RUINER from Devolver Digital and Reikon Games is an action shooter with a cyberpunk vibe. Set in 2091, in this world not only can computers be hacked but so can your mind! Fight your way through the corrupt underground world with a variety of weapons and abilities to rescue your brother.
When you begin the game, your only objective is ‘Kill boss!’, this will flash on screen quite often like you are in some sort of hypnotic trance. As you smash your way through henchmen searching for The Boss, the tutorial will teach you how to play. Admittedly, I found the controls on the Nintendo Switch a little hard to get used to, aiming attacks with the right stick feels a little unnatural (compared to aiming shooter games on a PC with a mouse) but the button layout does make sense when you have quite a few tools at your disposal.
You can warp around to dodge attacks or use it to get closer so you can use your melee weapon. Alternatively, you can use a shield to block attacks but it will go down as soon as you start to attack. Both of the former abilities will use up your energy bar, so you will have to use them in moderation. Throughout the game there are many more abilities to unlock and you can choose to place your points in the skills and loadouts that suit your play style. There are heaps of weapons to try out and the gameplay is quite fun. I’d have to say my favourite weapon is the flamethrower.
The levels chain together in a bunch of smaller sections that autosave your progress, so longer dungeon crawls can be left midway without fear of having to start over. When you do complete a section, you can grind up all the weapons lying on the ground into one better weapon and karma points by using the machine that drops down for you. Having these small breaks between combat sections is good as it gives you a chance to either allocate new skill points or flip through your mission information.
RUINER has 3 difficulty levels and you can change it mid-game if you’ve set it too hard. Some of the bosses are quite tough even on Easy, as this game is known for being challenging. Simply unloading bullets at every enemy doesn’t always work, as you will have to block or run away to cover from devastating attacks or face certain death. If you thrive on the fear of instant death for one wrong move, then set the game on Hard if you dare!
The visual designs of RUINER are fantastic, with a very clean minimalist HUD and great color palettes. Duotones have been quite popular with artists the last few years and RUINER uses red/blue as is its main colour theme throughout the game to make everything visually cohesive. From the promo art, to level design and ambient lighting, a futuristic but dark brooding mood is set. Red is used all through your HUD but also as a key item indicator within the game. Objects you can pick up, interact with or be wary of will have red highlights. While the actual gameplay is 3D, there are some really nice 2D character art used throughout the game on dialogue screens that have a gritty comic book style. If you love movies like The Terminator and Akira, you will love the cyberpunk setting that this game has to offer.
The music has an eerie vibe, using a witch house subgenre of synthwave electronic music. With these amazing atmospheric tracks by the artist Sidewalks and Skeletons, the sound will pull you deep into the dark world of RUINER.
Overall RUINER is fun, challenging and feels quite unique in its use of top down angle, upgradable abilities, dark visual designs and music. If you like action games and arcade shoot em ups, this is an excellent blend of these genres and worth your time!
RUINER is available on Nintendo Switch now.