By taking players into the futuristic dystopian wasteland of Rengkok, developer Reikon Games sets out to tell a revenge story as old as time. Our mysterious protagonist comes equipped with a helmet that flashes BIOS command style text like “KILL BOSS” across the screen on his face. In the beginning, our antihero is under the control of the Wizard and he is being instructed to kill the boss in Heaven – a pillowy white skyscraper that reaches up into the clouds, far above the doom and gloom of the dingy streets of Rengkok below. Heaven, and even the Boss’ identity, are unknown to you, however, and so this prologue sequence serves as a tutorial of sorts to introduce the combat system.
While on the streets of Regkok, players can move about the crowded, dingy city at will. Though the hacker known only as Her is an always present force, sending messages to you (whom she refers to as “Puppy”) about the urgency with which you need to locate and save your brother. Nearly every NPC has something to say, though it is often kept short with little one liners. There are a handful, however, who have side quests for you such as the bounty hunter that offers Karma – Ruiner’s in game currency and experience system – for taking down special baddies, or the adorably eccentric Hooligan who sends you out on missions to hack the black cats around the city because she believes they are spies.
While Ruiner is a top down twin stick shooter at its core, there is a healthy variety of combat mechanics available to switch up the game play to your own liking. Taking out enemies earns Karma which both levels your character up and makes skill points available. Players have different shields, dash abilities, and even weapons at their disposal and the skill tree can be accessed and switched up on the fly so that you’re ready for whatever insanity the game throws you into. There’s no penalty for removing skill points from one ability and then reallocating them to another when the need arises. However, constantly pausing the action to adjust the skill tree does cut into the momentum built up during the combat sequences.
Ruiner’s strongest hand is its stunning graphics and creative character design. Unfortunately, every level resembles the first to a point where it all just looks like a dilapidated factory, even when the story dictates that you’re in a parking garage or a the basement of a club. While it’s aesthetically well done, it still becomes monotonous when every level looks the same. Each chapter takes on the same basic fight model. There will be an onslaught of enemies that you work your way through until you reach a mini boss. Then more enemies, followed by the final boss. It can become a bit redundant if you’re playing in one sitting, but taking on Ruiner in small spurts or taking time out to explore Rengkok and search for those spy cats can help break up the monotony.
Each fight sequence in Ruiner is given a letter grade based on how well the player does, and it can be surprisingly enjoyable to go back to early chapters and attempt to earn a better grade after having unlocked better abilities. When a game releases with an achievement for both dying 666 times and also not dying at all, you know you’re in for replaying it a few times. While some more variations in level design could have benefited Ruiner greatly, the game itself plays so well and looks so good that you can’t help but want to go back to it.