Platform: PC (RRP: £6.99)
Developer: Hopoo Games
Risk Of Rain is madly brilliant and brilliantly maddening.
It was always going to be. Blending the thumb-shredding twitchy action of an old-school run & gun platformers with compelling roguelike elements and MOBA-esque skills results in a seriously addictive proposition. Or in less flowery terms: it's the best of three worlds - and fit to kick your arse even as you beg for seconds.
Controlling one of a selection of Sci-Fi heroes, we'll hare around the surface of a hostile planet as foes rain down from the heavens, desperately attempting to blast our way to safety and fill out an enormous list of items and enemies. Now that the two-person student team has ironed out most of the annoying bugs that shipped at launch, it's high time we gave Risk Of Rain our full and thoroughly deserved attention.
A cargo ship full of lethal monsters is crippled in orbit over a mysterious planet, spewing its deadly manifest down onto the ground below. As a survivor of the wreck, players choose from a range of classes specialising in different combat roles and battle through ten expansive stages, keeping an eye out for an exit teleporter somewhere in the level. Activating it requires you to destroy an enormous boss and survive for ninety seconds; simple on paper but incredibly tough when animated dirt golems, glittering space jellyfish, swarms of lizardmen, gigantic lava worms and countless other beasties descend upon you en masse.
It's brutally tough Contra-esque fare as you jump, climb and shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot, but each unlockable class brings some ARPG flavour. Or perhaps MOBA flavour, to be more precise. Each survivor has four unique skills to draw upon, all with deeply situational uses and cooldowns to consider. The starting commando, for example, stays mobile with a lengthy dodge roll and knocks back enemies with his dual pistols. Finding a secret area in the last level grants access to the HAN-D robot, who pushes foes around the stage while spawning armies of floating Drones, whereas the versatile Huntress blinks about with merry abandon. Naturally guns and skills pack more punch as the XP flows in.
Every class has their own rhythm and playstyle that's a thrill to experiment with and master, especially when you unlock a survivor who fits your own strengths to a tee. Unlocking them requires a feat of skill that will test players to the limit (or their patience at least), but they all make successive playthroughs feel totally different.
Like any good Roguelike, you'll also acquire handy items randomly picked from a growing roster of essential and plain odd upgrades. From the ability to squish enemies underfoot to passive armour and sizzling Tesla Coils, bulking out and utilising your item stock is the key to eventual key to success and an addictive draw in its own right. And, of course, there's permadeath to encourage numerous failed runs that gradually take us ever closer towards seeing the end credits. In the interest of full disclosure, I still haven't unlocked all the characters and items, but I've already got my money back several times over.
Your first impulse will be to grab an ear of corn and get stuck into some serious farming, fighting off the early enemies by the bucketload for masses of gold and experience. It's by far the most obvious way of getting ahead in Risk Of Rain, and will also result in guaranteed failure. The twist, see, is that the difficulty ramps up over time, putting the focus on completing bosses as quickly as possible as hordes of foes teleport on top of you and fall out of the sky by the heaped dozen. Hence the title.
Since you'll need to acquire decent gear and power through before the odds tip too far in the enemy's favour, balancing greed with speed is the order of the day. Hence my title. This lethal escalation makes Risk Of Rain feel fresh and new despite its somewhat hackneyed individual components.
Visually, Risk Of Rain is thoroughly adequate and benefits from an eye for imaginative monster design. Though I'm actually starting to tire of the retro big pixel art style, Risk Of Rain looks unique enough to stand out from the pack. An exceptional electronic soundtrack warrants special mention, helping to create an atmosphere of mystery and impending threat.
Multiplayer rounds out the package nicely, absolutely shining in local single-screen gameplay as a couchful of braying pals bicker and argue over who's fault the last failure was. Online multiplayer is also serviceable, but requires players to swap IP addresses like we've travelled back to 1999. Oh well, at least it works, which is more you can say for plenty of small Steam projects.
A few little niggles do need to be mentioned, mostly-fixed glitches and frame rate hiccups aside. You'll see broadly the same monsters in the first few minutes of each playthrough, which can get a little repetitive, while the sheer frequency of late-game enemy spawns can result in screens crammed full of nonsensical firey laser mob-rushing death that buries your character in any sense of the phrase. But, critically, you'll keep playing Risk of Rain because you want to complete all the lists, unlock all the characters and - most importantly of all - because you'll be loving every masochistic minute.
- Engaging, stressful, intense, hectic platforming bliss
- Versatile skills, classes and items make playthroughs unique
- Outstanding soundtrack and eyecatching pixel art style
- Superb local co-op
- Repetitious enemy types, especially in early game
- Can be overwhelming, both in difficulty and visual feedback terms
- Online co-op is straight out of 1999 (remember those IPs!)
The Short Version: Risk Of Rain is a retro-tough indie gem that pumps Roguelike and RPG elements into insane old-school run & gun platforming. You'll love every ridiculously addictive hardcore second of it, probably grinning and gurning like a sweaty lunatic as you do so.