Developer: Cuddle Monster Games
Publisher: Super Rare Originals
Genre(s): Action, Shooter
Platform: Nintendo Switch, Steam
Age Rating: 3+
Release Date: 12.01.2023
A code was provided for review purposes
If Only It Was Lonely at the Top
A wise man once said that if you are going to do something, it should either be different or better than the competition. Whilst there are plenty of occasions where this isn’t always a fair statement, it couldn’t be truer when considering the development of a new roguelike or twin-stick shooter. Where once there was a clamouring for games of this ilk, eShops are now fit to burst with games that just haven’t done enough to avoid the cliched comparisons to Hades and The Binding of Isaac.
Neon Lights and Twin-stick Fights
Super Rare Originals, the newly formed publishing house from the team renowned for their work on limited physical print runs of popular indie titles, have recently released Lone Ruin. Developed by Hannes Rahm, it’s a spell-based roguelike twin-stick shooter that utilises a neon lit colour palette and a focus on magic to engage fans of the genre.
In its opening hours, Lone Ruin offers some good ol’ fashioned roguelike fun. You select from a wide variety of spells, defeat enemies as you venture deeper into the ancient ruin and choose from a plethora of power ups to increase your chances of success. There’s also an effective risk versus reward system. Completion of each room then provides you with a choice of two paths — you may be low on health and one of the rooms is offering a chance to heal, yet the other path has your favourite spell. It does a great job of keeping things interesting with each run.
Unfortunately, spending a little more time with Lone Ruin is when the cracks start to show. Enemy types aren’t nearly interesting enough, the rooms become less and less inspiring as time goes by, and repeat runs conjure the same bosses that leave a lot to be desired. It’s a shame because, at its core, the simplicity of the combat and the intensity with which the waves of enemies swarm at you makes for an excellent combination. This, coupled with the three different difficulty levels and the additional survival mode, offer promise that just isn’t fulfilled.
Where the game does deliver is with the combat. It’s fast and fluid whilst still retaining an element of strategy that ensures it doesn’t become a button-masher or a game of hit and hope. The dash mechanic is excellent, as is the spell options that are applied to ZR, R, and L buttons. It did take a little while to get used to using the additional spells obtained throughout a run, but it becomes second nature relatively quickly and is very slick.
What is fully realised is the banging soundtrack. Alfred Rahm has absolutely nailed the vibe with this one, producing an electric, thumping set of beats. It fits the stylistic choices of the setting incredibly well and builds the tension as the runs get more interesting and eventful. There’s an excellent synergy between the on-screen action and the brilliant soundtrack. It definitely does all it can to try and make the game more memorable.
I will continue to listen to Alfred Rahm’s work long after the credits have rolled. If the level of polish achieved with the soundtrack had been accomplished in other aspects of the game, Lone Ruin could well have been an indie release that I could have revisited for just as long.
Twin-stick or Twist?
As it stands, Lone Ruin feels limited in scope, design, and gameplay. It’s a game I want to love. However, it frequently left me wondering what would keep players coming back to this over the many other games in this genre that have released in recent years. It never really felt like anything more than a ‘good’ game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; I think there are more innovative and interesting indies out there worth pursuing before this one.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can buy Lone Ruin in the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.