Title: Black Future '88
Release Date: November 21, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
You’ve seen roguelike 2D action games before. They’ve made a name for themselves through their presentation and challenging yet, rewarding gameplay mechanics. The best thing about this genre is that it continuously evolves as new developers create their interpretation of it. When it comes to the Superscarysnakes-developed roguelike title Black Future ’88, their attention to creating a narrative for this insanely stylistic action game pays off immensely. Hours of gameplay and many deaths later, and I’m still eager to discover more of its mysteries, but that’s easier said than done.
The mission is simple; you have 18-minutes to make your way to the top of a procedurally generated tower containing a ton of things that can kill you. What awaits you at the top is a powerful enemy and, hopefully, a key to stop the nuclear rain, but whether you’ll get to the top is not guaranteed.
What’s interesting about Black Future ’88 is how it weaves its unique features into its narrative. There’s so much happening in the game during a run that makes it a little overbearing at first. You’re thrown in expected to understand what’s going on. However, these features slowly begin to make sense over time as you learn to manipulate them and use them to your advantage. That said, even after I felt that I was master at the game, I found myself entering brand new areas facing enemies that gave my skills a run for their money.
Gameplay in Black Future ’88 is straight forward. At the start of a run, you can double jump, and you can dash. With these two mechanics, you’re tasked with making your way through some pretty tough sections that lie up ahead. Each room entered needs to be cleared of enemies before progressing, and that isn’t always easy. Given that the game is procedurally generated, its possible the first room visited will be the one that kills you. Similarly, some of the bosses are easier than others. The order you encounter the bosses are random, you could get stuck fighting one of the tougher bosses early in your run.
Thankfully, with death comes rewards. Each time you die, everything you accomplished in that run is added to your level. This is how you unlock new characters and weapons to make your future runs a little more manageable. Weapons are dropped from fallen enemies and are entirely random. Weapons left in the environment also feed what is known in the game as “Skymelt,” which the game should have spent a little more time explaining as it is a significant feature in each run.
The weapon variety is astounding in this game. There are some incredibly unique and impressive guns that I had fun picking up to check out what they did. Furthermore, swords can be found, which can be used to cut through enemy bullet and get up close and personal. Whatever your playstyle, Black Future 88′ can accommodate it with some combination of weapons. Shooting in the game feels natural as the character will generally shoot at the closet enemy. There are also additional aiming modes available.
Throughout a run, players will encounter upgrades, which do things like add an additional dash or add a curse that makes things more difficult. Most of these abilities are presented to the player to choose one out three, but it’s a gamble whether you’ll get something good or not. However, these abilities can be paired with weapons. For example, the deflect ability can be used with the sword to deflect bullets back at the enemy who shot them.
Control in Black Future 88′ is responsive, but characters can fill pretty light as they quickly move from one side of the screen to the other. This game requires you to be always on the offensive and ready for anything. However, it is brought to a halt when you enter a room that requires some navigating through endless fireballs. I didn’t think the game needed these platforming-style rooms, and if I didn’t die in them, I existed with 2 bars of health.
Exploring in Black Future ’88 is always rewarded with secret bosses, powerful weapons, and new abilities. However, given that you are on a timer, everything you do needs to be taken into consideration outside of making your way to the boss. Through a run, it’s possible to awaken hunters who will prepare an attack against you randomly. These hunters aren’t too tricky, but they do add a certain level of randomness to levels that had me always prepared to enter a room, guns blazing.
Black Future ’88 has a fantastic co-op mode, which allows two players to take on the tower together. Working together, clearing out rooms of enemies and taking down powerful bosses provided endless amounts of fun. A specific layer of strategy also comes with this because deciding who picks up the ammo or which guns to carry between the two of you requires strategy.
Sadly, Black Future ’88 crashed on the Switch version if I tried to play as one of the unlockable characters. This happened several times, and I still haven’t been able to play as him. For the sake of a fair review, I waited until after the day one patch, but the game still crashed if I chose the character. Hopefully, this gets fixed soon. Also, some bosses can be stunned during co-op mode and locked in place as you basically destroy them.
When it comes to presentation, Black Future ’88 does everything right with its cyberpunk aesthetic and stylish design. Characters, enemies, environments, and even the items looked awesome. What was even more impressive seeing everything blow up the second I entered an area shooting everything in sight. The soundtrack only compliments this presentation with some of the coolest tracks to blast away enemies too.
There’s so much to Black Future ’88 that makes it more than just a typical roguelike. Each run presents new challenges and different items at the player’s disposal, but the game does a bad job of explaining its features to the player. Still, over time, you start to have a pretty good idea of how everything works, and the game becomes a rush to play. Every run is unique, and those who use some of their precious seconds to explore will get the most out of this fast-paced action game.
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