GAME REVIEW: Loot Rascals (PS4)

There’s something criminally underrated about unashamed silliness. Luckily, UK based developers Hollow Ponds have embraced the silliness in the form of Loot Rascals.

On paper, the game sounds completely baffling and, to simpletons like myself, intimidating and daunting. However, in practice it’s easy to pick-up but difficult to master. As a lone astronaut (well, aside from your ship’s awkward AI) the game crash-lands you on a moon where you need to retrieve a large mechanical device and escape. Problem is, there’s a big creature inside the planet that has a hold of it and lots of ‘Rascals’ running around on the surface trying to stop you. Or something like that. The game’s humour is delightfully self-aware and narrative takes a back seat here to make way for the many components that make up the gameplay.

Loot Rascals is a Roguelike, which, in a nutshell, is a sub-genre of RPG that draws inspiration from tabletop games (or so Wikipedia tells me). Thankfully, the game’s tutorial handily assumes I have no idea what I’m doing and clearly explains each of the mechanics before sending me out to fend for myself. Take my advice; this is one tutorial I’d recommend paying attention to. Your character has the typical statistics to play with (health, damage and defence) and battle ensues once you and a ‘Rascal’ share one of the many tiles that makes up the landscape. Who attacks first varies from enemy to enemy and is dependent on whether it is day or night. There isn’t a lot of waiting around as the cycle changes every five turns (when you move from one tile to another). To boost your character’s stats, you’ll need to ‘loot’ cards that fallen enemies occasionally leave behind. These cards can raise either your strength or defence and also offer bonus points depending on where you place them in your deck. With all this in mind, if you time it right and have built up your character enough you can take out most enemies in one hit. A useful thing to do as health is sparse.


Still with me? Good. The goal of the game is to traverse each of the five randomly generated stages by finding the exit portal hidden somewhere in each level. As you’d expect, the difficulty gets ramped up with each new stage. I found that the leap from the first stage to the second was pretty steep and as a result I’m yet to pass the third. On top of that, if you take too many turns to find the exit, the ‘Corpse Crew’ appears and really screws things up. When you die (and you will die) all the cards you’ve collected are gone and you’re back at square, or tile one.

If that wasn’t enough, the game throws morality into the mix. Every now and then you will come across a card that has been taken from another player in their game. You then have a choice to either use the card for yourself giving the other player the proverbial middle finger, or send it back to them. The latter, nicer option will then mean an AI controlled version of that player can pop up and temporarily assist you in your quest. All of these mechanics sound convoluted but in practice it is a lot easier to get your head around so don’t be put off by the above jargon.

On a more positive note: the game looks and sounds fantastic. All the characters are designed in a simplistically silly fashion and the use of colour pops off your screen. The sounds go hand in hand with the silliness and the characters will make squeaks and grunts amongst other slapstick noises reminiscent of when the Lego games didn’t have dialogue. The music is akin to cartoons of days gone by and makes you feel like you’re playing an episode of Ren and Stimpy crossed with something about space.

The problem with Loot Rascals comes down to repetition. Even though each level is randomly generated and your card deck will vary on each play, if you don’t get the right cards early on then you’re going to die again and again and no amount of whimsy can overcome the frustration this leads to. As this is the first Roguelike I’ve ever played, this might just be the way of things and fans of the genre could lap it up, but long stints left me drained and angry. However, I found that playing in shorter bursts left me less frustrated and after time away from the game, I was eager to try again and progress further.

Loot Rascals is currently available on Playstation 4 and PC for roughly just over a tenner and as it stand at the moment, if you’re after a fairly taxing challenge it’s worth the money. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see what the replay value would be once you eventually complete the story outside of the daily challenges on offer.
However, it’s an enjoyable and delightfully silly experience as long as it’s kept to short bursts.

If you want to learn more about Loot Rascals here’s an interview with one of the developers.

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