Sublevel Zero Redux
Developed By : SIGTRAP Games
Published By : Coatsink Software
Category : Roguelite, Shooter, Arcade
Release Date : Oct 17, 2019
As much as I loved what are now retro games as a kid, the concept of roguelite and rogue-like’s took a while to grow on me. I got too reliant on save systems and checkpoints, so the concept of trying to wallop a game in one-shot and needing to restart completely didn’t entice me at first. Experiencing games like Binding of Isaac and Dead Cells opened this door for me, and it’s now a genre that I love diving into. So how can Sublevel Zero Redux on the Nintendo Switch fit in with the genre?
For centuries, the universe has been falling apart, with entire solar systems disappearing, then reappearing light years away. Humanity has scattered, hiding and hoping for their own safety, while some clans want to know more and learn why their universe is fracturing. You are a scout, out on one of these info-grabbing missions, when you come across what appears to be an ancient facility hidden in an asteroid field. You send messages to your clan and decide to get a closer look while you wait for a team to show up and support you. Too late, you are sucked into a blackhole along with the asteroids and the facility, which has been the cause of all the problems. Now, you must navigate through the facility and scrape together whatever ancient technology you can find and hope it’s enough to buy your freedom and help you understand why things are happening in the universe.
Sublevel plays as a six-degrees-of-freedom shooter. For those unfamiliar with the term, this simply refers to the fact that you can move in all six directions : up, down, forward, backward, left and right. This is further assisted by the fact that the game naturally takes plaze in zero-g. You control your ship with the joysticks, the left for movement, the right for turning, and the L and R buttons can respectively lower and raise the level of the ship.
The levels you find yourself in are random and proceduraly generated, so it’s a fresh new experience with every New Game. Your campaign is short overall, and you can track your progress on the screen between levels. To advance, you’ll need to find the core on the current level, destroy it, and equip whatever ancient technology you find by doing so. This creates a portal that transports you to the next level, and so on until you either finish a run or you die.
Before you start a new run, you have the option of choosing your ship. This basically boils down to what kind of weapons you will have loaded out with you. Initially only two are available, the basic gunship and the seeker. The basic ship gives you pretty average weapons, while the seeker introduces you to some homing technology. Further ships will need to be unlocked under specific conditions, like killing a certain number of enemies with plasma weapons, taking a set number of damage on one level and still completing it, or finishing the game with the advanced difficulty.
Sublevel Zero also brings a bit of crafting along with it. As you kill enemies, some will randomly drop blueprints for weapons, as well as materials to craft these weapons. Once crafted, they are permanently unlocked and can be selected for a loadout in all your future runs, so find all of these that you can.
If you enjoy the concept of the lore, you can also collect datalogs as you navigate around the fortress too. For the most part these seem to be in set locations if you explore enough. However, there were a few rooms that I encountered a high number of enemies in, and after wiping them out found a datalog. So I suppose there is a chance these can be dropped too, but realistically I probably just didn’t notice it while fighting for my life.
While I had a good amount of fun with the game mechanically, I found myself unable to play it for long lengths of time due to the visual aspect. Overall the graphics were okay, but they felt like a lot of the same no matter where I went. It always seemed like the chambers were similar to other chambers, and the connecting-ways between chambers were similar to their ilk as well. After a couple of runs I needed to turn off the game just to shake off the sameness before jumping in again.
This is a game that is definitely enjoyable, I just wish for me that it could be enjoyed in longer stretches. If this graphic style is more your thing, or if the action the game dispenses is enough for you, then by all means tank some serious time into this one. For me though, no matter what level I was on, no matter what ship I was in, my eyes kept coming back to the bland surroundings and turning me off from the game. Luckily the combat was interesting enough, and the lore even moreso, to keep my head in the game.
I also wasn’t a fan of the roll controls, and how they snapped to 90-degree rotations instead of just being a free-roll. That combined with the placements just seemed like a very odd decision. I felt that rolling would have been better suited bound to L and R, with the raising/dropping of the altitude set to B and Y. Which wouldn’t be so bad overall if these controls could be re-bound.
In the end Sublevel Zero is pretty fun for short stints of play, but it might not be your cup of tea if you want to play for the long haul. Either way, this game launches tomorrow on the eShop so grab your copy and solve the mysteries of the universe.