Loot Rascals is a game with a look that’s almost too charming with its popping visuals and silly presentation that takes the deck building mechanics of a trading card game and rolls that into a rogue-like.
Developer: Hollow Ponds
Platform: PC & PS4
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
The game immediately introduces you to your silent astronaut and an AI buddy who seemed like he’d be a bigger part of the game than he actually is. You arrive on a planet to rescue the robot Big Barry only to find him taken hostage by a creature from another dimension. Your new mission is to save Barry and get the hell off that planet.
The combat in Loot Rascals is simple but a lot of fun to play with. You’ve got an attack and defense stat while enemies have a single unified power stat. When you enter the same tile as an enemy you’ll begin to fight. Your attack will subtract from their power when you’re on the offensive and vice versa their current power will be divided from your defense which will determine how much health is lost, if any at all. So if an enemy has 10 power and you have 5 defense then they’re going to hit you for 2 damage. Add on top of this a day and night cycle which changes the attitude of enemies. During the day one type of enemy might attack first while at night it goes on the defensive and you attack first. The game then turns into this dance of always making sure that you’re in the time of day that allows you to land the first hit which can get a bit hectic when a half dozen enemies show up on screen.
Now the game’s got this really neat combat system that’s based around collecting cards and essentially building a deck. You have two rows that both have five slots available for you to fill up with whatever crazy combination of cards you so desire. As you defeat enemies they’ll drop attack or defense cards that will raise those stats accordingly but the stronger enemies will begin to drop cards that have special effects on top of them. One might give a +1 bonus to the cards to the left or right of it while another might completely void its own stat bonus if there’s a duplicate card in your deck. Picking the right cards and placing them in the right spot is key to surviving in this game and it’s incredibly fun to sit there trying to figure out which order of cards will give you the best bonuses.
The thing about this game though is that your deck is a fluid sort of thing that’s always changing depending on what type of enemy you’re fighting. If a tough enemy shows up you might want to replace all your defense cards with attack ones to boost your damage output to hopefully take that guy out in a single shot then quickly switch back. Killing certain enemies will grant you special cards with various abilities like teleportation, healing, or spraying lightning in an area. There are also cards that offer no attack or defense bonuses, but instead directly alter the way your abilities or the game works. One might make the turn counter function as a real time counter instead if you wanted to give yourself some added challenge, or another might give your decoy ability an explosive side effect. Unfortunately you’ll start to see the same cards over and over pretty quickly, but you’re always getting them randomly so you might use a card in one way during one run, and use it differently in another.
The game also features a light multiplayer mode in that when you die your best cards are selected and tossed up in the network to appear in another player’s game. These are usually held by particularly powerful enemies and getting them can be fairly hit or miss. A person’s best card at their death might be something especially worthwhile, or something completely worthless which can usually make the effort to get these cards a fruitless endeavor. If you manage to grab one of these cards you’ll be prompted by a message asking whether you’d like to keep the card or return it to the player. Returning the card will have a hologram of that player appear in your game to assist you while keeping it will have that same hologram instead come to fight you. This is a neat idea that really makes the temptation to keep a card a hard question to ask yourself, except it would be a hard question if these holograms ever showed up. I’ve returned a multitude of cards from other players and in my time playing I’ve only seen a hologram appear once which confuses me since the trailer implies that it’s an immediate effect. I eventually hit a point where I stopped returning them and began keeping them for myself since I wasn’t seeing any repercussion for it at all.
That’s unfortunately all there really is to Loot Rascals. The game has five worlds that should take you anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour to get through depending on how quickly you can find the teleporter exit. There’s no sort of progression or items to unlock, and while the game features a hub area in each world I’m left to question why it’s even there since it implies more than it offers. You can save practice decks here, collect any returned cards, view a tutorial, or view the current world’s quest which always involves you finding a card in the environment and returning it for the reward of two more inventory slots which is unnecessary since you’re always burning cards for tokens. Speaking of tokens, you can spend those to heal at the glorified hub area and this cost increases to an absurd amount very quickly. During most of my runs I was never getting enough cards to acquire enough tokens to heal in the later worlds that can get stupidly difficult due to the amount of enemies the game starts to toss at you. I was usually having at least half a dozen enemies popping into my screen, even from outside my view of the map, and having to balance the day/night cycle, target the right enemies first, and deal with the abilities of certain enemies (like long range gunners) can turn into an almost herculean task that makes the fun grind to an immediate half.
Loot Rascals also has a rather frustrating difficulty curve. First off the world maps are fairly large and your goal is to find a teleporter to get to the next area. You generally want to explore as much as possible so that you’re prepared for the next world with a sufficient amount of cards on hand. Time is a factor though since you have a limited amount of turns before some creepy space bugs appear, with ridiculously more powerful versions showing up soon after the first batch. This means you have to race to find that exit which can prove problematic with how large the maps are since you could reach one end of the map, burning through most of that turn counter, and realize the exit was actually on the other side. With cards not dropping very often, this makes you want to go looking for enemies to fight which makes every enemy defeated with no reward another blow and waste of turns off the counter. The game demands that you have good enough cards to tackle the upcoming world, but also telling you to rush to that exit makes its message almost slightly hypocritical. Some worlds even start you with enemies that have triple the power of the previous world’s enemies standing directly outside your spawn point, forcing you to fight them to no avail. The low drop rate for cards and pressure to reach the teleporter before you’re prepared for it can lead to you being severely unprepared for these sort of moments. I’ve had this happen to me so many times it’s shifted from the game being difficult to just plain unfair. In something like FTL or Binding of Isaac when I die I know it was because of an error on my end, but in Loot Rascals most of my deaths felt like the game as actively working against me.
The Final Word
Loot Rascals is a bit of a frustrating package because the core concept is so damn interesting and well done, it’s just everything that surrounds it that sours the experience.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 3 out of 5 – Average