I’m a sucker for cyberpunk aesthetic, violence, and synthetic-produced soundtracks that make me casually jam out whilst I play a game. Reikon Games’ new twin-stick top-down murder jamboree Ruiner is the culmination of these elements, which, when combined, act as a beautiful package that contains satisfyingly difficult gameplay as well as a familiar story filled with mysterious characters that takes place in a detailed world.
I usually talk about a game’s story or gameplay first, but it’s hard to not to immediately talk about Ruiner’s amazing visuals. Its overarching Blade Runner-inspired world is engrossing to venture through — it’s thrilling hopping between the fast-paced moments of violence — and though most of the game takes place in mechanised warhouses in the depths of an urban jungle, each mission in Ruiner still manages to hold its own identity. Minor details are everywhere in these regions, but none more than in the neon-washed downtown of south Rengkok, the area that acts as the main HUB and a place to rest and accept side tasks between the balls to the walls chaos that is Ruiner’s gameplay. NPCs talk amongst each other and populate its streets, giving you the sense that there is a lot more going on in this world than just your story.
These characters, especially the ones you interact with are excellently designed and appear in a hand-drawn comic style, each with characteristics and details that blend them into the world Ruiner creates. There are, however, characters that unfortunately stand out like sore thumbs (as seen above). During some of the games brief cut scenes, some models look hideous up close, jarring from the rest of the game’s amazing visuals. These brief moments aren’t for every model, and luckily, the game generally deals with hand-drawn 2D images for the most part when character interactions occur. Ruiner also runs with a vibrant colour palette that intentionally washes out many of the games more intense sections, often with overtones of neon red that perfectly suit the tempo and blood-bathed gameplay of the stylised title that is Ruiner.
Following suit, Ruiner’s story also blends seamlessly into the savage but oddly beautiful world the game manages to build. You play a nameless man whose brain has been hacked and highjacked in the attempts to use him as a scapegoat to assassinate the leader of an almighty company known as “Heaven.” Of course, things get worse for the masked psychotic protagonist when it’s revealed that Heaven has his younger brother held captive and that the only chance to retrieve him is to listen to a mysterious woman known as “Her.” The plot indeed does thicken as the game progresses and plays with Black Mirror-inspired, dystopian-future quarrels like human hacking, but at its core, it’s a simple revenge story you’ve probably seen before. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Ruiner doesn’t make strides or unique choices with its narrative, so don’t expect it to be as cryptic as its marketing made it out to be.
Fittingly, Ruiner’s gameplay is as brutal and beautiful as the world its set in, and takes a lot from games like Hotline Miami. Though it is linear, you’ll be playing each area and room of Ruiner a hell of a lot, because you’ll be dying over and over again. Ruiner wants you to embrace this difficulty, forcing you to learn enemy attack patterns, who to prioritize, and which weapons best suit the situation. As well as offering melee and range weapons like katanas, hammers, flamethrowers, shotguns, and disc throwers, Ruiner also has a range of abilities that your LCD-faced protagonist can use to turn the tides of battle.
These skills are varied and include fun perks like barriers that slow enemies who pass through it, reflective force fields, and explosives that turn would be assailants into chunks of meat. On top of that, there are also a lot of passive skills to choose from, like a bonus to health and energy pickups, which you’ll need to use abilities. Despite not being as flashy as the previous mentioned specials, these are skills you’ll want to take at earlier stages of the game, because trust me, it gets really hard, especially in the games numerous boss battles, which often took me just as long to beat as whole levels leading up to them. You can even re-spec these points at any time, so mixing up combos and using new powers is something you can do if your current loadout isn’t working.
The best way to survive these encounters is not being hit, though, and fortunately, Ruiner’s gameplay also has a heavy emphasis on momentum and movement to help you dodge around the constant carnage. By holding right click on a mouse or the left bumper on a controller, you are able to briefly slow down time and perform a multi-dash. This mechanic leads to some of Ruiner’s best moments as you zip between butcherings, picking up weapons and clearing out a room in a matrix like fashion. If you have the option, I highly recommend you use the keyboard and mouse for this one, as the controller just isn’t as intuitive.
Like most Cyberpunk inspired mediums, Ruiner also does well in the audio department, taking a taste from several greats like Blade Runner and Drive. During action, music is fast-paced, just like the action on screen. Perhaps the most understated track in the game, however, is the Asian-styled music delicately played in the background of the HUB world that is south Rengkok.
Ruiner is a cyberpunk aesthetic dream fueled by brutal violence and style. Where its story falls somewhat flat and predictable, Ruiner clearly is made with a vibe and image in mind that is executed almost faultlessly. With the option to replay missions once completed, fast-paced action, and an undeniably cool style, Ruiner makes for an enjoyable time.