By Joe Sigadel / September 10th, 2015
|Title||Relic Hunters Zero|
|Release Date||Aug 18, 2015|
|Genre||Top-Down Twin Stick Shooter|
Top down twin stick shooters are a dime a dozen these days, and it’s difficult to pick out one that stands out among the crowd. One hidden gem I took a look at was Relic Hunters Zero, with its cutesy, blocky cartoon art style, which is almost reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim. Relic Hunters Zero‘s gameplay flow reminded me a lot of Crypt of the Necrodancer. There are four major stages with sublevels to fight through, and 6 playable characters, but only two of them are available at the start. Normally you start from the first stage, and proceed from one stage to the next, but you can buy shortcut portals to the other 3 stages with enough bounty. The other characters are unlocked through completing various challenges, such as playing the game all the way through without using a single checkpoint. You use currency known as ‘bounty’ to purchase upgrades like starting with more ammo, more powerful weapons and grenades, and relic pieces. The relics themselves are the most desirable since they provide benefits such as doubling your health and shield capacity, and providing you with extra ammo. Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can find a relic piece at the end of a stage by searching around the area in a sort of hot ‘n cold mini-game until you find it. Once you’ve found it, you dig in place, collecting a few extra bounty and keep your prize: a piece of a relic you need to put together with two others to complete it and gain its benefits.
I mostly played Relic Hunters Zero with my Xbox 360 controller, but you can play this just as easily with your keyboard and mouse. You use the left stick to move and the right stick to aim, and you can make your aim more precise by holding down the left trigger while firing with the right. The enemies you face will come at you in groups, so I find multi-targeting weapons such as the shotgun most effective. The default character, Jimmy, is the most balanced and versatile, able to wield just about everything there is available. Pinkyy, by contrast, is very good with her fists, but will also take a lot of damage as well, so she’s more of a high-risk, high-reward gameplay. Landing Pinkyy’s punches on enemies can be devastating, but she will die easily in spite of her slightly increased health pool. As you progress through the stages, the enemies will use more sophisticated weapons on you. They start with basic pistols, but eventually graduate to really dangerous arms like heavy machine guns and sniper rifles. The duck-like enemies are the most dangerous out of the lot, they can take quite a few hits with their shields up and can also dodge out of the way of your bullets. Sometimes you have to get in there and just whack them, but it’s a risky maneuver I think you should only use as a last resort.
There isn’t much variety to the stages themselves, but the enemy placement seems to be randomized. With practice you’ll know how to deal with different enemy types, and you can even use traps such as the ! block explosive or whacking a cage full of angry beasts to sic them on your enemies as a distraction. What really makes this game unique though, is it’s unique free-to-play, microtransaction-free and open source model. It’s true that Relic Hunters Zero launched not too long ago, but it is also a work-in-progress, with the developers encouraging the players themselves to build upon what the devs have made with their own content. The source code is free for anyone to download and play with. I think that’s fantastic, because it allows creative types to make their own assets like guns and character sprites. This makes it somewhat hard to score, but I really encountered no problems playing it, no bugs or crashes whatsoever, and it’s free to try. There isn’t much musical variety, but the chiptune-styled soundtrack sounds pretty alright to me. The only reasons I can think of not to pick this up is that you don’t have the time, or you don’t enjoy twin stick shooters. It’s also fairly short, clocking in at around 4-6 hours to beat, depending on how good you are at it and how much you’ve unlocked. I wouldn’t really call this a roguelike, but it does gradually get more difficult to survive and easier to run out of ammo as you progress. Waiting for you at the end is the Ducan Commander himself, and he is a fairly nasty boss to contend with. Along with his minions shooting at you from every corner of the arena, you have to take down shield generators while trying not to get hit by his homing missiles.
I think it’s the player content that will be what gets people coming back to Relic Hunters Zero for multiple playthroughs, as well as completing the challenges to unlock all the characters. It’s local co-op only, and online co-op implementation seems unlikely for the time being. It would be really nice if this game ever got it, though. To sum it up, Relic Hunters Zero is a game with potential. There isn’t a lot to it in its basic form, but so long as there’s a willing community to make content for it, this game could have some amazingly creative mods that might extend your time with it a great deal.
Review copy was provided by the publisher
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