Lone Ruin has taught us that you should never pooh-pooh a game’s Steam store description.
We spotted Lone Ruin’s “bullet hell” tag and, breezing our way through the first few levels, thought we were in for an easy ride. How wrong we were. This strangely-hued twin stick shooter thinks nothing of throwing its players into a storm of incoming projectiles. We were very, very, glad we’d decided not to make its survival mode our first stop.
But, as taxing as dodging projectiles, tentacles and more is, you’ll love every minute of Lone Ruin‘s mayhem. There’s a plot of sorts – your idiot protagonist decides to plunder an ancient temple – but what really matters is how Lone Ruin nails the balance between fun and frustration.
Sure, you’ll curse when, down to one last half-heart, you ham-handedly stumble into a bullet. Lone Ruin‘s levels aren’t maze-like as such, but they’re complex enough that you’re not blasting your way around some vast open arena. But when you do expire, you’ll get right back into it, vowing to do better next time.
Because, unlike some shooters, Lone Ruin puts the power-ups your hands. The path you take at the end of each area dictates which ability or spell you get to level up. Plus, you’re offered a selection of eight attack spells when you start. None of there are obviously overpowered but you’ll end up finding a favourite.
You’ll quickly get the knack of using abilities in combination – for example, casting black hole to slow down a group of foes then annihilating then with chain lighting. So yes, you’ll die but it’s always your blunder, not the game’s. And, going back in, you’ll resolve to dodge more and/or choose different abilities. Even if you succeed, you’ll want to test out a few new weapon combinations.
The eye-catching aesthetic is the icing on the cake and puts us in mind of both old-school four-colour CGA games and Colour Out of Space. Sadly, Nicholas Cage doesn’t lend his voice to the game. Yes, developer Cuddle Monster Games and publisher Super Rare Originals really dropped the ball there. But the good news is that, despite the game’s reduced palette, monsters are always easy to spot, right before they blast and/or claw you to death.
There’s a fantastic soundtrack, too, though we wish Lone Ruin would let you choose tracks. It features one superb, haunting piece we’d have listened to for at least half the 20 or so levels.
If starting all over again drives you up the wall, then Lone Ruin probably isn’t for you. For everyone else, it’s a frenetic, fun and highly replayable outing that’ll have you coming back for more. But if you do find a strange meteor in your backyard, do the sensible thing and toss it in next door’s wheelie bin.