Hotline Neo Miami
Wejoke quite often about the grimdark future, but Ruiner takes it to such an extreme that we can’t help but laugh anew. Players take the role of Puppy, a leather-clad, cybernetic assassin with a screen for a face tasked with destroying Heaven, a megacorporation that lives in luxury while everyone else in Rengkok is slaved to VR and used as cheap, disposable labour or entertainment. There’s also something about Puppy’s brother being missing or dead, and some other grimdark grimdarkness that is pretty forgettable. It’s all just an excuse for players to hack, stab, bludgeon and shoot their way through a number of levels and boss battles on the path of revenge, or justice, or whatever it is. If you thought Hotline Miami was a dark twin-stick shooter, you ain’t seen nothing.
While the actual story may be forgettable, the visual design of the game is anything but. It’s a beautiful looking world, in a dysfunctional, bloody and misanthropic kind of way. The stages themselves are very dark, whether they be back alleys or the walkways of an insane manufacturing plant, but they are not without colour. Vibrant reds, yellows and blues cut through the gloom, giving a neon highlight to the otherwise gloomy surroundings. When combat starts, things become even more colourful, with every gun seeming to fire tracer bullets, and every dash or attack having a glowing trail. It looks fantastic, or at least it does for the first three or so hours of the six odd hour game. The game world never starts to look worse, but what it does do is start to look familiar, as you fight through levels you’d swear you’d been through before against enemies that must have come from a cloning factory.
Combat shines when Puppy comes up against a boss. Some come from the same cookie cutter as the minions, but others, like a massive, multi-room construction robot are amazing. Killing enemies and bosses earns Puppy experience to spend on various skills or weapon upgrades, but it’s here that the developers have let themselves down again. Of all the skills, only one seems vital - dash. Improving the dash ability gives more chances to avoid damage while inflicting his own. Having electrical grenades or weapon powerups just feel incidental by comparison. Luckily players are encouraged to respec their skill points on the fly, so none of the points ever feel permanently wasted.
Despite the flaws and frustration over repetition and useless skills, there is still something magnetic about Ruiner. It’s brutally, but not unfairly hard. Easy difficulty is moderate for any other game, and moderate is pull-yourhair-out hard. Enemies move fast and without some serious health and shield upgrades, Puppy is a rather squishy murderbot. You rarely face less than a handful of enemies at a time, and trying to avoid attacks while adding your own red highlights to the decor is a rather tense affair. Every time you die you feel the urge to try one more time, and every victory becomes a fist-pumping moment.
fight through levels you’d swear you’d seen before against enemies from a cloning factory
Add some blood orange to the grimdarkness.