humor and writing is very British, but it’s not like it’s too dry, as it can be in a lot of British comedies I see. It’s very much as if Aardman wrote the script. The game also ran smoothly, and the character designs are weird and very memorable. I mean, how more memorable can you be, when you have a two-headed horse where one head is an actual horse and the other is a seahorse? You can tell a lot of effort was put into making this game’s visual presentation perfect.
Sadly, graphics will only get you so far. The biggest issue this game has, and I do hope they are working on it, is the fact that the difficulty is way too punishing. Yeah, it’s a roguelike, and I should expect it to be a challenge, but I’m getting sick and tired of starting back at square one, and having to use a stupid seed-like thing to go through my next route with the same levels. Why can’t I get an upgrade system, or something to make it feel like I can make progress in the game? The constant difficult runs that I went through while playing this game really made me not want to play it again. I’m not against challenge, but I am an individual that wants to have a fair challenge, and I couldn’t get that while playing this game. If the story was more interesting, I would push through it, but it isn’t. It’s very basic, and there isn’t a whole lot of meat to it. I want to feel like I can get something back for dying every single time. Why not make each of the five levels have two parts to them? Each time I beat the part, I get to keep some cards permanently, or maybe when I die, I don’t have to start back at the very beginning again? I also don’t like feeling rushed, when the timer keeps going down each time I move. If you take too long to beat a level, you will get visited by super-strong enemies. In many of my runs, I couldn’t find health upgrades, and I encountered a couple of enemies that could one-shot me, and I had no way of preventing that. I get why they made healing yourself fully with the coins expensive as time goes by, but it just adds to the game’s incredibly crushing difficulty. The game is fast, and I respect that they drop you right back into the action after you die, but still.
I did enjoy my time with Loot Rascals. However, its high level of difficulty is really off-putting to this rather charming game. It’s definitely one of the better roguelikes, but it falls into the same traps as most of them do, with not giving players enough back to deal with the harsh difficulty. It’s $15 on PlayStation 4 and PC, but I would wait for a sale. It’s a good game, and a very polished one at that, but if you are put off by constant difficulty spikes that will make your runs through the levels different each time, and feel not rewarding enough, you will hate this game. Still, I had a fun, quirky time and if you do like roguelikes, then Loot Rascals is the charming little rascal to check out.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.