Developed By: Reikon Games
Published By: Devolver Digital
Category: Adventure, Action, Strategy
Release Date: 06.18.20
Ruiner for the Nintendo Switch is a fast-paced twin stick shooter/brawler featuring challenging, fast-paced gameplay. The title presumably derives from the fact that every time you pick up the game, someone’s day is gonna get ruined. More often than not, the day getting ruined is probably your own – but somehow that’s not a turnoff. Yes, this game is hard; you’re going to die a lot, get back up, and then die a lot again. But when you finally make it? When that tenth wave of mobs gets mowed down and you’re still standing? When that boss goes down and you don’t? That’s a good feeling. This is old-school game design at its finest; if you don’t have the budget to make a very long game, just make it super-freaking-hard and that will get players to stick around longer.
The concept of the gameplay is simple enough. It’s a twin stick action game; you move with one stick, aim with the other, and attack with the attack buttons. You’ve got a melee and ranged attack with your basic weapons, but defeated enemies will often drop better guns or melee weapons that have a limited amount of ammo. The weapon cycle of grab, deplete, repeat helps the combat feel faster and more satisfying. Most importantly, the controls are tight and responsive, which means the game derives its difficulty from genuine challenge, and not frustrating, arbitrary technicalities. As long as you’re not playing with the Joycons, that is – the super-thin L and R buttons on the Joycon make using them for two of the primary attack or skill buttons a bit of a chore. I was never able to comfortably use the Joycons, so more than most games a Pro controller (or third-party equivalent) comes so highly recommended I might call it a requirement.
In addition to your weapons, you can collect karma to level up, which unlocks points you can spend on special abilities like shields, grenades, dashes, healing abilities, and passive buffs like damage increases or more health. Best of all, you can reassign your ability points whenever you want, so if one strategy isn’t working, you can switch up your abilities and try again. Personally I stuck with the shield, dash, and health increases wherever possible and I got through the game OK – but the frag grenade was a lot of fun too.
When you’re in Rengkok – the fictional city where Ruiner takes place – you can take on side quests from various NPCs. They mostly reward you with karma, but you can also get some cool side quest storylines or the hacking mini game out of them. Hacking is a quick time event; just hit the buttons in the order they appear on the screen within the time limit. It’s a neat test of your reaction time, but then again the whole game is really a test of your dexterity with a controller. There’s an arena mode that’s fun to play through as well, but my favorite part of Rengkok was just wandering around talking to people complaining about their neo-noir world’s problems.
The story is simple but satisfying nonetheless; you’re a gun-for-hire that gets hacked into attacking the boss of Heaven, an evil future megacorporation. A mysterious figure known only as Her frees you and set you on a path to free your brother from Heaven’s captivity. Your silent protagonist murders his way through waves of enemies, and there are the requisite twists and turns that keep things interesting. The real star of the show here is the game’s setting; Ruiner is vibing hard on the whole cyberpunk dystopia groove. The heavily industrial futuristic urban look of the game’s locales offer a perfectly bleak, neon-infused world for the story and characters to inhabit, and that more than anything is what drew me into the game.
Not only is the setting really cool-looking, it’s well-rendered to boot. The graphics are sharp and attractive when you’re playing docked, but there’s a little loss of resolution when you’re playing undocked. I’m not 100% sure the Switch can really handle this game – my console was putting out a ton of heat when Ruiner was running. I didn’t run into any crashing issues or anything, but it was a source of worry for me. Accompanying the game’s awesome graphics is a just-as-awesome soundtrack with screaming hot electronic tracks that pump up the action to another level.
I really, really like Ruiner. The gameplay is easy to learn but also very challenging, and it plays smoothly enough that the challenge it poses is feels satisfying and not aggravating. I died a lot, but the game reloads from checkpoints relatively quickly, which cuts off my biggest source of frustration in games where I die a lot. The story is just fine, but the fleshed-out cyberpunk world that story inhabits – and the sounds that accompany it – are of the highest quality. If you’re a fan of fast-paced, highly challenging action, killer soundtracks, or an expertly-executed cyberpunk aesthetic, Ruiner needs to be on your must-play list. As long as you have something besides a Joycon to play with.
Digital – $19.99
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.