The sound of a pipe hitting the floor, echoing throughout the entire room. Screams, blood on the walls. Shotgun shells and broken swords. At last, a final sound. Our foot stomping a skull against the floor. Finally putting an end to what we consider an enemy, for it’s someone who is stopping us to achieving our goal. And then, silence. Until the next room.
I’m pretty sure that everyone, at least once in their lifetime, experienced a feeling of anger toward their surroundings. In my case, it’s the constant argument between my family members. Shouts, screams, curses; all of these have become everyday things. Routine and occasional hangouts with friends are of great help, but there has been nothing like music and video games to find escape during the darkest moments in what it used to be a place of laughter and, while still tough, happier moments.
Throughout the years, I have found many games that helped me to overcome such moments. But, I must say that Ruiner took this to a whole new level, introducing a way in which I could canalize my anger into hordes of enemies without remorse. The game, perhaps without realizing itself, uses the player’s aggressiveness to portray its own violence.
The first hour of the game is an intense ride that not only gives you the basic about the controls and the early possibilities you have around movement and dodging, but also sets the experience to come. You hear a man talking to you. “Kill the boss,” he says, as if he was trying to break the fourth wall by giving you an objective we are all pretty much accustomed to.
After starting my search for this “boss,” I entered the area and met the first of many enemy waves to come. Seeing how fast I was able to move, and taking into account my past experiences with similar games like Hotline Miami, I thought Ruiner would not be a problem for me. But, I was mistaken as it turned out to be so much more: a game builds a connection with the player.
Its presentation seemed odd to me, but it wasn’t until I started landing hits and getting shot at that I realized the game’s true focus. In one of the first battles you are forced to fight against an endless pack of enemies within a limited timer. Every time you perform a kill, you’ll get a few seconds added to that time. If it gets to zero, however, you are a dead body. Not that it means much to the game, though, as restarting is pretty much instant, and something players see quite often.
And that’s when it hit me. Instead of running around the scenario looking for a medkit whenever my health was running low, I quickly moved towards an enemy using whatever energy was left in me to lift up my shield and charge against an enemy. Eventually, thanks to randomized drops, I would get that precious medkit I needed. I didn’t care for survival anymore. I just wanted to take as many enemies as I could with me before facing the ground.
In Ruiner, that’s how you become a better player.
Even if you pause the game, looking for a break, the electronic music keeps pounding in the background. It drew me back to the times I had to take a moment from the noise of a nightclub by using a bathroom as a safe room. But the music, and everything around it, was still there waiting for me. Ruiner does not let you off the hook that easily either.
From then, the experience never stopped to become more aggressive from both ends. Enemies became faster and more difficult to take down. Even though I had become more skilled, I had to face new challenges. The cycle had begun anew, adding a new layer of feeling on top of the anger. Perhaps it was fear, or the loneliness that the main character evokes?
For me, it was a sense of rush towards the next level. The voice inside your head is constantly tempting you, showing you how skilled you are by screaming catch phrases such as “killing combo” into your skull after killing a certain number of enemies. The more you can defeat by chaining their deaths, the greater the reward at the end will be, showcasing a score a la Hotline Miami.
Ten enemies? No problem. Twenty? Bring ‘em. Fifty? Man, I could just do this all day. And you bet I’m going to restart the level over and over until I had defeated them all.
I got trapped in this endless loop of always having a finger over the restart button. I would just come back again and again until I was the only one standing. The game became almost like a reactive punching bag, constantly staring at me, knowing that I would eventually return to unleash my hate on it. That’s how Ruiner gets into you. It’s a tale of vengeance and anger towards your surroundings, just like I feel almost every day. But, at the same time, it uses that channeled anger to keep you going, just in the way that a game like Thumper can relate to: rhythm violence in its purest form.
Get ‘Em Puppy
When I finished the game, I felt a sense of relief. However, my problems hadn’t gone away, and nothing in my life had significantly changed. So I stare looking at the main screen, thinking what my next step would be. I see the New Game + option, where I could take everything I had earned with me, and put it in good use one more time. I increased the difficulty and went back to the game.
At this point, I didn’t care for dialogue or cutscenes. All I wanted was to grab whatever was near me and bash some heads. I barely used the shield anymore, which is your main skill for when you are barely starting. I would just go all in and face them one by one. Ruiner, as a mentioned, is now my safe room with only a punching bag inside. And I don’t think I’ll be getting out of there soon.
After all, I am the one being played.