I’m trying something new here, focused on old things. Older games I’ve never played, or have played, or have even personally reviewed but I’m returning to because I’m a big boy now and I can make my own decisions mom, jeez. Fashionably Late may become a semi-regular occurrence. It may not. WHO KNOWS.

I’ve just reached the third level for the first time, and I’m packed full of so many power-ups that they’re practically oozing out of my bleeding eye sockets. The last hour and a bit has been comically tense, but I’ve got an excellent rhythm going with my Enforcer. At this stage, every time an enemy hits me a huge chunk of life seeps out of my health bar. Teleporting beef-things, lightning-wielding, bobble-headed infants and immense stone people are just some of my current worries, but my life leech ensures that whenever I’m in a pickle I can just back into a corner, deploy my shield and dispense enough health-stealing damage that I can survive almost indefinitely.

But it’s 9:30pm, I haven’t eaten anything since lunch, and there’s no food in the house. So I pause the game and hop in the car. Soon I return bearing offerings of unhealthy semi-food to sate my empty belly.

Fash-Late-Risk-of-Rain-image-3When I sit down at my PC again, I’ve completely lost my bearings, and whatever rhythm I’d generated has been nuked from orbit. I don’t remember any of this. Which way was I going? Was I really being chased by THAT MANY murderous things? Do I run, or do I fight? Within 15 seconds, my fresh corpse is being teabagged by a throng of cackling aliens. I swear at my screen for the fourth time tonight.

I love Risk of Rain. I hate Risk of Rain.

Rick reviewed the game back in 2013 and seemed quite smitten, but I’d never played it until this past Saturday, when I spotted it in a forgotten Humble Bundle. I’ve been hooked ever since.

It’s a platformer with roguelike elements. The premise is elegantly simple: find the teleporter, and use it to reach the next level. Each level is randomised in a number of ways, and the longer you’re alive, the more difficult the game gets. Outlandish enemies periodically spawn, and you must make deft use your chosen character’s abilities to turn your foes’ innards outwards. Doing so rewards you with currency to access a range of power-ups; some give passive buffs like bleeding damage, others offer powerful new activated abilities. Die and you’ll have to start the whole process afresh, having lost everything you collected on your previous run. And you will die. You’ll die a lot.

There’s an “end” to the game, but I’ve yet to get anywhere near it. I’m so hilariously bad at Risk of Rain that I doubt I’ll ever see it. But boy am I having a great time trying. It’s triggered the same reaction in me that The Binding of Isaac does. Just one more run. And one more after that. And three more after those last six. And then it’s 3am, and I’m cursing the game’s existence.

As difficult as it is, I’ve never felt cheated by it, and that’s always the mark of a cunning roguelike (or roguelike-like, or whatever I’m supposed to call this thing). There’s a tightness to its design, an addictive edge to its manic, randomised simplicity that’s intensely compelling, even though it makes me miserable. There’s local and online co-op, so you can share the misery with everyone you know. The wonderful pixel art aesthetic carries a threatening bleakness, and it’s backed by a great soundtrack. There’s also a whole heap of stuff to unlock, like new items to find and fresh characters to march to their doom. Each one has their own set of attacks and abilities, but I can’t imagine I’ll ever manage to unlock them all. Perhaps you’ll fare better.

If you’d like to form your own love/hate relationship with Risk of Rain, you can grab the game off Steam for a measly R109. You could also get it from the Humble Store, but at $9.99 it’ll cost a bit more. If you’ve even a passing interest in games such as this, try it. It holds the dubious honour of being one of just a handful of games that’ve actually made me swear out loud, and that alone probably makes it worth the cash.

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