Developer/Publisher: Hollow Ponds || Overall: 8.0/10
Loot Rascals is one of the most unique-looking games you’ll ever see. If for no other reason, play it just to see the art. The other stuff is fine, but geez man… so much fun is to be had just by seeing all of the “Baddies” the developers at Hollow Ponds were able to think up. Anyway, enough gushing about the art, I guess. It’s what is underneath that should really count. And what is underneath, is a turn-based roguelike loot card game. There’s a bit to unpack there, but once you get the idea around the game, you’ll need a lot of luck and a bit of strategic-thinking to get far into it.
The story is very basic, but fun. You are a space theme park employee on your way to make repairs, but what you find is that the planet is full of hostile creatures known as “Baddies” who have completely overtaken the planet-sized theme park. It’s your job to rescue a machine known as “Big Barry” and after your first death, you will be introduced to a strange pink tentacle monster thing that has an interest in helping you save your friend. Of course the real motivations are left to question, but that’s the set up for you to play in. Sound design helps in the world building, including the funny sound effects the Baddies make. The music is also pretty good, but unfortunately doesn’t feature a whole lot of variety.
Movement occurs in a real-time/turn-based environment. While always being able to move freely, when you move to other hexagonal spaces on the map you’ll use up a turn, of which you have a limited amount before more annoying Baddies come around. The turns are important to monitor because every five turns, the time will switch from day to night. Depending on the Baddies that are around you, you will have to strategically plan out which are best attacked depending on what phase you are in. If you attack a Baddie while it is your advantage, you will be able to attack first, the idea being that you kill them in one hit, or at least hope to take no damage when killing them. If you don’t attack at the right time or get caught by a Baddie, you will not have the advantage and you will get attacked first — depending on your luck this may or may not have you meet your end.
Loot drops in the form of cards, of which you have ten open slots. Loot cards are quite wide-ranging and unique, with different modifiers. These modifiers can either help, hurt, or give you more flexibility, depending on how you place them on the board. For example, a card may gain +2 Attack if it is the only one of its type, or if it is placed on an even slot it will add +1 to the card below. Combining a repertoire of cards together creates a complexity that is fun to mess around with. Any extra cards can be decompiled for Tokens, which can be used to heal or are spent for other abilities.
Your strategy in moving, attacking, and defending is going to be your greatest help here. When you advance to the higher levels, drops will become more powerful, and you will presumably be building up the availability of spells and replacing less useful cards. This progression is satisfying as long as it lasts, but when you die all of your cards will disappear, with a few being “stolen” by Baddies. These cards will appear in other player’s games, and you may have them returned to you via an in-game mail system. The same will happen with other player’s cards in your game, and you can choose to use them or return them. This asynchronous multiplayer aspect to the game has the goal of limiting the slog of trying to progress, since you will be starting from scratch over and over otherwise. Unfortunately, the “other player’s cards” thing doesn’t seem to be pop-up very much, since presumably people would have to play the game a lot for the cards to populate out in the wild. But, there is no transparency in regards to any of those stats so who knows what is actually happening behind the scenes. Other than that, you may just get lucky enough to get the right loadout and get pretty far, but the Baddies scale up pretty fast. There are also “Card Rockets” that you may find that allow you to sacrifice a card so that you can use it the next time you die, but those are far from assured to find.
Loot Rascals is a fun game, but the roguelike experience can be a bit lacking. There isn’t that much personal advancement or unlocking to be had. Your play experience will change depending on the loot drops, but after a couple of hours you’ll probably have seen most of what the title has to offer. It can be a challenge getting through all of the levels, though. You can “continue your progress” by saving your current deck as a “Practice Deck” for later use. Starting a Practice Game will allow you to use your previously saved deck to continue on in advancing through the areas you have yet to visit, but there seems to be little difference in a Practice Game versus a normal game other than having a deck available. Since the levels are all randomized you’ll see a different map every time. A Daily Challenge is also available that is mostly only for bragging rights. And again, since there is no overall progression in the game that influences you to play the Daily Challenge or even a normal game (why not just keep playing Practice Game?), it doesn’t seem like its worth doing.
Recommending Loot Rascals is pretty easy to do, and I had fun while I played. Content seems to be the biggest gripe in this game, and there isn’t much to work towards that a roguelike typically would include. No meta game really hurts the title from being something more. However, being sufficiently weird and humorous is probably worth the ticket price depending on your personality. I can see myself returning to Loot Rascals once in a while just to see how far I can get.