When we’re setting up appointments for games at PAX East, we try to pick titles that haven’t been released yet. The only exception to that this year was Loot Rascals.
So much about this game checks off boxes on my list of favorites. It’s a light-hearted roguelike with a dry sense of humor and over the top art/animation. There’s even a unique feature for players connected over Steam and the PlayStation Network. More on that later.
The art style for the Loot Rascals is the first thing that caught my eye. Two of the artists working with developer Hollow Ponds feature work from shows like Adventure Time and adorable mobile games like Alphabear. The characters are brightly colored with a cartoonish, retro science-fiction aesthetic.
The simple run down for the game consists of you, the main character, crash landing on an alien planet and gathering resources to escape. All the while you’re fighting off hostile creatures and robots and receiving strange visions from a massive tentacled space creature.
Strategy and planning are the keys to success in Loot Rascals, but this doesn’t mean the game is slow. There are a set number of turns you can use on each planet before more and more difficult enemies begin filling the map, which constantly pushes you forward.
The combat is real-time, but both you and enemy creatures use a turn every time you move to a new hexagonal tile. Whether or not you or the rascal you’re fighting get to attack first depends on a number of variables, including a day and night cycle.
Using turns and navigating the map plays out in a choreographed dance between you and the “rascals” you’re trying to defeat. Being too careful can take up too many turns before you’ve found the exit, while rushing ahead can wind up getting yourself cornered by a group of enemies with no way to escape.
I’ve gone on too much about how to play the game without even mentioning the items that drop from defeated creatures. These appear as cards that you can arrange in a 5×2 grid in your inventory. Some cards can be double-sided or can stack onto another card to combine their value. Others will only give you a bonus if they’re placed next to another card or sit in a specific column.
There are risks and rewards to nearly every choice and with every system build into the game.
Turns, exploration, inventory management; each were kept simple enough to understand and apply early on. The combinations and interactions between all of these bring depth, variety and layers of strategy to every encounter.
Remember that connected feature I mentioned earlier? Rascals will take a powerful card from your inventory when you die.
This card is then connected to another player’s game and added to a random enemy in their world. If they defeat the creature, they have the option of keeping the card for themselves or taking it back to their base and mailing it back to the original owner.
Your choice here has a real effect on your game. If the card is too tempting, and you decide to keep it, a hologram of the original player will show up in the game and try to attack you. If you’re benevolent enough to send it back, a hologram of the owner will appear in your world and fight alongside you.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve realised there’s a lot going on with Loot Rascals underneath the quirky exterior. This is definitely a game worth exploring.
It’s available now for $14.99 on Steam and PS4.