Title: Black Future ‘88
Publisher: Gambitious B.V.
Genre: Action,2D Shooter, Roguelike, Platformer
Audience: PEGI 7
Release Date: 21/11/2019
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Described as a synth-punk rogue-like 2D action shooter. That’s a mouthful alright, but it gets your head in the right space.
Today’s gaming buzzword is procedural. Yes, we’re talking about the autonomous generation of a game’s layout based on set parameters and a dose of RNG. A ‘procedurally generated rogue-like’ is enough to make many run for the hills. To be honest, if it does, keep on running, there’s nothing for you here. Now, who else is up for a bit of 80’s cyberpunk?
That was rhetorical.
77, 88, 99
Feeding off the energy of the 80’s arcade scene, Black Future ’88 drops you at the bottom of a tower with the simple aim of slashing, gunning and jumping your way to the peak. Why? To take out the nutter at the top of the dystopian food chain, the architect himself, Duncan.
You’ll probably never live to see the architect though as your heart’s due to explode in 18 minutes.
Tripping your way through this laser show of a building as one of the few survivors of a post-nuclear fallout era is a blast, nailing that all-important fluidity of movement and combining it with easy-to-master directional gunplay. The balance between good action and platforming weighs heavy in the former’s favour though.
The ever-evolving tower, known as Skymelt, changes up background images frequently enough. But each room is a couple of screens in size sporting a set of simple platforms and verticality is the name of the game. The problem with this set up, despite the randomised nature of the layout is that you’re quickly left feeling there’s nothing new to see.
After flicking through Black Future’s impressive arsenal of weaponry and dancing your way through the many collectible buffs the sheen wears off. To give it some proverbial legs Black Future adds mid-level options to spend your in-game currency on a per-run basis. This does allow for some tactical choices in buffs and loadouts, though given the doomsday clock is ever-ticking and the fact that your own ticker’s on the brink; there’s never any time to stop and think. This works in the game’s favour for the most part, drawing attention away from the repetition.
Kicking The Habit
Fuelling that ‘one more go’ addiction is the urgency of every encounter. With bullets spraying in the face of a jacked-up super-junkie, you might not realise there’s another massive wave of energy . Offense is certainly the best defence and while there are dodging options in the style of Risk of Rain, the greatest shield is your attack. Projectiles can mostly be dealt with by shooting back, which lends a hand to the frenetic pacing and rewards an aggressive approach.
Adding to the panic is the limited ammunition supply. While melee weapons give the by-design standard risk/reward mechanism of close-quarters combat, a decent firearm is preferable in most situation. As such, keeping a close eye on your ammo within what is a fairly cluttered UI, becomes another survival element that will have you reaching for the nearest defibrillator. That’s if the punishing difficulty doesn’t get you first.
Mid-level bosses offer a challenging but fair examination of your skills and showcase a surprising amount of charisma and character through visual design and animation alone. All battles follow the same blueprint of being short, fast and based on patterned behaviour. Given the permadeath nature of Black Future’s structure you’ll become painfully intimate with each of these within a couple of hours playtime.
Up To Snuff
Getting the background beats down draws the best out of any environment and plugging a set of headphones in to get the most of Black Future’s decaying synths and bright pad-driven tunes is highly recommended.
With performance holding steady, aiding the crisp pixelated-visual stylings (even if the zoomed-out camera view leaves looking a touch simplistic) and co-operative play standing up to the test, the Switch port comes out swinging.
While all Black Future 88’s moving parts are in order, there simply isn’t enough variety in raw gameplay to entertain for large doses. There are far better roguelikes on the Switch which are more evenly balanced and rewarding. However, if shoot-up infrequently and only stick around for a quick bender to avoid the comedown, it’s worth the hit.