Rack N Ruin Review – Hidden Gem (PS4)
Despite game delays and remasters grabbing the headlines this year, there has still been plenty of games for PlayStation 4 owners to play. Many of these titles are coming to PS4 thanks to Sony’s aggressive campaign in getting indies onto its platform. This had led to some of the best surprises in recent gaming memory occurring on PlayStation hardware. The latest indie game that hopes to make a splash in the market is Lifespark Entertainment’s Rack N Ruin, a game that aims to meld together Zelda-style dungeons with a complex combat system.
Corrupt the World
Typically in video games, you play as the hero that is trying to do something noble and save the world. This is not the case in Rack N Ruin. Instead, the game has the humorous setup of having you play as a demon, named Rack, who is trying to corrupt (and ultimately take over) the world. It’s certainly a fun spin on a tired concept and the game is helped out by having well written dialogue that breathes life into the characters.
Rack starts off his adventure powerless, but quickly gains the ability to lob fireballs at enemies. Aiming is not done by using the right stick, with the game instead opting to use a mixture of forward facing attacks and a lock-on mechanic that works well but can sometimes lock onto an unwanted enemy when the screen gets crowded. After taking on a few lower-class enemies, he also obtains a sword that works well for short-range combat. Throw in a damage absorbing shield for defense, and Rack has quite a few skills at his disposal. What makes Rack N Ruin’s combat great is that it presents players with several ways to tackle any situation, which allows for experimentation and for players to pick a play-style that is best suited for them.
After a short tutorial section, Rack is presented with an open-world to explore. While a lot of it is inaccessible at first, it’s still a daunting area to explore as enemies are seemingly around every corner of this world. As Rack’s goal is to ultimately corrupt the world, he must find shrines (of which there is conveniently one of in each area) to corrupt which he does by sacrificing the souls of his slain enemies. Once these areas are corrupted their bright green forestry turns into a red-colored wasteland filled with more violent foes.
If Rack wants to successfully complete his quest, he’ll have to venture to dungeons so he can gain new abilities. The dungeons in Rack N Ruin could easily be confused as being stripped from a lost Legend of Zelda game as it was clearly a source of inspiration for the game. Rooms full of enemies will have to be defeated, keys will have to be found, and puzzles will have to be solved. These dungeons are well done and are really the highlight of the experience. The puzzles are often clever (although there is a lot of moving blocks around) which keeps these moments from being overly frustrating.
Each dungeon ends with a boss encounter that is a true test of the player’s abilities. These encounters are memorable for all the right reasons and they often feel straight out of a bullet hell shooter as the number of projectiles on the screen can be intimidating at times. Each boss battle is different enough from the previous one to feel like a fresh experience so they continue to be a highlight throughout the entire game.
Lost in the World
After conquering a boss, the player gains a new found appreciation for their skills as a gamer and a nifty new weapon for Rack to use. Each weapon can be used to access new areas of the world and offer up different ways to approach combat. One example of this is the unlockable boomerang, that can be elementally charged, which means you’ll be able to hit switches that were previously out of reach. Sadly, once you have the ability to traverse to several areas is when the game’s problems start to arise.
See, Rack N Ruin is a game that throws out any form of hand holding and lets the player explore all on their own. That is great until you have wandered around the different areas for hours with no clue where to go next. A few helpful hints or guidance would have gone a long way in making Rack N Ruin a much less frustrating experience. What doesn’t help matters is that the game has an achievement for beating the game in less than two hours, which just seems cruel when you’ve spent the past hour in the same area searching for something to do.
This problem is further exacerbated since the game is presented in a top-down perspective that often hides areas. This would be fine if this was done intentionally to hide secret areas or Easter eggs, but the game, instead, will accidentally make mandatory paths seem like they cannot be maneuvered across. Once you realize that the game’s perspective is a bit off, you can make an adjustment in play-style (which meant running into every tree covered area in case there was a path hidden by leafs for this reviewer). Regardless, it’s still a frustrating occurrence that can make the game’s pace come to a halt.
I’d Like to Take You Where My Spirit Flies
Despite the issues with perspective, Rack N Ruin is downright gorgeous. Dialogue scenes feature beautifully drawn artwork for the characters that really bring these scenes to life. The game also runs smoothly, although I did encounter a brief bout of lag during a single boss battle, which really adds to the experience. Throw in topnotch art-design and awesome looking enemies and you have one of the better looking indie releases.
Almost as impressive as its graphical prowess is the title’s soundtrack. Beautiful, atmospheric music is played throughout the game. Even when I was frustrated and lost looking for my next objective, the music would make sure I was at the very least having a pleasant audio experience. What rounds out the audio package is great use of sound effects as different attacks, that will elicit different responses.
Ultimately, Rack N Ruin is a good game that easily could have been great with a few tweaks. Strangely, the game hides a lot of its enjoyment away from the player by not telling the player what to do next. While it can be an extremely frustrating experience at times, there are enough satisfying moments to recommend the game despite these issues. So, if you’re willing to dig into it, give Rack N Ruin a spin since there is a good game there, just hidden.
Review code for Rack N Ruin provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here