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For most outdoor campers, the worst things they have to worry about are wild bears and poison ivy. Loot Rascals’ space camp is kind of similar — it just has way more Cyclopes, hairy beasts, and angry robots.
Loot Rascals (coming to PlayStation 4 and PC in early 2017) is a strategic turn-based action game from independent developer Hollow Ponds. You play as a funny-looking astronaut with a laser attached to his head, and it’s your job to make some repairs at a new space camp on an alien planet. But you quickly find out that it’s overrun with all sorts of lifeforms that want to kill you. Defeated aliens drop new equipment and special abilities in the form of cards, and the way you equip those cards will determine how powerful your character is.
When you die, you lose all of your hard-earned cards. Death plays into Loot Rascals’ fun take on multiplayer: Your murderer actually steals one of your cards, and that same alien will pop up in another player’s game. If that other player kills the alien, they’ll have a chance to keep the card for themselves or send it back to you. When you keep someone’s card, however, a computer-controlled hologram of the rightful owner will appear and try to kill you; but if you return it, the hologram will help you in battle instead.
Each level in Loot Rascals is also procedurally generated, which means the maps and the locations of your enemies are different whenever you start a new game. It’ll make more sense after you watch the trailer.
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Loot Rascals isn’t a game you want to rush through. I learned that the hard way when I played it at a recent preview event focusing on upcoming indie games. I kept moving through the level way too fast, so I didn’t see or pay attention to the bad guys on the hexagonal board. But as I learned the rules, I forced myself to slow down and actually think about my movements. Thanks to some tips from lead designer Ricky Haggett, I survived pretty long on my subsequent playthroughs, getting farther than any other journalist. I was quite proud of myself.
Haggett described the planet as being like the cantina from Star Wars’ Mos Eisley. He told me the eccentric cast of hostile creatures is “a menagerie of aliens, weird monsters, robots, [and] some humanoids.” Haggett is no stranger to making unique-looking games — he previously worked on the equally confounding Hohokum.
While Hohokum was largely directionless in terms of goals, Loot Rascals has at least one defined objective: find a way to escape the planet. You’ll have to use your loot — including nonsensical items like Ablative Armbands, Oscillo-Snorkels, and helmets shaped like boots — to survive.
“It’s hard to stay alive,” said Haggett.
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