I first got my hands on Ruiner at PAX West just a few weeks ago and the demo I played was a great time, fast paced and engaging right from the start. You play as an unknown badass sporting a mysterious motorcycle style helmet that covers his entire head. In this cyberpunk/anime style world this high tech helmet allows a hacker to zap your brain and effectively hold you hostage, threatening to kill you if you don’t abide by his will. On top of it all your brother has been captured and is being held hostage giving you further reason to do what the hacker asks. And what is it this mysterious hacker wants you to do? Uh…basically kill….a lot of people.
The art design and music for this game are fantastic and combine to create an amazing sense of immersion into the game’s cyberpunk world. The soundtrack is on par with games like Transistor or Bastion with atmospheric sounds like sirens and breathing sounds increasing your pulse as you make your way through each level. The graphics themselves aren’t anything revolutionary but they look good and do well to service the game’s very detailed artwork.
At its core Ruiner feels like your typical twin stick shooter but the gameplay is supplemented with RPG elements that allow you to customize your experience. You are provided with an array of abilities to choose from such as dashing, flash bangs, grenades, speed/damage boosts, shields, slow motion, and basic upgrades to your base weapons and health. Don’t worry about choosing the wrong abilities because you can swap your talent points out at anytime, even in the middle of combat, but this doesn’t create an unfair advantage for the player; in fact this is one of the best parts of the game.
Typically in games like this there is a “meta” or most efficient way to build your character and although there are some talents that I favored and used for a significant part of the game I found myself swapping out abilities for others just to get past certain areas where I was stuck. Bosses and even your regular bad guys are extremely varied in their attacks and utilizing all of the abilities in the game are paramount to success. For instance there was a boss that had a gun that had about a 1-2 second wind-up time and when it hit almost was a one shot kill. I died about 4 times to him before I decided to switch up my tactics and utilize for the first time the flashbang grenade skill. This allowed me to interrupt his charge up and stun him for a few seconds while I slashed into him with my sword multiple times. These kinds of adjustments are required and welcomed to vary the experience. I would be very interested to watch someone else play through the game just to see the different abilities they use throughout the game to get past each zone.
Not only are you given multiple skills to choose from but there’s also somewhere around 20-30 different guns and at least 10-15 different melee weapons to use to dispatch of the hundreds of enemies you fight. Most if not all of the weapons you find will be dropped by the enemies that you kill, including the bosses. The dropping of weapons off of the enemies creates a frantic element to the game because you are not provided with unlimited ammo or durability of the weapons you pick up. In fact each gun you pick up is only provided with one magazine of ammo. For example you pick up a shotgun and it will have 8 rounds in it or you pick up a flaming wrench and it will only last 15-20 hits before it breaks. This forces you to run around the battlefield switching out weapons on a regular basis and it makes for a really exciting experience.
As I eluded, from the bosses to the most basic minions are unique. From the guns they wield, their speed, armor, and even special abilities. I can’t stress enough how much this brings to the game and how it keeps each engagement exciting and frantic.
Ruiner is a fantastic twin stick shooter that manages to hit all the marks you look for in a game of its type. On a side note, I played the PC version and spent some time both using mouse/keyboard and with a controller and I found the experience to be much more fluid with a controller. Regardless of what platform you choose, I highly recommend picking up a copy and enjoying all that Ruiner has to offer. My play time clocked in at about 9 hours on normal mode and at $19.99 it is a wonderful purchase, well worth every penny.