Loot Rascals pits you in a space theme park on a mission to rescue your friend, Big Barry. Contact with Big Barry has been lost and it’s your job to see what the deal is, however, on your way your ship crash lands on the alien planet that has been overtaken by a slew of baddies. To save Big Barry and restore order to the space theme park, you’ll need to travel across the five randomly generated areas and take out the ‘Rascals’ you come across.
The story is what brings up my first problem with the game, it’s told to you in two minutes and then takes a big back seat to the combat. That loss of importance for the story ruins a lot of what the game could be. The game tries to stay dynamic and interesting as the levels are randomly generated but since the story component is ignored, nothing feels important and instead I found myself annoyed by doing the same thing over and over again that I had forgotten what the purpose of the game even was.
It was almost like I was taking a ball and dropping it down a ramp that had random walls in the way. There was no purpose to what I was doing but I knew that’s what I had to do and after the ball ran into too many walls, I had to start over.
After that, the second thing I noticed was the fun and quirky character designs. Think of the newer cartoons on Cartoon Network and you have the same kind of thing. It would make sense it looks like it has that certain polish and style of a network cartoon show since someone who worked on the game was also an animator for Adventure Time. You can see the similarity between the game and the show when encountering different characters. This makes them interesting at first but having to repeat the same enemies constantly really kills their charm.
Gameplay relies on a card system, defeating other enemies to pick up cards to increase your attack power and defense. Cards have chances of doing different things, adding abilities and upgrading each card in your hand. For example, you can pick up a card that gives you a bonus if it’s in a specific slot or a card that upgrades each card located in a row. Your character can carry ten active cards and six extra cards to hold on to or swap in. Cards are also used to earn tokens that are used for healing yourself or activating weapons in the game.
The card system is based heavily on luck. Outside of special ability cards, you’re not sure what card you’ll pick up off a slain foe or that you’ll get a card at all. If you don’t pick up a set of strong cards early on you get the feeling that things will be going south quickly as you encounter tougher and tougher enemies. More times than not, after each restart, I could see the trend of cards I was getting and knew it would not be enough to get me through later parts of the game. When you’re in need of cards to give you a small advantage or to convert into tokens, you better have your fingers crossed as I was very unlucky in collecting.
Aside from the card play, the game features turn-based action which is tied to character movement. Once you and an enemy land on the same space, combat starts immediately. Each space you move to represents one turn and turns determine the time of day and that can change how an enemy will act when it’s encountered. An icon will tell you if an enemy will attack or defend first and ideally you’ll want to run into them while they’re on the defensive, causing you to strike first. Increasing your attack power with a different combination of cards will allow you to take them out before they can counter-attack.
The further you get into a level you could find yourself trying to avoid combat, but revealing more of the map can cause more and more baddies to show up making it impossible to get by. Much of the game I was trying to avoid most of the enemies I saw because my card drops were so poor that any combat I ran into left me losing life and ultimately dying over and over again. Avoiding certain death became a chore as I often found myself hoarding cards to discard and earn tokens so that I could heal myself. Although, running back to the starting area or finding a healing pad on the map upped my turn counter that only spawned more enemies on the map making the whole process seem worthless.
If you’re unable to heal yourself or escape the onslaught of enemies, you’ll die, obviously. Dying doesn’t feel like a learning experience it’s more of an annoyance and frustration of just wanting to quit the game. On death, you lose all of your cards and start at the beginning of the game which only reminds you of all of the progress lost without any kind of advantage to return to the game. Once you die enough times and are sick of seeing the animation it really takes the charm out of the characters and the design of the game, especially the starting area.
Loot Rascals biggest flaw is the repetition and you notice that early on. It follows the formula, much like other roguelike games, where you lose everything and start over after death. But the repetition of it all takes away what other permadeath games possess which is that it doesn’t make me want to jump back in and try again. Seeing the same characters and enemies constantly just feels annoying rather than rewarding for returning and beating them. Mixed in with the big luck factor of the game, it feels like a burden to progress which will leave you walking on eggshells in later parts of the game so you don’t have to start over and hope for more good fortune.
It was hard to stay interested in the game after a few restarts. The charm is quickly removed as you’re more and more annoyed by the setup of the game. While the randomly generated maps seem to lend themselves to a new experience each time, you soon overlook that as you attempt to rebuild your character and hope for the best loot drops possible. If you’re fortunate enough to get strong card drops early on, beating packs of enemies can be refreshing until your luck runs out.
Loot Rascals feels like a surface level roguelike game that is missing the component a game of this nature needs, a reason to keep playing. After a few attempts, the game grows stale and has no way of feeling fresh after each restart or even later in the game for that matter. And since the game relies heavily on luck to progress through each randomly generated, I lost interest. Repetition and the luck factor really killed any enjoyment I had for the game early on. Loot Rascals has some redeeming qualities but nothing strong enough to keep my attention.