Twin-stick shooters pop up fairly often, some stick around for a while and become cult classics (Geometry Wars, Hotline Miami) but most fade into obscurity. I feel like saying RUINER falls into the latter would be doing it an injustice, it may not leave a lasting impression on me or the market, but man, it’s bloody good fun.
RUINER is a top down twin-stick shooter from Polish developer Reikon Games, and published by Devolver Digital (Shadow Warrior, Hotline Miami).
The developers have labelled the game ‘in the spirit of cult cyberpunk anime’ and the influence is clear. You’re thrown straight into a dingy, futuristic, tech dominated world of sewers and crime, ruled by a capitalistic, corporate overlord known as ‘Heaven’.
They also named their main inspiration as ‘the world we live in’ which is mighty bleak if you ask me as this game features no natural beauty or uplifting aspects whatsoever, it’s a dark, moody world of metal and violence.
Gameplay – Not for the Faint Hearted
If they see the world as brutal and unforgiving, well they’ve done very well to reflect this in the gameplay. This game is hard.
Along with twin-stick shooters in the same vein, ie. Hotline Miami, the game is incredibly fast, smooth, and clean, and this matters because accuracy is key. Enemies will mow you down without hesitation and you need to react quickly to survive.
I rarely felt cheated by the game, if I died, generally, I knew I just wasn’t being fast enough. Luckily when you die you’re straight back into the action to get another shot at the encounter.
I played the game on PC with an xbox controller and while the game did brutalise me at the start, I did find myself quickly gaining some semblance of skill with the controls and actually found myself managing to complete some enemy encounters with my deaths in the single digits.
Weaponry – Plenty of it.
The game provides you with a wide range of weapons to take down your enemies; You start with a basic pistol with unlimited ammo and a trusty indestructible pipe to whack enemies over the head with, with enemies dropping a variety of guns and melee weapons you can pick up which come with a fairly minimal amount of ammo.
Melee attacks are incredibly satisfying and great for conserving ammo, however just like the guns they need to be aimed and timed with an accuracy my old man hands couldn’t fathom, even at 22.
The game punishes you further by turning all unused weaponry lying around at the end of encounters into experience, rewarding you for making your life a living hell by just using the stock weaponry.
The extra experience opens you up to a fairly simple but incredibly useful talent tree system, where you can unlock and upgrade a collection of abilities. This is absolutely necessary as particular upgrades saved my life more times than I could count. You can also re-spec for free and on the fly, which worked well as I could tailor my abilities to get through specific encounters.
Story – It has one.
The story drives the game along but isn’t particularly deep. The dialogue is great and at times it was genuinely hilarious or heart-breaking, and the world is fascinating, there’s just not much of it there to get invested in. I didn’t feel like this was too much of a detraction from the game however, I still had a great time playing it, and it still pulled me in for another play through.
Audio-Visual – Musical Genius
Visually, it’s pretty but not stunning, the effects can get a bit much during the more hectic fight scenes, but never so much as to be frustrating. Where the game really shines though is the hand drawn character cards that show during dialogue, they were incredibly well drawn and matched the aesthetic perfectly. The music is from the renowned composer Susumu Hirasawa (Paprika, Millennium Actress) and is simply epic; a cross between dirty techno beats and grungy electric guitar, it’s a soundtrack I would definitely buy separately.
At about 6 hours long the game felt like a good length and repeat play throughs at higher difficulties are calling me. It’s a soul-crushing experience and I only want more of it. While it doesn’t feel like as much of a game-changer as Hotline Miami or Geometry Wars, it’s still an incredibly solid game and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves snapping controllers with rage.
4/5 – Buy it, you’ll hate yourself, but it’s worth it.
RUINER is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.