IMPRESSIONS: RUINER on Nintendo Switch

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

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It’s established by now I’m a fan of Devolver Digital. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean I love everything they publish, generally I find their roster to be worth a look. And I’ve personally been curious about RUINER since I saw it at PAX West. Originally it wasn’t for Nintendo Switch, so when I saw news it was coming, I had to try it. The question then is was this stylish cyberpunk game worth the wait?

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The first thing you should know about RUINER is that it oozes style. The visual flair, music and overall theme come together fluidly to build a beautiful dystopian nightmare. When you start the game brainwashed by a criminal during the tutorial, you know the game isn’t wasting any time with subtlety. And I respect all that. My problem with the game came from how unnecessarily complex the controls are.

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The game is a twin-stick shooter, a genre I typically love. But there’s elements that chipped away at my appreciation for the gameplay. One early on was that you have to tilt your character’s head in the direction you want to aim. This isn’t necessarily the same as the direction you’re moving, so you sort of contort yourself like a cyberpunk pretzel. Worse, the direction you aim reverts the minute you let go of the Joy-Con. I felt this made the movement more twitchy than I enjoy. It’s especially problematic when you realize all that the game expects of you combat-wise.

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This is NOT a simple or easy game, and you can get wiped out in seconds. You have lots of systems to manage, different melee tools, tons of guns with limited ammo and more. Plus you have access to a dash move that is great at first, but then the game expects you to hold the dash button and map out multi step dashes. That’s fine in theory, but it’s not well explained at all, and I much preferred the basic dash. Then toss various skills you can learn and equip and it starts to become a recipe for disaster. Or at least confusion.

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Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. There’s so many menus and sub menus to keep track of that it’s very easy to get lost. Sure, you can press a button to get your bearings, but it’s not all that helpful. And while I appreciate how you’re free to wander and accept side quests, that’s where I ran into trouble. I took the first quest available, dealing with a den of Creeps hiding the man who hacked your brain. It seemed straightforward, find him and kill him. But I quickly found I didn’t know how to progress. It probably doesn’t help the game uses so much red and black colors, making everything blend together after a while. All I know is I fought a group of Creeps, and then was unable to move forward or backtrack, since laser grids had locked me in. Frankly I’m a bit embarrassed how early I got lost in RUINER, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that colored my impressions.

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I had high hopes for RUINER, and they weren’t really realized. While I’m not completely giving up on the game, and plan on trying it again in the future, I also feel the devs have their work ahead of them optimizing this adventure for Nintendo Switch. Especially considering how huge of a download it is at more than 7 GB. If you’re curious, I’d still check the game out. It’s more than possible I missed something basic that locked my progress. For everyone else, you might want to play RUINER on a different system.

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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.