Review: Loot Rascals (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Loot Rascals
Format: PSN (2.43 GB)
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Publisher: Hollow Pond
Developer: Hollow Pond
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Loot Rascals is a roguelike game with a card based loot system that just oozes style. Made to look like an old school cartoon, it’s hard not to be drawn in to explore its dangerous and colorful world. The story follows a nameless astronaut that has crashed on a hostile planet and must survive through the game’s five levels.

The main objective in each level is simple, reach a teleporter that is randomly placed in the map and transport to the next level. Players are limited to a certain number of moves per level, with movement, attacks, and picking up loot all worth one move.

Players must make their way through the world strategically because of a day/night cycle that changes based on how many moves you make. This means if you see a tough enemy you might want to move around them or attack them at whatever time of day they are the weakest.

Your character is fairly weak so in order to improve your chances of survival you have to collect loot cards. Once placed in your deck they will increase your defense and attack stats. Some cards will come with additional benefits depending on their placement in the deck. For example, one card might give additional points to the card on the right or additional points to any similar cards.

So placement is often the key to get the most out your cards and to spec out a powerful character. Combat is done automatically so it comes down to the maths of the cards and of course the luck involved with finding decent ones.

… I often wanted to quit the game and just give up due to the amount of luck that seemed to be involved …
The game is procedurally generated which means that everything is random – the level layout, cards, and enemies, it will always be different. This adds an extra layer of difficulty that often works against the experience because it makes the game feel more about luck than skill.

I spent much of my time dying because I only found cards with lower stats and therefore found myself too weak to fend off most monsters. Dying is easy and sometimes even having a good deck doesn’t matter because you might come across extremely high level monsters. You can run, but if you run out of moves more powerful creatures will begin to spawn and avoiding them becomes increasingly difficult.

When I did finally make a breakthrough I felt cheap for using it. I did this by replaying levels by using the seed number attached to each run. Every run is seeded which allows players to play the exact same run using a seed code. This allowed me slowly chip away at a run by using some good old fashioned trial and error till I was finally able to reach the final level.

When I did put together a run that took me to the final boss, I realized that the game can be rather short if you get lucky enough to find an easy seed. So the procedurally generated nature of the design can dictate how long or short the game will be.

I cannot tell you how much frustration I felt while playing as I often wanted to quit the game and just give up due to the amount of luck that seemed to be involved in success.

… You’ll get a delightful opening cutscene that makes you want more …
Visuals:
The animation style is the best thing going for Loot Rascals. The art is absolutely beautiful to look at. With a animation team that worked on shows like Adventure Time, they nail the look of old science fiction cartoons.

I loved all the bizarre monsters as each balanced being both creepy and adorable. There’s some quality character design and animation happening at almost every turn.

The art is so good that I really wish there was more in terms of a story. Outside of the introduction and conclusion there isn’t much there. You’ll get a delightful opening cutscene that makes you want more but you’ll be left hanging until the final boss. I would be all in on a Loot Rascals cartoon or another game with a more expanded story if the gameplay could balance itself out.

Audio:
The music matches the art style to perfection. Things are kept light and somewhat mysterious as the levels unfold as you move. It’s a delightful soundtrack that works well with the presentation of the game.

One of the reasons I mentioned I would be down for a cartoon is because of the voice work of your A.I. friend. This particular character is the star of the game. From the start I wanted to spend all my time with this funny and charming character, thanks to the voice work and writing.

… an amazing concept that forced me to really think about whether I should keep a found card …
Online/Multiplayer:
Now while this game does not have traditional multiplayer it does feature a cool multiplayer hook. Every time you die your best card is taken by the monster that defeated you and the only way to get it back is with the help of a stranger. That monster will hold your card unless another player happens to cross paths with it and kills it. Once the monster is defeated the player has the option of keeping the card or sending it back to you.

If the player sends the card back to you, you’ll find it in your mailbox. If they keep the card, they are a terrible person and a ghost version of your character will be sent to their game to attempt to kill them.

The bonus for sending a card back to its owner is the reverse effect of keeping it. A ghost version of the owner will still be sent to that player’s game, but instead will assist the person as a thank you. It’s an amazing concept that forced me to really think about whether I should keep a found card or not.

The game also features leaderboards for a Daily Challenge which lets players attempt the same seeded run to see how far they can get.

Conclusion:
I really wanted to like Loot Rascals more than I actually did in the end. The game has a lot going for it from the presentation to the card based combat, but it kind of falls apart due to the luck aspect.

If it was just difficult I could accept it and move on. Unfortunately though the random nature of the game just makes the whole thing feel like luck is the only thing that matters. I had a lot of runs fall apart because I spawned on a level and was surrounded by much more challenging monsters than I was equipped to handle. And when I failed, always starting from scratch was devastating, especially when I thought I had a really good run going.

It’s a shame because I had fun and there is a good experience to be had here if you have luck on your side or know of a decent seed. Once I found a fairly reasonable seed I was able to enjoy the game much more than before.

If you like a challenge then you might enjoy Loot Rascals, just be warned that it can be frustrating and you will die a lot.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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