Total Games Played
Played in 2024
Recently Played See More
Recently Reviewed See More
The premise is relatively simple, a cargo ship crashes on a planet and you have to collect the futuristic supplies to help you escape while fighting the local flora and fauna. There's massive variety of items and difficulty constantly creeps up through each playthrough spawning more powerful enemies. You start with one survivor who has a tight long-range skill set and must begin unlocking new items, heroes, and secrets from there.
Risk of Rain's adoption of a side-scrolling action game was unique for the time, especially as a sci-fi roguelite, with it's unique pixelated art style, ethereal soundtrack, and truly alien environments giving it a style and aesthetic that truly stood out. The simple 4-skill design for each character is fine tuned and as satisfying as they are different, embodying a wide variety of unique play styles that is refreshing to see when most procedural games rely on the numbers to set the differences.
That said RoR is truly at its hardest when you first turn the game on. The initial difficulty is very slow paced, the starting character's skill set very simple to learn but hard to master, and of course you have only the starting items. It's only once you've died 20-30 times that you're in a position to start getting unlocks and that's a long time to go without encouragement, getting to grips with the repetitive early gameplay. Most people will dip out before things get interesting, but if you stick with it the unlocked items and characters are the core of this game's variety.
Between the secret items littered throughout the variety of stages, the massive roster of foes to face, the modifiers for enemies you can encounter, the huge variety of items to unlock, the large roster of playable characters, and each level having randomised layouts there is a lot of quality game design to experience here - unfortunately that does mean getting over that starting hump which is admittedly a tall order. It's a polarising title and while I loved every moment of this mechanically tight and challenging 2D platformer, your mileage may vary.
What begins as a simple premise quickly spirals into a dizzying example of over-delivering in the best way possible. From the huge number of varied and interesting power ups, levels, game modes, characters, modifiers, and secrets to all the additional content beyond even that. While it takes a little while to get started it isn't long before the game snowballs into a constant delivery of unlocks that encourages you to stick with the simple and fun game loop.
Generosity is the core design feature here and its a mentality I try to inject into my own work. In an age where the games industry is defined by how little it can give you for the maximum price, VS stands in absolute opposition by taking the antithetical approach. For such a small price, using the simplest of game mechanics it asks how much can it give you, and it's not merely offering cosmetics and reskins. From unlocking new power ups, to unlocking combination power ups, to new maps and characters, to game modes, modifiers, to secrets hidden within all those new unlocks to secrets hidden within those it is a game that relentlessly rewards you for investing your time in it.
VS may be lacking in almost every department that the big budget AAA giants lavishly spend millions on but it makes up for all of that and more with the one thing they wish they can't figure out - a simple fun game loop amplified by every other system in the game. It may sound corny and pretentious, but this game is emblematic of the spirit of gaming. It is a shining example of the indie scene, of what small time devs can accomplish, and proof that when you take the heartless, calculated, cowardly industry out of the equation you get fun, inventive gameplay that has a global impact and keeps on giving.
It's difficult to really talk about the game without spoiling it as it goes out of its way to be secretive about its mechanics and premise. It takes the stance that difficulty is synonymous with just not telling you how anything works so the design comes off as being more arbitrary than punishing. There is a lot more depth to the game but all hidden behind vast quantities of tedious puzzle grind so I hope you enjoy that core game loop.
Under the veneer of mystery is a reasonable and challenging sokoban-style puzzler. You can remove and place blocks but only from/to a space directly in front of you. The rigid movement makes facing the right way a challenge of navigating the tight spaces and doing things in the right order. This is complicated by gaps, blocks with different mechanics, obstacles, and enemies that wander the stage. Despite being mechanically sterile the puzzles are serviceable but repetitive and lack a 'fun' element preventing me from really engaging with the game beyond the surface level.
The other half of the game involves its setting and story which are drip fed throughout. While I'll avoid getting into details, both the story and main character feel uninspired at first glance. While I understand the game ends up going into a lot of depth I just wasn't hooked by the story breadcrumbs or the core game loop so I had no motivation to even finish the first playthrough.
Whether this game captures the nuances it's trying to emulate will come down to player preference. I was taken in by the trailer but I felt like it's attempts to be dark and mysterious just feel obvious and predictable. The hints at larger layers of puzzle and the mechanics you'll obviously need to get there struck me as tedious and boring - spoiling the game for myself revealed this hunch to be completely right. If you aren't hooked by the core loop and story in the first few hours, the next 40 aren't worth the effort.