Loot Rascals developed by Hollow Ponds comes really close to being an amazing rogue-like. Featuring a beautiful aesthetic design and a clever twist on loot design, the game is sadly undermined by less than forgiving rogue-like gameplay.
The story of Loot Rascals is that you are trying to rescue the robotic head of Big Barry who is being held by a creature from another dimension in a space theme park. If the story didn’t clue you in to the craziness, the visuals will. Loot Rascals looks fantastic; with an aesthetic that reminds me of either Katamari Damacy or Loco Roco. Every character oozes with a style all their own.
The game space is procedurally generated with each play as you go through five areas to victory. While it may not look it, the game is turn-based; moving across a hex counts as a turn. Every five turns will transition the day/night cycle which is key to combat.
Each enemy type will get the first hit depending on the time of day. Surviving combat is dependent on your attack and defense stats. Having high damage and getting the first strike will let you kill enemies before they get the drop on you. High defense allows you a greater chance at dodging attacks and reduces the damage done.
While combat is straightforward, Loot Rascal’s loot system is unique and its best part.
Gear in Loot Rascals is built on a card system. You have ten slots divided into a top and bottom row. There are attack and defense cards that raise your stats respectively, along with special gear and power-adding cards. Cards that raise your stats can also come with special modifiers that will benefit or hurt them based on where you put them. This creates an interesting dynamic of not just putting your best cards on, but maximizing their benefits.
Death, as in all rogue-likes, is absolute. When you die, you’ll lose all equipped cards and will be returned back to the first area. The enemy who killed you will take a card from your equipment and become a named monster. Instead of you hunting that enemy down, that enemy can now appear in someone else’s game.
If they can beat the enemy, they’ll have the choice to send the card back to you or keep it for themselves. Sending the card back gives a chance of having that character show up as an AI partner for a level.
Loot Rascals has an amazing look to it, but the gameplay proves to be more frustrating than it is fun.
Loot Rascals does not have any set progression in terms of player power. Any and all upgrades come from the card system and finding special abilities. Due to the simplicity of combat, your only hope is to get high enough gear to fight and defend against the enemies.
I’ve had runs stop on the first level due to unlucky drops, and others that made it far into the third area without much input from me. The contention is how attack and defense work.
The higher the enemy’s health is, the more damage they’ll do; meaning a strong first attack is preferable. If you don’t have enough attack, then the enemy can easily one shot you on their counter hit. On the other hand, a high defense gives you a greater chance at blocking and reducing damage. The problem is every turn that the enemy is alive gives them another shot at lowering your precious health.
This kind of design was intentional, as the game is only five levels long. The developers don’t want someone to just blaze through what’s there. However, with progress tied entirely to randomization makes it hard to keep motivated to continue.
The amazing art style of Loot Rascals and innovative card system are the best parts of the game, but the progression keeps me from making a return trip. I would suggest adding in some kind of persistence element like in the Binding of Isaac to give players a chance to improve. Another option would be a mechanic to mitigate the RNG in some fashion with the cards.
If you can put up with the craziness, Loot Rascals is a delightful game. For me, it doesn’t look like Barry is getting his head back. For more on the game, you can watch my spotlight.