There are a lot of games nowadays, usually being indie titles, that I think seem quaint and endearing, perhaps they have a story to tell.
I’d say a strong 50% of these games end up ruining my day due to the stress they cause. I sit down with a smile on my face as I pick up my controller only to, half an hour later, want to break the controller in half and sue the developers for shaving years off of my life. Not to say that it’s a bad thing, however.
Risk of Rain begins with a short cutscene depicting a group of space-vandals entering the player’s ship and trashing it from the inside. One thing leads to another and you’re plummeting towards the ground in what I can only assume is an escape pod, so not to go down with the ship.
Hopoo Games’ rogue-like is both masochistic and satisfying. You begin alone on what seems to be a rather empty, randomly-generated planet. All of a sudden, you’ve got aliens and monsters jumping you from behind all corners. As you play, a stopwatch ticks away in the corner, and as your game-time increases, so does the difficulty. With higher difficulty comes more monsters, stronger ones at that. While Risk of Rain may cause hair loss and increased blood pressure, the rewards are certainly worth it. The aim of the game is to reach the portal on each level to progress onto the next, though when you reach the portal you also have to survive an onslaught of enemies while a boss monster tries to reap you from existence. My best run so far was 21 minutes and 11 seconds long, which is when “Very Hard” difficulty kicks in. To give yourself the best odds of survival, I’d suggest you burn through each level with little regard for enemies. Don’t spend too much time thinking, get to that portal before the timer ticks onto the next difficulty level. Leg it. Within those 21 minutes, I’d only made it onto the third level. Efficiency is key in Risk of Rain.
Within the aforementioned escape pod, there’s your roster of 12 different playable characters. 11 of the 12, however, must be unlocked by completing very specific objectives during a run. The objectives are so specific, some being incredibly hard to accomplish, that after playing for a couple of hours I’d only managed to unlock one new character, the Enforcer, having beaten three of the early bosses. Beating three bosses is far easier than a lot of the other objectives; some are more random, such as requiring you to interact with objects I’ve not even seen thus far. Each character has their own set of skills, for instance the default Commando character has abilities that concentrate on range and crowd control (as far as I can tell). He has one ability that sends a projectile piercing through several enemies, a dodge roll and suppressive fire ability alongside his standard “double-tap” attack. Along with class/character abilities, there’s a vast array of pick-ups. From mortars that give you the chance to fire a mortar with an attack to speed and health regen boosts, there’s a pick-up for all play styles, and there’s often a choice between pick-ups as well, which is fun. Now, what may well be the best thing about Risk of Rain is that pick-ups stack. You may be thinking, “So what? Most games have stackable pick-ups!” Well, my friend, nothing compares to having 16 different pick-ups active at the same time while a set of drones hover around you. Depending on what you pick up and what you spare, you could become almost God-like fairly quickly.
The relatively simple pixel art that makes up Risk of Rain‘s visuals, while minimalistic, is still able to be consistently appealing and, sometimes, even stunning. However, the game plays from an incredibly zoomed out perspective which leaves your character as the smallest thing visible – this could hinder gameplay for people playing on a smaller screen or from a distance. The audio design, on the other hand, is laudable. Its electro-synth sound suits the action on-screen perfectly, and almost has a War of the Worlds vibe to it. The soundtrack is good enough that it could’ve been sold alone, completely disconnected from any game.
The development team, Hopoo Games, consists only of two people and a sound designer. That’s a team of three, two of which are definitely students. A group of three people, including at least two students, can produce what I deem as a practically infallible game. I just wanted to highlight that fact (hint-hint Blast ‘Em Bunnies devs). It’s hard to find fault with this game; the most I can complain about is the overly-specific prerequisites for unlocking new characters, and that’s just a personal thing because I’m bad at video games. Risk of Rain mixes the perfect levels of fun and challenge and looks damn good doing it. It’s a bloody good game.