With an influx of stylish 2D action titles hitting the Nintendo Switch as of late, it feels like each new release really has to offer something unique in order to capture gamer’s attention over the rest. How does only having eighteen-minutes to make your way to the top of a tower that absorbs left-behind consumables to make itself more powerful sound? That’s the concept behind Black Future ’88, the challenging yet rewarding 2D roguelike from the team at SuperScarySnakes.
Black Future ’88 takes place in a desolate world that, after a big nuclear attack, decided to stop the concept of moving forward in time. We’re stuck in 1988, baby, and wow, is it brutal. Things aren’t quite anachronistically accurate in this representation of 1988 though thanks to the futuristic sights and the fact that you can’t look anywhere without seeing something neon, whilst a vicious AI rules over the world in the massive and well-protected Skymelt Tower. You take on the role of one of the few survivors in the world that has decided to try and bring Skymelt Tower down, though it won’t be easy since your heart is going to explode in eighteen-minutes – better get moving…
Naturally, with just eighteen-minutes to survive, you can expect to be partaking in multiple playthroughs of Black Future ’88. The gameplay loop itself is quite simple, with players battling through procedurally-generated rooms as they make their way up the tower, all whilst killing any enemies in their path, collecting new weapons and earning experience points, and vanquishing the bosses that look to halt their progress. When you die, you’ve got to start your run again with your equipment reset, but you do retain the experience points you’ve earned that allow you to equip all-new buffs to make your next run through Skymelt Tower a little easier.
There are multiple characters to play as, with two available at the start and others unlocking the more you play. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses as well as a different weapon loadout, so it’s worth playing around with them to see what works best with you. Admittedly, they don’t change up the gameplay loop too much, but they all bring SOMETHING different to the table that might suit each player’s individual playstyles.
The buffs you can equip offer things like improved stats and enhanced abilities, each of which can make a hell of a difference as to how far you can expect to progress through Skymelt Tower. Toying around with them is the key to success, especially with the different scenarios you can find yourself in when working through the game. You’ll unlock a good variety of weapons too, with some simply collected throughout the tower and others bought from the in-game store. It’s definitely worth changing up your arsenal as you progress, especially since the range of weapons are more powerful (such as the rocket launcher and laser blaster) and offer unique abilities (such as being able to teleport to an enemy’s position if you kill them) – you can only carry two weapons at a time though, so you’ll want to equip yourself for any situation you might face. Whatever weapon you’re equipped with, Black Future ’88’s action is so quick-paced and satisfying that you’ll constantly find yourself on the edge of your seat whilst shooting away at enemies.
Whilst gunning down baddies is important in the game, exploring the tower is vital too. Despite the time limit, there’s an emphasis placed on scouring each room, uncovering any bonuses it might be hiding, and then using them to help you progress that bit further. Each room will send different obstacles your way mind, with some full of enemies, some requiring you to solve simple switch-based puzzles, and some testing your platforming prowess – whilst most are straight forward enough to get through, they each bring with them their own challenge. You’ll encounter strange characters and shops that can help you out along the way too, so there is some degree of support to be found on your adventure.
There is the pressure of the eighteen-minute time limit in place though, so those who just want to progress can look at the map and search for the rooms with a skull on them to take on each boss. Preferably though, you’ll want to balance out progress with exploration, with discovered weapons and consumables vital to surviving Skymelt Tower’s many hazards. Just make sure you don’t leave anything behind in a room – the tower will absorb these leftovers and become more difficult to progress through in the process, which is a harrowing but brilliant concept.
You’ll want to avoid that as Black Future ’88 is challenging enough as it is, with PLENTY of nasty enemies to and brutal bosses to face off against. There are no retries either, with each death sending you back to the beginning to start your run all over again. The bosses in particular were what caused me the majority of my deaths, though that doesn’t make them any less fun to take on – they’re not only stylish in design, but offer encounters that have a rewarding sense of challenge to them that never feels unfair. Each attempt at battling them will allow you to start figuring them out, and it shouldn’t take long before you’re able to predict their attacks and exploit their weaknesses. That being said, the fact that you have to face these bosses in a different order on each run means you should still expect the unexpected, so don’t let yourself get too comfortable…
Despite the tough challenge Black Future ’88 poses, I couldn’t help but to keep coming back for more. Whilst I’ll admit that the brevity of each run could see some aspects of the game get a little bit repetitive, there was something intensely satisfying about seeing myself progress further through the tower. The weapons are all fun to use and enemies satisfying to take down too, so the action certainly delivers. Plus, there’s an ‘Assist Mode’ in place that allows you to get used to the mechanics early on and even the option to play in local co-op with a friend (which I unfortunately haven’t been able to try yet), so you never have to struggle if you don’t want to. Black Future ’88 might be a difficult game, but it’s certainly not an unfair one.
Black Future ’88 is a tough but rewarding roguelike experience that’s unique, action-packed, and super stylish. I never grew tired of the gameplay loop thanks to the variety offered across each of Skymelt Tower’s rooms, whilst the influx of new weapons and buffs always gives the players something new to play around with. Admittedly, some aspects of the game could feel a little repetitive after a while thanks to the brevity of each playthrough, but it still never stopped being satisfying to play.
There’s a lot of competition on the Nintendo Switch in the stylish 2D roguelike adventure genre, but Black Future ’88 is one that you certainly won’t want to ignore.
Publisher: Good Shepher Entertainment
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC