Shadow of Loot Box
Developed By: Stately Snail
Published By: Ratalaika Games
Category: First-Person, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 11.6.18
If you’re not tired of loot boxes yet, good news! Stately Snail and publisher Ratalaika Games have cooked up the perfect formula to make your eyes roll back in your head at the mere mention of loot or boxes. Shadow of Loot Box is nominally a parody of games that rely too much on microtransactions and pay-to-win models, and those ideas are totally worthy of derision, but sometimes while playing I forgot that it was supposed to be a parody.
Shoot at Stuff
Shadow of Loot Box is based around a first-person shooter template, similar to Fallout or Destiny. The shooting mechanics are wildly inaccurate; the thumbstick sensitivity is not fluid at all even at the highest setting, making aiming a bit of a crapshoot. Movement and jumping are fine. Part of the “joke” of the game is that you have to unlock basic skills, like jumping and interacting with objects. The rest of the skill tree is fairly standard; extra health, damage, and ammo. The game doesn’t do anything particularly exciting with these ideas. The action is pretty boring.
You’ll find loot boxes sprinkled throughout every level, but if that’s not enough for you, we’ve got microtransaction simulators! You start off with some money that can be used to buy more loot boxes or items to skip certain parts of a level. You can get more money by finding dollar sign icons in the field. These icons let you do things like “watch ads” or “fill out a survey” for more money. Really you just sit there while a timer bar labeled “watching ads” fills in slowly. Like a lot of things in the game, the execution of this idea feels somewhat lazy. And that’s really the frustrating part of the game’s humor; is it lazy, or is it just designed to look lazy? And in the end, is there a difference?
Taking Aim at Every Gaming Trend. Every. Single. One.
Through sixteen levels, you contend with gaming buzzwords like open worlds, crafting, platforming puzzles, achievements, and collectibles, just to name a few. Some levels parody DLC, DRM, and buggy releases; one level is just a long hallway with a sign informing you that the level has been removed so that it can be released as paid DLC at a later date. The game lacks a real story, and this is where the parody often falls short. Parody has to be more than just identifying subjects ripe for ridicule. There has to be a payoff to a joke, and there is none to be found here.
Every text block is riddled with typos and bad grammar. The title of each level is the subject that particular level is “lampooning.” Every new gameplay element is just “press A.” The humor is obvious and uninspired, delivered without irony or even an ounce of personality. It’s the equivalent of a person asking “Do you get it?” after every joke they tell. In attempting to create a game poking fun at games with the elements it wishes to lampoon, all Shadow of Loot Box does is create another game that relies solely on those same gimmicks to comprise its gameplay experience.
Voxels Are Overdone. Do You Get It?
The graphics are probably the brightest point of the game. While I’m not the world’s biggest voxel fan in general, the idea of the aesthetic appeals to me. Shadow of Loot Box actually does a decent job building some smooth, or at least uniform, visuals. Enemy models look pretty neat; they’re almost always some kind of treasure chest with claws and/or spider legs. There are only like 4 different models besides the bosses, but still. The bosses themselves have pretty cool designs (think King Slimes from the Dragon Quest series, but loot boxes instead of slimes). The backgrounds and environments are surprisingly varied, with castles, forests, deserts, and frozen mountains making up the setting. The audio elements of the game are so underdeveloped I’m not sure they’re even worth mentioning. The music makes so little impression I had to start the game up while writing this section just to remind myself there actually was music. Audiophiles can safely skip this one.
Shadow of Loot Box doesn’t employ any of the Switch’s touch or motion controls, so it doesn’t matter whether you want to play docked or undocked. I suppose the voxel graphics look sharper on the Switch’s screen than they do on my TV, so there’s a slight edge there. The Pro controller was much more comfortable than the attached Joycons, but using the Pro while undocked means I need to find somewhere to prop up the screen, and that’s a whole thing I don’t need. So I guess if you want to use a Pro, play docked; otherwise, undocked. Seems fair.
TL;DR: I get the joke they’re trying to make, it just doesn’t land.