First Looks// PAX East 2017: Loot Rascals

Posted 20 Apr 2017 11:38 by
There's a podcast I listen to called Checkpoints. It is similar to my own show, The Sausage Factory in that it is interview-based and questions members of the games industry about them and their careers. One of the standard questions asked in Checkpoints is 'what is the funniest game you have ever played'? or words to that effect. Up until recently my answer has been the standard Monkey Island, but now, having played Loot Rascals at PAX East 2017, my answer has shifted.

Made by Hollow Ponds Games, Loot Rascals is a turn based rogue-like adventure game. It was released on Steam and PS4 recently and I got some time with it at PAX East 2017. Infused with a heavy dollop of British humour, Loot Rascals borrows heavily from tabletop games in that the player has to collect cards that upgrade the astronaut they are controlling as they march across a hex-based map. Yes you read that correctly, Loot Rascals is a hex-mapped, turn-based strategy game with playing cards. It is at this point you may be wondering how such a game could are regarded as even remotely funny. Well, as is the case with most things, it's all in the presentation.

The player takes on the role of a planet repair-person who has been sent out to fix a Big Barry terraforming device. This fully automated machine is dropped onto planets and changes the planet into one fit for human habitation, while also adding a holiday resort. There are occasions when things go awry for the Big Barry machines and this is one of those times. Contact has been lost with it and the AI Genie that is a constant companion to the repair astronaut soon discovers that something a great deal less benign than a broken antenna has occurred and it is up to the player to guide these two back to safety.

Play takes place across a series of areas all split up on a hex-based map. As the player moves through these maps turns are taken and the cycle of day and night rolls around. Monsters encountered in the world are affected by the time of day and alter the behaviour accordingly. Some attack during the night, for example, and it is advisable for the player not to engage them when they do so, or else they are likely to be harmed during combat.

There are many more nuances involved with character vs. enemy creature interactions that I do not have the space to cover here, but I can assure you Loot Rascals is a very complex game that thankfully has an shallow teaching mechanism through which the player is introduced to new concepts in a relatively manageable fashion.

Creatures that are killed can drop cards that act as upgrades to the player. These act as a pool of up to eight cards that are split into a grid of 4 x 2. The placement and number of cards is important as these two aspects impact on the player's abilities and base statistics of defence and attack values. These define the player's power as they roam through the hex-bound maps.

Loot Rascals has a very unique presentation style that those familiar with Adventure Time will be familiar with. Bright, 2D sprites that are oversized and bereft of any major details are prevalent but they are animated extremely well. It therefore will not come as a surprise to hear that the artist behind Adventure Time also had a hand in with the creation of Loot Rascals.

This, of course, adds to the humour and the sound mirrors the art in everything from the narration provided by the Genie AI to the effects heard as powers are triggered and combat is engaged. Everything is over the top and would be jarring if it weren't for the visuals matching them.

There is a lot more to say about Loot Rascals that a mere hands-on experience cannot hope to convey, but I can assure you reader that my time with it had me forgetting I was on a very busy show floor in the middle of the expo hall at PAX East, which is no mean feat.

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