Disclosure ‐ This review was written using a key provided to us by Devolver Digital
Do you like fast-paced, balls to the wall, brutal action? Of course, you do! Devolver Digital has certainly shown they’ve got a bit of a fetish for it over the years. Indeed, Reikon Games, a studio from Warsaw, Poland, fit the publisher’s mould with their debut project, RUINER. RUINER is described as a ‘twin-stick brutal action shooter’, a title it very much lives up to.
The year is 2091 and we’re in a cyberpunk metropolis known as Rengok, one of the many cities under the watchful eye of the corrupt company ‘Heaven’. They impose their presence on nearly every corner of the globe. You play as an unnamed, mute man with a sweet looking LED helmet (that he uses mostly to communicate, along with various shrugs and nods) and your day isn’t going very well. Your brain has been hacked and you’ve been left for dead, bummer. Thankfully you’re saved by a particularly disheveled looking man named Mechanix, the first in a cast of a delightfully weird and diverse set of characters. Once back on your feet, you’re contacted by a hacker known only as ‘Her’, and she fills you in on the strange situation at hand. Long story short, you were used as a pawn to kill the boss of Heaven and your brother has been kidnapped to make sure the job is done. So now, with a list of names consisting of thugs like Chief Watayama, Naayak, Khog and Shadow, you hit the depths of Rengok, ready to spill as much blood as you can to save your brother.
Playing through the tutorial, the game gives you the feeling that it’s going to be quite a linear experience. Though, once things kick off you’re presented with a very RPG-like system, complete with skill trees, quest logs and all the stuffing. People who are way more coordinated than I am are going to love the fluidity of the gameplay. The dash and multi-dash mechanic alone has thoroughly entertained me; by allowing players to pick exactly where to dash in a sequence, it makes cutting through crowds of enemies a breeze for the savvier of killers. This is just the opening taste of what is quite an extensive skill tree, with more points allowing you to unlock the ability to regenerate health, projectiles to stun or frag enemies, and the ability to slow down time for extra precision kills being just a few of the many options. I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in the arcade days, racking up points for kills and combo multipliers which gave me a very nostalgic feeling, something that happens a lot with Devolver’s games.
A good soundtrack will always compliment a game, and man is this a bloody good soundtrack. It’s not necessarily the type of music I’d listen to on an average day, but the way the bass bumps almost continuously through every track gets your blood pumping and motivates you to play better. Even when paused or in the menus, the bass just hums away, muffled in the background, waiting for you to commence your killing spree. I found myself at times in an almost trance-like state of concentration, the music became another weapon in my arsenal. Either that or I’m just a freak. Fans of anime shows such as Paprika and Millenium Actress may recognise the music of the show’s composer, Susumu Hirasawa.
While games under the Devolver banner have never been visually awe-inspiring, RUINER is a very slick looking game. The cyberpunk future setting matched with the lights illuminating what is otherwise a drab aesthetic, is a nice contrast. Even messy blood splatters and the carnage produced by fever pitched fights are appealing, a sentence I might have to talk to a therapist about. The games ominous use of the colour red, whether it be through the lighting of the level, the menus, or my eyes when I’ve rubbed them so much out of frustration, gives you a constant reminder of what your objective is: to kill. However, despite looking nice, the level design does start to become a bit repetitive, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell one part of a stage apart from another. The painstaking detail that goes into the hand-drawn style of the characters in cutscenes looks beautiful and instills greater depth to the characters that is hard to achieve from a top-down style of game.
I had a lot of fun playing RUINER, which, as someone who isn’t really a massive fan of twin-stick games, surprised me. I was frustrated beyond belief at times, sure, but it’s the fun kind of frustrating, the kind of frustrating where you close the game to cool off but you’re back ten minutes later to enact a new strategy. Whilst it doesn’t redefine the twin-stick genre, it certainly does enough to make it stand out on its own.