Impressions from PAX South
[Everyone welcome Seymour Duncan into the fold, who is doing a little work for us at PAX South.]
Loot Rascals was a tough PAX South booth to find. Slotted back near the tabletop games, I figured I was venturing a tad too far away from the action during my search. Eventually, though, I was relieved and, upon arriving, was quickly met by one of the developers.
Clearly enthusiastic about his game, he gave me a short rundown of the gist of things, sat me down, then ushered me into the far out (in space), wacky world of Loot Rascals.
I can guarantee you that there will be at least some loot — or at least, plenty of rascals. Whilst the gameplay is what will keep most players coming back, everything that wrapped around said gameplay was staggering and always demanded attention. Never was there a moment I wasn’t smiling either outside or in at the characters and scenery, bursting at the seams with personality and flare.
The presentation of Loot Rascals is thanks to more than just one dedicated artist, but a particular individual, David Ferguson, was eventually brought up in conversation. Known otherwise by his moniker “Swatpaz”, he has been animating (and voicing) some thoroughly hilarious projects on YouTube for some time and even guest-animated an episode of Adventure Time (S6 E37; “Water Park Prank”). These days, he is part game developer with titles like Frobisher Says and Super Exploding Zoo already under his belt.
Those who played the PlayStation “Legacy Baby” Vita’s Frobisher Says will immediately notice similarities in style and humor. Despite, a more distinctive (appropriate?) comparison would be to some choice 60’s/70’s/80’s sci-fi relics. Star Wars, Johnny Quest, He-Man, ye olden Transformers, The Jetsons, you get the idea. No coincidence either! The team at Hollow Ponds had a huge backdrop of images to pull ideas from at their offices, featuring the aforementioned franchises. After taking some of the sillier aspects of this era of otherworldly ventures and dialing them up a few notches, shenanigans then ensued and Loot Rascals was born.
Enemies have cutesy-quirky naming conventions, there are bundles of crows that squawk wildly as they detonate like bombs, there is a ginormous endgame boss that is only barely vaginal-shaped, Loot Rascals has it all. Yet, it feels strangely cohesive. A world so ludicrous, you sort of have no choice but to accept it. Forgive me, though it took a few moments to comprehend there was also something to actually play.
Accompanying the quality assault on your eyes and ears, your time spent moseying about Loot Rascals is leveraged by a nifty twist on the modern “roguelike” formula. Trudging along hexagonal tiles making up landscapes where enemies only move when you do, you must simply make it through a stage until you find a teleporter that takes your budding space explorer to the next. However, you’d be wise in buffing yourself up beforehand. That goal is achieved through, of all things, card collecting!
These cards play into practically everything. Even disposing of useless cards will grant you tokens, which you then spend on activating abilities. Naturally, you also rely on cards for attack, defense, and so on. This being a game that loves to dabble a little pizzazz wherever possible, your most basic cards exude virtuous charm or general weirdness (I think I was using jelly beans as an attack buff at one point). Turning a card deck into not a vague sum of their parts, but what literally amounts to your single character gives progression the sort of sensation you get when building a LEGO set.
The process felt playful, while still tactical — defeat enemies, find loot ‘staches, then build up your deck and hope for the best. The general idea might be as meager as “destroy things and get to the end”, but don’t let that deceive you. As I’ve alluded to, my experience with a second stage was a fair, straight kick to the knickers. Creative positioning is paramount, as well as optimizing your loadout/inventory. Hollow Ponds is expecting players to take a solid while to reach the end and there are promises of the replay value that’s to be expected of roguelikes.
Every command, every movement, every happening in Loot Rascals feels incredibly smooth. Top quality animations blend super well with the game’s modest levels of audio feedback, right down to your inventory management. It was easy enough to pick up, understand, and get in the groove of within a wide open hall of deafening distractions, but I still got my ass handed to me the second I figured I could take on anything. Basically, Loot Rascals is about as satisfying a fusion of casual and hardcore as you can get. Nevermind the sprightly, odd visuals and sense of humor that tickled me so pink.
I absolutely plan on diving in once the full release makes its touchdown just a bit later this year on PC and PS4.