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Review: Loot Rascals

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Wascally wooters

Loot Rascals first caught my eye at Pax South. I had heard nothing of it beforehand, yet its art drew me to its booth. The few minutes I spent diving into its charming world left me wanting more, so naturally I jumped at the chance to review the full game. 

I don't have much experience with roguelikes as the idea of permadeath scares me away most of the time, but this is a gateway game to the entire genre. Loot Rascals is so good at what it does, it's inspired me to explore its depths as much as I could.

Loot Rascals (PS4, PC [Reviewed])
Developer: Hollow Ponds
Publisher: Hollow Ponds
Released: March 7, 2017
MSRP: $14.99

In Loot Rascals you're a space explorer, guided by a mysterious guy with a teapot shaped head, who crash lands on unexplored territory full of the titular rascals. You need to explore the procedurally generated areas in order to find an exit point to get to the next area, and towards finding the head of "Big Barry," a machine full of "liquid anything," a mysterious substance that seems to generate the areas themselves. Movement throughout the areas is turn-based and set on a day/night cycle. You're free to move about as you wish (so it's not as if you have to wait for the critters to move before you can), but spend too many turns in any given area and you'll have to not only deal with progressively tougher Rascals, but ones with death-dealing specialties like Space Death (which can take you out in one hit). This type of enemy will litter the screen, and it gets a bit frustrating when some areas become inaccessible if you're too weak to fight. 

The day/night cycle has an effect on how the Rascals move, as they'll either attack or defend depending on the time. Since it's more advantageous to fight them when they're defending, you'll often find yourself spending turns running circles around them until their stance (represented by a little shield or raygun icon above them) changes. There will be cases when you spend too many turns to avoid battles only to then end up cornered by even stronger baddies. To alleviate this somewhat, battles are automatic. It's pretty fun to successfully plow through Rascals one by one, especially when driven into a corner. When you attack, your power total is subtracted from the enemy's defense or vice-versa. If your defense is higher than the attack of an enemy's, than there's still a chance of taking damage as there's a little probability math done each time. Battling feels less like a chore than I expected, and thankfully, promotes the feeling of exploration the diminishing turn counter occassionally disrupted. 

The titular "loot" comes into play post-battle. Every so often you're rewarded with a card that can either boost your attack, defense, or adds an ability for use on the map. Managing the card deck is absolutely Loot Rascals' biggest draw. You only get ten slots, and figuring out which combination works best became crucial once the difficulty ramps up in the later areas. There's a tactile pleasure in dragging each loot card into a slot, flipping some over for different effects, swapping them around for better boosts, and then adding elemental effects. I played pretty attack heavy my first twenty or so attempts, but was totally defenseless when a Rascal attacked first, leading into the coolest aspect of Loot Rascals. When you die in battle a Rascal will loot from you. The enemy baddie will steal your most valuable card(s) and they'll pop up in someone else's play through. 

Occasionally you'll beat a Rascal clinging onto another player's loot and have the option to either keep it or give it back to them. If you keep it (like I did most of the time since it's where you'll get the best cards on some playthroughs), a hologram of the player will pop up and attack you for being a jerk. Give it back, and they'll help you for not being a jerk. All of these different factors can and will feel overwhelming and hard to keep track of at first, as the learning curve is tied into what kind of loot you get, but once you get the ball rolling it all integrates seamlessly. It's just a matter of whether or not you find enough charm in the loot. 

But if the loot doesn't strike your fancy, Loot Rascals' art will surely reign you in. Character and Rascal design pop off the screen, and the music has a happy, yet strangely melancholic ambience. I even have it open on the title screen as I write this just because it has a good atmosphere. The story is minimal, but cute and unique. For example, you come back to life every time you die because a monster from another dimension likes the fact you're eliminating the Rascals on the surface world. An animation showing the monster putting my little explorer girl (with an eyepatch) back together limb by limb definitely eased a lot of deaths. And there were plenty. As with anything in the roguelike genre, difficulty feels randomized. Some runs the later areas felt like a gradual increase in difficulty from the first because I won a steady stream of good loot. In others, I died very early on because not only had multiple Rascals appeared right at the entrance of the area, I had pretty much nothing good to handle them with. 

I do wish there were some sort of checkpoint system (other than allowing you to save a practice deck for later) since it really stings to build a great deck after making it multiple areas to only be quickly defeated and have to start over again. In the same breath, what I thought were good decks in some runs were outclassed by what I amassed in later ones. 

It's also kinda funny that what seemed like a lot to take in sort of feels like second nature at this point. Frustrations eventually giving way toward a playful spite, I was running through the game again and again before I knew it. It's going to be a long time before I get everything I want out of Loot Rascals, and I'm perfectly fine with that. With Loot Rascals, I feel like I can loot forever. Whether that's actually true has yet to be proven, but I'm going to have lots of fun figuring it out. 

Not everyone will feel the same way, but at least Loot Rascals is a rougelike built for the less masochistic folks out there. 

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Loot Rascals reviewed by Nick Valdez

8.5

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Nick Valdez
Nick ValdezAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Nick Valdez has been writing for Modern Method for years, but now he's writing about videogames! He likes games where you punch dudes in the face.  more + disclosures


 


 


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