Loot Rascals immediately establishes that it’s a game that does not take itself too seriously. You take on the role of the titular hero, a space explorer tasked with fixing the antenna of a “Big Barry”, a machine filled with “liquid anything”. Along with your teapot shaped Scottish companion, you find yourself crash landing on a mysterious planet filled with all sorts of colourful and terrifying dangers. It’s up to you to find “Big Barry” and escape the mysterious planet.
At its core, Loot Rascals is a turn-based roguelike strategy game that uses cards to aid your character in combat. And while the gaming space has been flooded with roguelikes in the past few years, for better or worse Loot Rascals tries a new and fresh approach.
At the beginning of each game, players are placed on a procedurally generated map. Your task? To find the exit and travel to the next map until you escape the planet. Standing in your way is a host of colorful and dangerous creatures out to get you. Combat in Loot Rascals makes use of various cards to augment your attack and defense stats. By defeating enemies, players will collect more cards to aid them. Up to eight cards can be equipped (two rows of four) and where they are placed can also determine your attack or defense stats. Managing your deck correctly is absolutely crucial and can sometimes mean the difference between being eaten by a three-eyed monster or being victorious. Figuring out which cards complement which can be both challenging and rewarding.
Now, along with deciding which cards to equip and where to equip them, players also need to strategically think when to attack as enemies toggle between attack and defense modes depending on a day/night cycle. It is more advantageous to attack these creatures when they are in defensive mode as this will allow you to land the first blow. When attacking, your power total (attack number) is subtracted from the enemy’s defense or vice-versa. If your defense is higher than the enemy’s attack value there is still a slight chance that you could take damage. It all sounds very mathsy but, thanks to the automated fast paced combat, it tends to feel less like a chore than I would have expected. Not only do you have to contend with these creatures, time also tends to be against you as taking too long to find the exit causes tougher enemies to appear.
When you find yourself defeated by the pointy end of a claw or weapon of an enemy that enemy will sometimes steal one of your cards, after which they might pop up in another player’s game. When that player defeats the enemy they have the choice of returning the card to the player that it was stolen from or keeping it for yourself. If you decide to send it back to the player a hologram of that player will appear and aid you in battle, should you, however, decide to keep it that same hologram will attack you. So, why would I keep the card in the first place? Well, I soon discovered that most of these stolen cards were quite powerful, and the option of keeping it can be quite tempting.
It all might sound confusing at first but, after a few playthroughs, I was defeating enemies and looting cards like an expert.
Without a doubt, the most eye-catching part of Loot Rascals is its colourful and vibrant Saturday morning cartoon art style. It’s a strange mix of cute and grotesque, which I found truly endearing. Seeing the “Thing Below”, a creature that enjoys the fact that you are killing all these enemies, resurrecting you by putting you back together limb-by-limb after your death is both funny and gross.
It’s this dichotomy that underpins the whole of Loot Rascals. Underneath its comically vibrant visuals lies a quite serious roguelike experience. There were some moments where the “luck of the draw” left me with weak cards which lead to my early demise, but that just motivated me to try again. I must also admit that I wish there was some sort of checkpoint system (call me a wuss) as the game can be truly tough sometimes.
In the end, I found myself falling in love with Loot Rascals‘ stunning visuals and it’s punishing gameplay.