It's hard not to love kooky off-the-wall British humour. Loot Rascals is one of the strangest and funniest games that I've ever played but does it combine turn-based strategy and puzzle elements well or are you better off in the hands of The Thing Below?
You play Loot Rascals as a space repairman who's on a mission to fix Big Barry, a robot with the job of creating a theme park on a foreign planet. On the way to help him out, our hero and his companion with a teapot head find that an unexpected moon is in the way. Before crash-landing, they see poor helpless Barry in disarray on its surface. So, it's up to them to survive and reclaim their robotic buddy. However, this moon is infested with monsters and ruled by an ominous creature known as The Thing Below. Thankfully, this thing wants to eradicate monsters so it regenerates the hero whenever he bites the dust. It's such a ridiculous premise for a game and it made me laugh out loud while watching the opening scenes. The goofy retro cartoon visual style, unorthodox voice acting, and absurd premise make it quite an enjoyable game to watch.
Besides the unique visuals and humour, I enjoyed the groovy adaptive soundtrack immensely. Most indie games with adaptive music don't implement it well but Loot Rascals does so masterfully with additional instruments fading in whenever you're confronting an enemy and dissolving once they're defeated. It's smooth stuff that adds a layer of immersion to the audio.
In order to rescue Barry, you have to progress through five areas without dying which is a lot more difficult than it sounds. As you move between hexagons, time advances and enemies take a step as well which makes it similar to a Mystery Dungeon game. However, a few elements make for a unique dynamic. First of all, there's a day/night cycle. Some enemies attack first in the day while others are more ferocious at night. Therefore, you have to time when to confront foes in order to avoid taking a hit. There are a couple of complexities to take advantage of as well such as decompiling cards to earn tokens and using skills to harm multiple enemies or heal your hero. Your inventory consists of cards that you carefully equip to maximize their effectiveness. Placing a card next to other cards or in certain positions may make them more powerful so optimizing the puzzle-oriented inventory can be quite a rewarding endeavor.
My main complaint with Loot Rascals is that the gameplay is quite simple which makes it feel tedious much sooner than you'd want it to. After a dozen or so attempts, equipping cards and dispatching monsters ends up feeling like a chore. There are two primary contributing factors to this. The first is that there is almost no permanent progression. Whereas other roguelikes give you incentive to keep going, you basically have to start Loot Rascals from scratch every time you perish. There is a mailbox where you can send cards to yourself but it doesn't really help much. Finally, luck plays more of a role than most roguelikes as you may be confronted with a cluster of tough foes that are nearly impossible to emerge unscathed from. Once you see an exit guarded by a handful of over-levelled enemies, you may as well throw in the towel. In the end, these easily remedied components make Loot Rascals far less enjoyable than it could be.
Loot Rascals is a delightful yet frustrating experience. If it were a TV show then I'd watch it but as a game, it simply doesn't live up to other roguelikes. That being said, I'm looking forward to Hollow Ponds' future titles as they're clearly capable developers.
- + Zany humour is a blast to watch unfold
- + Interesting combination of turn-based gameplay and puzzle elements
- + Groovy adaptive soundtrack
- - Gameplay gets monotonous quite fast
- - Lack of permanent progression makes the journey less satisfying than it could be
- - Success relies far too much on luck