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May 2021

Relic Hunters Zero: Remix

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Akupara Games
Developer: Rogue Snail
Release Date: May 7, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Relic Hunters Zero: Remix'

by Cody Medellin on July 9, 2020 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is a dual-stick shooter about blasting evil space ducks and turtles with tiny cute guns.

Released in 2015 on the PC, Relic Hunters was a big hit for developer Rogue Snail. The roguelike elements that were en vogue all those years ago were done well, and it was balanced well so it didn't feel overly difficult to those who had never experienced the genre before. The twin-stick shooting was done nicely, and the number of available characters made each run feel distinct thanks to each character's unique play style. More importantly, it was free and, even rarer, it was open source so everyone could play it and mod it. Its popularity and constant updates over the years mean that a sequel was inevitable, but before we get there, we need to get through Relic Hunters Zero: Remix, which is now on the Nintendo Switch.

In a far-off part of space, the Ducan Commander wants to take over the galaxy. To do this, he has ordered his army of ducks, turtles, and other anthropomorphic creatures to scour the Asteroid Dungeon Nemesis to locate the sacred relics that will give him and his army enough power to fulfill his dream. Out to stop him are the Relic Hunters, a group of heroic bounty hunters that are determined to stop the Ducan forces by finding the relics first.

If you've played the likes of Nuclear Throne or Blazing Beaks, then you know how the setup goes. You start by choosing a character from a roster of seven, and everyone has different stats and abilities. From there, you jump into a randomly generated level and fight through 12 stages to reach the final boss. While you'll start off with a default weapon like a pistol or metal fists, you'll eventually pick up some standard weapons like machine guns, rifles and shotguns. Once you eliminate everyone in the area, the exit opens up, and you'll either go directly to the next area or stop at a shop to buy a few things before going back into the fray. Death means having to restart the run, but you'll lose everything but get to keep your cash.

With those basics out of the way, one thing you'll notice is that while you have more firepower at your disposal, you also have limited ammo overall. To be fair, ammo is generously spread out between light, medium, and heavy categories, so using one gun type messes up your other guns' chances if they use the same ammo pool. Ammo is scarce enough that the spray-and-pray method won't work. Your melee ability isn't a great substitute due to its limited range and slow delivery, so you'll use your aim to make every shot count and your dodge maneuver to reach cover.

While the scarcity of ammo makes you more careful, the sense of progression balances this out by feeling more significant. As mentioned earlier, you lose everything but your cash when you die, but your relic progress is also saved. Whether you buy them in the store between rounds or dig them up after a few areas are cleared out, the relics come in pieces, and once they're assembled, they give you a ton of power, like regenerating health after every kill. Compared to simple stat upgrades, the milestone of fully assembling a relic feels more significant, enough that your ability to tackle a campaign is more of a series of sudden jumps rather than measured increments. That adds to the game's enjoyment, whether you're playing alone or in local co-op mode.

Aside from the main adventure mode, the game offers up two more modes for those who have found everything in the campaign. The first is Endless mode, which lets you try to go as far as you can in the game, either alone or with a friend. Storm mode, however, is more interesting since you inadvertently determine how difficult the run will be. Opening up chests may or may not give you better weapons, but you'll always increase the game's difficulty by doing this, and with all of the enemy factions working together instead of fighting amongst each another, it's a good New Game+ for those who've already beaten the campaign at the highest difficulty.

There's only a few things that hurt the gameplay. The first has to do with the pauses that occur periodically during gameplay. Whether the screen is busy with bullets or has nothing going on, Relic Hunters Zero pauses for about a second before continuing. Considering how frantic some of the fights can get, the pause is disorienting. The camera also adds to this feeling, especially when you decide to aim your shot as the camera zooms in. It's bad enough when the camera shifts among the hordes of enemies, but doing this in co-op makes the experience suffer. Finally, while you have different color schemes per area, the constant presence of metal crates and wire bushes makes every place look exactly the same.

Presentation-wise, the game is rather nice. The pixel work is reminiscent of current indie efforts that aren't trying to aim for that 8- or 16-bit look, so the colors are nice and the animations are well done. Despite the periodic pauses, the actual performance is good. Sound-wise, there is no voice acting, but the chiptune tracks are done well without becoming overbearing, and the sound effects get you into the spirit of shooting up alien forces.

While not overly amazing, Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is a fun roguelike twin-stick shooter. The campaign length feels just right, and the abilities brought in by the character roster make the game feel fresh even after logging multiple playthroughs. There's a great sense of progression, and the extra modes give the game some legs. It's a good complementary game to the other twin-stick roguelikes that are on the Switch.

Score: 7.5/10

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