Hohokum alumni set out on a Roguelike adventure
The most recent game from Hollow Ponds co-founder Ricky Haggett – and, indeed, many of the people working with him at his new studio – was Hohokum, a borderless musing about freedom, self-expression and unhurried experimentation. So it’s fair to say that the last thing we expected to see in his latest project was a hex grid. But on closer inspection, Loot Rascals isn’t as rigidly defined as those hexagons suggest.
For starters, while this procedurally generated Roguelike is technically turn-based, you’re still able to gad around freely, making time wind on and the world rapidly switch between day and night. Enemies, too, will only move when you do, but some of them are gifted an unnerving turn of speed when you’re dashing about the map. If you find yourself on the same hex as an enemy, then a fight to the death will automatically play out.
Whether or not you emerge victorious depends on your attack and defence rating, which is determined by the Loot Chips you have equipped in your spacesuit. You’ll have a random selection to begin with, and most enemies will drop more on death. Tapping triangle switches from the top-down grid view to inside your helmet, and from here you can arrange collected chips on a 5x2 board. The chips come in blue and orange varieties (defence and attack, respectively), and while they have illustrations and evocative names – such as Hydra Putter and Ablative Armband – their only real function is to boost your stats.
An additional layer of strategy comes in the form of special conditions on certain cards. For example, a card might gain value if it’s placed below another card of the same colour, in a particular row or if it’s the only card of its type equipped. Once you’ve got enough chips it becomes a mini-puzzle ensuring you have everything arranged in the most efficient and powerful way. Some chips can be flipped between orange and blue states; others are sticky and cannot be rearranged once placed; and still more can be laid on top of existing cards to bestow state changes, such as fire or filth, and unlock special attacks.
These abilities, which include a freeze ray and teleportation, are deployed by aiming with the right stick and then tapping R1. You get one shot and must charge the meter again by revealing more of the map or finding a one-shot-charge tile to stand on. Combat is deepened by enemies’ strong ties to the time of day – some are nocturnal, others diurnal – and whether their first move in an encounter is to defend or attack will depend on whether it’s the sun or the moon that’s illuminating the battlefield. Some larger, more powerful enemies switch between strong and weak forms with every move, so you’ll have to judge when to move onto the hex they occupy. If you get it wrong and are slain, the wily victor will pick over your corpse and steal a Loot Chip, sending it to a random player’s game online. When you defeat the stronger enemies in your own game, they’ll drop a high-level chip looted from another player and you then have to decide whether to keep hold of it or send it back. Doing the latter means you could encounter that player’s hologram which will tag along and help for a time. If you keep it, the same hologram may well be hostile when you run into it.
Whether you choose benevolence or greed, you’ll also have to decide which chips to get rid of in return for gold coins – exchangeable at each level’s home base for health, and the only way to recover from damage. Even at this early stage, the result of all these systems is a pacy, addictive spin on the Roguelike genre, and one that feels every bit as accommodating as Hohokum.
Some more powerful enemies switch between strong and weak forms with every move