I’ve always had a certain affection for games that have “tiny” sprites. I think it’s because the smaller the characters, the larger the world feels and the less the fog of war (or fog of platforming, or whatever).

Risk of Rain, a brilliant game by Hopoo Games, has tiny sprites but that’s far from the best thing about

Shooty shooty

Shooty shooty

it. Whilst largely a platform shooter it also, like many recent indie titles, uses aspects of Roguelike games including randomised stages, experience with levelling-up and a plethora of collectable items to improve the player’s chances. It also features a novel form of “class” system. The player selects one of a number of survivors from a spaceship crash on a mysterious planet but, at the start, only the Commando is selectable with the others being unlocked once the player achieves certain things. Each characters “class” has four different types of attack and requires different strategies to play, like the best Roguelikes.

It also has a clever difficulty curve with the player being accosted by more and more enemy creatures as the game progresses so that what starts out as an easy fight against a few wibbly-wobbly things turns into running battles with a menagerie of horrible alien things.

The collectables are generally found in chests unlocked using coins (these are obtained from fallen enemies, being pleasingly “sucked” towards the player along with orbs which provide experience) although there are other ways to obtain them. The collectables supplement the player class’s existing abilities and, with a mixture of thorough searching and some luck, the player can become a heavily armed war machine by the time they come across the teleporter which signals the end of the level and, if activated, heralds a huge boss monster (pleasingly, these seem to be randomised).

Risk of Rain‘s main plus is that it’s monsterously addictive and very playable. When I first bought it I decided on a “quick ten minute” game and only exited after over an hour. The random aspects of gameplay and the enjoyable methods of attack/defence as well as the large number of collectables available make each game feel fairly unique.

Are there any problems, though? Well yes, sadly, but hardly any. The main one is the enemy AI. Many of the creatures are monstrously thick and seem unable, for example, to pursue the player over anything other than perfectly flat land, being stumped by a slight change in terrain height. There are some aliens which are supposed to be “sentient” and cunning but all this means is that they can deal with changes in terrain. They don’t, for example, chase the player up ropes or leap small gaps. If they did they would feel more like a worthy foe and not just some slightly clever animal. The enemy are a threat after a while but that’s because there are so many of them. I can’t help the sense of threat and achievement in fighting it off might be better if the enemy were a bit more relentless in their pursuit. The graphics also have a “chunky” 8-bit feel to them and, whilst this is aesthetically quite nice, I kind of want to see what it might have looked like with proper HD sprites.

But these are minor quibbles. Risk of Rain is two of the most important things a videogame can be: challenging and fun. I like, and you should too.

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