Review: Loot Rascals
Loot Rascals would fit really well in a theoretical Adult Swim Saturday Morning Cartoon block. The games mix of cartoon, pan-dimensional horror, and holograms somehow blend together really well and makes for an overall aesthetic that feels completely original. Extra attention to detail in character animation, sound effects, and slick transitions makes for a really polished style overall. Even after spending well over a dozen hours with the game, I’m still struck by just how great every little piece of it looks.
This isn’t all about looks though – Loot Rascals takes the rogue-like genre and turns all of the loot into collectible cards that you’ll use to build a deck with. Any hope of success will ultimately depend on the kind of deck you’re able to build with the cards you loot. Decks are made up of two rows with five columns each. Here you’ll place cards that grant points to Attack or Defense, add bonus points to all cards in a row, boost max HP, or even allow the use of special elemental attacks. On top of that, many cards will have extra parameters that will give benefits depending on where they’re placed in the deck. It’s worth spending time organizing and really thinking about what card placement will be best for any given situation. It’s really fun constructing decks and, due to the rogue-like nature of the game, every playthrough brings with it a deck that feels completely different from the last. Sometimes that means you’ll enter the third level sporting 30 Attack and 28 Defense, while in other cases, you’ll hit stage four with a measly 10 Attack, 9 Defense, and little hope for survival. That’s just how the cards drop, but it makes for a game that’s always exciting for better or worse.
Most cards found are simply regular loot drops from defeated enemies. However, there are instances where you’ll find cards hidden in secret areas or special cards dropped by unique enemies. Taking out a unique enemy will result in a card dropped that once belonged to anyone else playing the game. (Upon death the enemy that dealt the killing blow will steal a random card.) You’re given the choice to keep the card or simply return it to the player. (Returned cards will appear in the mailbox in the base at the beginning of each stage.) If you keep the card, you’ll potentially run into a very angry hologram of that player, they’ll hunt you down with their mind set on revenge. However, if you return the card, the hologram of that player will appear to offer assistance for as long as their battery stays charged. I once had a run where I found a card that our own Eric once possessed, returned it to him, and proceeded to enlist his help throughout most of my run. Eric’s hologram got me out of numerous sticky situations and his help made giving back a rather valuable card more than worth it.
The card game portion of Loot Rascals requires a lot of strategic thinking, planning ahead, and taking risks. It’s a really interesting concept that Hollow Ponds has executed on really well. On the other end is a pretty traditional rogue-like that rewards exploration and deals harsh punishments to those who don’t plan ahead. Here, the player character and enemies will take turns moving along a hexagonal grid and initiating combat when sharing a single space. A day/night cycle offers an extra layer of planning as the time of day will determine who attacks first. With just 5 HP at the start of a run, it’s often times very important to make sure you get first attack whenever possible. You can block attacks, depending on the current defense state, but it’s hardly guaranteed. Much of the game revolves around planning each move, assessing situations when surrounded by enemies, and rearranging the deck to ensure survival whatever the situation may be. It’s also important to note that each enemy type behaves differently. One enemy might alternate attack levels with each turn, while another might move in a very specific pattern. Learning enemy traits and weaknesses is hugely important and often times will be the difference between life and death.
There’s times when a random bit of bad luck can kill a great run and in other instances, a serendipitous moment can completely save a run in the most unexpected way imaginable. When the randomness hurts you, it can be frustrating, but when it deals out cards in your favor, it’s endlessly exciting. That said, there are some circumstances where I feel the game could be better about handling certain enemy placements. For instance, I’ve had great runs take a big hit three or four stages in when a group of very powerful enemies are all huddled around the opening of the stage. In these circumstances the randomness does feel a little cheap, as I’m often times left with no option but to take a few hits and hope for the best. There were a few times when something similar happened on stage one, but in that case a simple restart can fix it without having to worry about losing progress. And in regards to keeping progress, an option to Save & Quit without losing your current run would be greatly appreciated.
Loot Rascals offers a great spin on the traditional rogue-like and presents a supremely strange and otherworldly setting to keep it all glued together. On top of that, it’s a game that’s finally managed to make inventory management fun!
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Card-based loot system that leads to some interesting strategy in deck building.
- Great visuals
- Legitimately funny
- The death animation is especially good.
What I Dislike:
- Random variables that can kill great runs and lead to frustration.