High hopes followed my initial startup of Loot Rascals. A catchy, space-age soundtrack accompanies a unique art style and charming storyline immediately that had me interested. However, from the moment I started the game’s tutorial, I was completely disillusioned with what was to come. While the game (if played well) can be called an enjoyable grind, its complicated turn-based combat mechanics, overly-intricate loot systems, and nuzlocke-esque death consequences make it more of a chore than anything.
Loot Rascals is a turn-based combat roguelike. Movement is made across hexagonal spaces, some of which contain monsters, barriers, and switches. To progress through each level, you must avoid or defeat these “Rascals” while looking for a warp space that takes you to the next area. Defeating Rascals in combat yields “loot,” which consists of defensive items, offensive items, and power-ups.
In the opening cutscene of the game, the main character (who you get to choose) is awakened in their spaceship by their AI sidekick, G.E.N.I.E. Out to check on a routine delivery gone wrong, the ship crash lands on a mysterious moon, and is immediately swarmed by zany Rascals. These Rascals are admittedly funny-looking, with silly names and violent tendencies. In fact, all the game’s characters are a little odd, which fits beautifully with its chosen art style. The world in which they reside is small, linear, and visually fun.
Each level is littered with Rascals, all with different personalities and power levels. Combat is automatically triggered by being in the same hexagon as an enemy, meaning you can attack a Rascal, and vice-versa. Some Rascals are skittish and tend to run away, while others aggressively pursue you. Above their heads is a symbol, which is either red, meaning the Rascal will attack if you enter combat, or blue, meaning the Rascal will defend against you. Combat is also affected by day and night, which the game switches between every five spaces. If a Rascal normally defends during the day, it will attack at night, and so on.
The turn-based combat itself is an oddly complicated part of the game. Attack power and defensive ability are determined by loot, which has to be equipped in specific ways to yield the most effective result. Defending against an attacking Rascal will likely result in losing health unless your defensive items can completely block their attack (which they often cannot).
The day and night aspect of combat adds another element of complexity and seems to create unsolvable problems instead of introducing an opportunity for new strategies. When facing new and more powerful enemies, some can defy the five-space night/day change. This means the enemy Rascals can be permanently ready to attack, setting the player up for failure. Even enemies that consistently switch between day and night can switch unpredictably since movement across the hexagonal board isn’t space-by-space, but rather determined by the player’s footsteps. This leaves little room for strategic variance, or really any kind of strategy, making the combat and gameplay dull and difficult.
If your defensive items aren’t up to snuff, or if you fall victim to a swarm of super-aggressive Rascals (which appear if you don’t finish the level within a set number of turns), you’ll likely die an unsuspecting death. And dying really is the worst part – after defeating countless Rascals and looting some excellent items, you die and lose everything. One of your loot cards is stolen, taken away, and you start back at the beginning, item-less.
Conversely, the item that is stolen from you is sent to another player in the game. While Loot Rascals is not outwardly a multi-player experience, it does have a few fun quirks like this that encourage a type of community. If you receive an item that was stolen from another player, you can choose to keep the item or return it to them. If you return it, the player will later appear and help you along the way. If you decide to keep it, the player will still appear, but they will attempt to seek revenge for their stolen goods.
Overall, Loot Rascals has fun ideas, but mediocre execution. The best things I have to say about the game complement its soundtrack, voice acting, and aesthetic appearance. The rest of it, including gameplay mechanics, enemy development, and strategic ability, leaves something to be desired. Fans of roguelikes are more likely to enjoy Loot Rascals, but will likely still be frustrated with the lack of strategy, steep learning curve, and little variance it has to offer.