Black Future ’88 is a Synth-punk, twin stick 2D roguelite that offers a beautiful mix of challenge and intense action. Look out Dead Cells, you’ve got some solid competition.
Set in an alternate 1988, Black Future ’88 puts you in control of one of 5 unique characters. The game takes place in the aftermath of a nuclear event and it falls on you to climb the tower and defeat the Wardens that guard its secrets. There is a catch though, after 18 minutes.. your heart explodes. Basically, you can use this time how you want, but the ultimate objective is reaching the top. This introduces a very cool mechanic in which you choose how to manage this minuscule amount of time. Do you spend your time exploring every room in hopes of grabbing better loot, or do you focus on slaying Wardens and see how far you can get with basic weapons?
Before we get into the gameplay, the soundtrack and environments are absolutely fantastic. The soundtrack is a fully synthetic score that makes you feel like you’re playing this title in an old 80’s arcade. The high octane beats keep you moving and make you want to go for another run just to hear the soundtrack again. As for the environments, they’re some of the most beautifully detailed 16-bit art I’ve ever seen. There is just SO much to look at! From rain falling through the slats to the foreground and background elements. You’ll be playing and the black shadow of a monorail type vehicle will wiz by in front of the screen. Searchlights occasionally shine down on your from above, and the particle and fog effects are simply incredible. If nothing else, this game looks fantastic.
Thankfully, Black Future ’88 can stand on more than just it’s strong art and soundtrack though. The gameplay is tricky to get used to at first, but ultimately ends up being incredibly tight and responsive once you get the hang of it. This is a title that is very reminiscent of Dead Cells and it proudly wears that inspiration on its sleeve, while also taking those elements and making them it’s own. The item drops are great, plain and simple. Every weapon you come across is fun to use and I never hesitated to drop a solid weapon just so I could try out a new one. My personal favorite is the nail gun though. It’s exactly as it sounds but it hits like a truck and has an impressive rate of fire. Other weapons shoot multiple bullets at the same time that spread out in a semi-circle formation making crowd control a lot more manageable. Some even teleport you after a shot, which makes you feel like an absolute bad-ass zipping around the screen.
On top of that, there is a great upgrade system that makes your character and weapons even more of a threat. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll find the nail gun and then stumble upon a perk that ricochets every shot. Other notable perks are ones like getting an extra dash and being able to attack enemies through walls.
After each death, your character levels up and this also unlocks more items and weapons that can drop during a run as well. All of this blends beautifully together which results in an extremely addicting loop. Not to mention it has a great “pick up and play” theme seeing as how you only have 18 minutes for a run anyways.
Each time you jump back into Black Future ’88, you’re treated to a new layout thanks to the games spot on procedural generation. Not only do the rooms change, but the enemies and boss placements change as well. Making each run an entirely new experience that keeps things fresh and unpredictable. Like most roguelites, this game can be pretty unforgiving, but the perk and loot drops quickly make you a force to be reckoned with. There wasn’t a single run where I felt like I had been cheated or wronged in any way, and even if I died quickly everything I had accomplished in that short span of time increased my XP bar, pushing me closer to that next level and unlockable.
Black Future ’88 is impressive, well put together roguelite that I can easily see becoming the new Dead Cells. My only issue as it stands now is that the Switch version hasn’t released yet, because I NEED it on that console. NOW. You can however wishlist the game on Steam, right now.