Shadow of Loot Box doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at the games industry at every turn it can. Taking aim at the tendency to release buggy unfinished products, to the true emptiness found in most open world games, Ratalaika Games take no prisoners in their attempt to point out the idiocy of some of our practices. While this provides a ton of room for creativity and diversity, the game fails to execute on many levels.
Shadow of Loot Box is split up between 16 different levels. Each one pokes fun at one or more of the different aspect of today’s games industry. Throughout your time with it, you will experience different tropes you are more than familiar with, such as escort missions and fetch quests while also getting some hot takes on microtransactions and other anti-consumer practices. These levels are so varied in tone and gameplay, that they will leave you constantly entertained. One stage takes place in an icy town with you tasked with killing a dragon, the process of which highlights the absurdity of some open world games, passing you back and forth between NPCs, listening to pointless dialogue and exposition. Experiences like this are found in nearly every level, including those where you are all alone with no one to interact with.
Throughout your run through the game, you do encounter some repeated environments, with the castle interior being one of the most visited. But while in theory this may get boring, Ratalaika Games use this premise to switch things up. See, by simply changing the mechanics of the level, the once trotted through castle becomes a horror playground filled with objects thrown at you, to being forced to hide from monsters in closets. The amount of diversity provided prevents repeat environments from feeling stale.
This is also helped by the amount of detail found in these levels. Castle-themed stages are filled with skeletons hanging from the walls, while tumbleweeds roll through the cactus filled desert. All of these small additions help fill the world with an energy that makes trodding through them worth it. Small changes like a glitching world with floating logs and boars help differentiate one forest level from another. Even on repeat playthroughs, the environments are designed well enough that I would still find myself slowing down to appreciate the oddities presented.
The brevity of Shadow of Loot Box is also a help. Every level has its own separate gimmick, but despite the variety, they are just that, gimmicks. By the end of most levels, they have run their course, leaving you gracious and excited for what change you may meet next. Lasting any longer than 15 mins would drag down your experience and really highlight the faults in this game, and even though it is possible to finish the game in less than an hour, Shadow of Loot Box lasts just as long as it should, leaving you entertained and happy with your experience.
The music is also a strong suit. Going in, based on the art style, you would expect the music to be a bit of a throwback to older style games. Instead you are treated to some haunting tracks. One in particular takes place in a frozen tundra on a level focusing on survival mechanics. The music here really works to highlight the loneliness and desperation that games of that nature tend to produce. While Shadow of Loot Box doesnt sport the most diverse tracklist, each and every one helps to flesh the levels out and feel like the games they are trying to satirize.
The progression system that holds all of this together is done completely through loot boxes. You collect these by competing quests for various NPCs, finding them hidden throughout the map, or, in one situation, robbing a caravan. Opening these loot boxes grants weapons, ammo, experience and health, making them integral resources that sometimes leaves you weighing the risks of getting items you don’t need, for some extra health. This plays into the satirical nature of this game, truly driving home the idea that loot boxes can leave you disappointed. There were multiple times where I wanted to get health but instead gained ammo for a gun I had not unlocked yet. Puzzlingly however, despite reaching max level, you can still gain experience from loot boxes, essentially wasting an opportunity for a resource that you actually need.
Much of Shadow of Loot Box is decent enough, but the combat focused levels suffer the most when compared to the rest of the game. While the enemies are simple enough, with almost all of them bringing some variant of charging at you until either you or they die, the gun play isn’t very satisfying.
You are given four different weapons, each unlocked randomly through loot boxes leaving a slight chance that you may not unlock them all in one playthrough. None of these guns have any recoil however, leaving them all to feel rather similar and shooting can feel dull. Making it worse is the fact that aiming can be a nightmare. Putting the sensitivity to the lowest setting still somehow feels like it is too fast and twitchy, leaving you to struggle while you have to hit more precise shots when facing bosses. Luckily, I found myself content with and able to ignore most of the enemies, avoiding fights whenever I liked, lessening this issue.
Despite the fact that shooting is a constant in near all of the levels, it never becomes too much of an issue because of this, however I also encountered problems when interacting with items. Oddly enough, interaction seems inconsistent and at times it has been a real struggle to get the prompt to interact with items despite the fact that I would be looking right at it. The only real solution requires smashing the player character into the object multiple times to try and find an angle which will work.
Clocking in at about an hour and a half for my first playthrough, with a second run lasting 45 minutes, the brevity does a lot to help in its enjoyability. Shadow of Loot Box never outstays its welcome, and the different themed levels add enough variety that you don’t get bored. Costing just a few bucks, you’ll find a short but rather fun experience that is worth spending an afternoon playing.