Although it flew beneath numerous radars, Cuddle Monster Video games’ Hell is Different Demons was a standout platform shooter of 2019, that includes razor-sharp, ultra-tough motion gameplay alongside a scrumptious neon aesthetic. Contemplating it was largely the work of only one man by the identify of Hannes Rahm, Hell is Different Demons was a powerful achievement and a fantastic instance of a distinct segment traditional. Rahm’s newest challenge is Lone Smash, which feels in numerous methods like a religious successor to that preliminary launch. That very same darkish environment and intense gameplay are current, however now issues play out in 3D. Although Lone Smash doesn’t really feel prefer it fairly meets the bar its predecessor set, it nonetheless manages to be a raucously good time whereas it lasts.
Lone Smash is all in regards to the gameplay, which is equal components thrilling and easy. A typical run includes you coming into a room, clearing out all waves of enemies, accumulating the reward (in case you survive), then shifting on to the subsequent room. Most enemies go down after only a few pictures, however the tough half is available in with how simply you will get swarmed by them. Some enemies can shoot lasers and projectiles whereas others might explode on contact, and when issues actually warmth up, there’s scarcely a sq. inch of house to be discovered onscreen the place your character received’t be damage. Fortunately, your character is fairly gentle on their ft, they usually even have a touch transfer on a small cooldown that may grant a couple of i-frames of respite whilst you reposition.
For those who handle to outlive a combat, you’ll then be granted a welcome improve to provide you a bit extra of a preventing probability. Generally that is simply topping off your well being, whereas different occasions it may be a brand new weapon or an improve to an current one. None of those upgrades are game-changing, however we appreciated how they provide the skill to pursue a focused construct in your character.
Practically each room ends with you being given a selection between two rooms to problem subsequent, with each having its improve listed on the door earlier than you step via. It takes a couple of runs earlier than you begin to get a way of which weapons and skills are most preferable, however it feels nice when you get some good synergies going and may spot the most effective upgrades once they pop up. Plus, there are some unmentioned advantages and mechanics that you just be taught via discovery. For instance, the scythe is a robust close-quarters weapon designed round temporary bursts of fast swipes, however the recreation doesn’t explicitly let you know that every swipe can additionally delete any enemy projectiles flying your manner, which supplies it some good defensive utility that many different weapons lack.
As you’ll be able to in all probability guess, it’s very straightforward to die in Lone Smash, and this isn’t a roguelite akin to Hades or Rogue Legacy the place you’ll be able to carry over progress between runs to make later ones simpler. Some could also be delay by this excessive problem, however we discovered it to be fairly manageable when you get a greater thought of how the mechanics of assorted weapons work. It additionally helps that initially of each run, a couple of of the weapons can be randomly chosen to have an improve proper off the bat, which inspires you to department out and take a look at completely different playstyles on every new try. And for individuals who nonetheless can’t handle to search out an efficient solution to reduce via the problem, there’s an ‘straightforward’ mode you’ll be able to choose initially to melt issues up fairly a bit. We felt that this neutered numerous what makes Lone Smash satisfying, however that problem mode can on the very least act as some good coaching wheels to get you prepared for the developer’s supposed expertise.
It ought to solely take you somewhat beneath an hour or so to see Lone Smash via to the ‘finish’—relying on how usually you die, that’s—however there are a couple of different methods you’ll be able to pad out the playtime somewhat extra. The primary draw here’s a survival mode that strips away the room-switching development and simply plops you in a single enviornment for ten minutes whereas being assaulted by fixed waves of more and more stronger enemies. Gathering sufficient cash from slain foes will permit you to decide from some randomly chosen upgrades, however you’re in any other case locked in and left to fend for your self. Other than this, you will get somewhat extra replayability via trying this or the principle mode once more on a tougher problem, to not point out that there’ll at all times be methods you’ll be able to higher optimize your play to maneuver up the leaderboards.
Although its simplicity is definitely commendable, it’s also Lone Smash’s best shortcoming. This isn’t a recreation that’s laden with secrets and techniques, unlockables, and new enemies round each nook—it doesn’t take too lengthy to beat when you familiarize yourself with it, after which the principle purpose to do it once more is solely to get a greater rating on the leaderboards or to attempt it with a distinct weapon. Those that are motivated by extrinsic rewards in video games might wrestle a bit right here, then, as Lone Smash’s major attraction is solely the satisfaction of getting higher so you’ll be able to chase increased scores. In fact, not each recreation wants to have an intensive slate of unlockables and further content material to maintain gamers invested for dozens of hours, however it does really feel like Lone Smash might use somewhat extra fleshing out. It’s the sort of recreation that’s nice for 5 hours or so, then you definately put it down and by no means discover a purpose to select it up once more.
The simplicity extends past simply the content material providing—Lone Smash additionally feels somewhat shallow when it comes to its mechanics. What’s right here is fantastic, however it’s desperately in want of a combo system just like the one in Assault Android Cactus or the polarity switching in Ikaruga—one thing to raise the motion a step above the mindless dodging and taking pictures that the majority fights devolve into and to instill a way of deeper technique. With out that additional X-factor, it turns into tough to get very invested in Lone Smash, as a result of there’s not a lot to cling to right here that you just haven’t seen and accomplished earlier than. It has the basics of the style down and it executes them properly, however it by no means feels any greater than the sum of its components. For higher or worse, that is ‘simply’ one other twin-stick shooter.
As for its presentation, Lone Smash goes for a cool visible model that makes use of what seems to be like a cross between voxels and conventional 2D pixel artwork. Characters and enemies are ostensibly 2D sprites, however a better look reveals that some components of the sprites are 3D fashions that fill them out and add in additional animation potential. Although the darkish neon-drenched ruins can look somewhat samey as you advance via biomes, the motion itself seems to be fairly fashionable when you may have all these quasi-2D sprites zipping about and exploding in bombastic pink fireworks.
The one challenge right here is that efficiency isn’t fairly as much as par. In docked mode, we discovered that Lone Smash sticks to its 60 FPS goal for more often than not, however there have been some situations we noticed the place the body fee appeared to dip down a bit to what seemed to be the excessive 30s. In moveable mode, we famous these body drops had been extra frequent, however even on this case, 60 FPS was the norm more often than not. Whereas excellent efficiency could be appreciated right here—particularly for a recreation as twitchy as this—the occasional hitches aren’t sufficient to considerably have an effect on the gameplay expertise.
As for its soundtrack, Lone Smash largely sticks to a group of drum ‘n’ bass and darkwave tracks, which have simply the proper combination of depth and tranquility. Regardless of the excessive stakes, there may be one thing oddly zen-like and enjoyable about dodging projectiles and simply barely staying forward of sure loss of life, and the music right here manages to seize that feeling completely.
These of you who simply desire a straight, no-nonsense twin-stick shooter will discover rather a lot to like about Lone Smash, whereas these in search of a extra formidable challenge might wish to look elsewhere. Tight controls, darkish aesthetics, tough-but-fair gameplay, and a various assortment of weapons and upgrades all come collectively to make this one a worthwhile buy, with the caveat that it is also about as fundamental as a twin-stick shooter can get, which limits its endurance considerably. We’d give Lone Smash a light-weight advice for anybody who considers themselves a twin-stick fan, although this will maybe be one to attend for a sale.