Another day, another retro styled platformy/combat game moves into view, this time going by the name of Lost Ruins by the clever people over at Altari Games. While it looks like it should be a Metroidvania game, there aren’t actually any extra skills to be found, so don’t be fooled. The question then is whether the game can hold our interest, and whether it is worth your hard earned cash.
Obviously, in order to make sense of the game world we find ourselves in, we need to have a look at the narrative that is found in Lost Ruins. And while it plays on a few very well worn tropes, such as the heroine having lost her memory, what is here is actually quite engaging. We awaken in a monster filled dungeon, with no memory, and luckily the first person we meet decides to help us. Called Beatrice, a magician, she explains where we are and what is happening, which is basically that someone called the Dark Lady has summoned us to this world and stolen our memories. The only way to get them back is to explore, kill her acolytes, and hopefully live happily ever after.
Visually and what we have is another retro styled, almost pixel-arted game with all the expected greatest hits of the genre. The characters are anime styled, right down to the school uniform that our heroine wears (which is how she is referred to in the game) and the character design is all very nice indeed. Learning to recognise different enemies, what they are weak to, and their attack patterns is easy to do, as the graphics have a very good clarity to them; it is always simple enough to see what is going on. The sound is very good as well, with swishing sounds and whooshing spells, squeaking bats and shrieking monsters. Animation is on point as well, and the presentation as a whole is very good indeed.
Lost Ruins has a twin gameplay focus – there is the exploration side, where you can wander around and find new kit to help you survive, and then there is the combat side, where you are actually filling in a load of monsters to try and stay alive. So, what I’ll do with this is split the areas into separate sections, starting with the combat aspect.
As you’d expect when Lost Ruins opens, you are a school girl with nothing more up your sleeve than harsh language, so it’s a bit of a struggle as you start. You will find a weapon fairly quickly, and learn to swing it about with a press of the X button. You can have two weapons equipped at once, should you be lucky enough to come across them, with the second weapon mapped to the Y button. Having an up close and personal melee weapon alongside a ranged weapon – like a bow or a wand – is a very good idea. The different weapons have various attack speeds, so a dagger is much faster to attack with than a sledgehammer, for instance, but does a lot less damage. Be aware however, that while a slow weapon will hit harder, the run up to the attack can be so long that the enemies are able to just stroll up and give you a smack, and thus interrupt your attack. Finding a weapon you like is all part of the fun.
Magic attacks are available as well, with a variety of spells able to be found tucked away in the dim corners of the dungeon. These spells have elements attached to them, such as fire or ice, and again the various enemies you come across may have weaknesses to particular elements. As a little tip, skeletons are weak to fire, so a hit with a fireball or a smack with a flaming sword will usually set them on fire, allowing you to retreat to a safe distance and wait for them to die. There are also throwing weapons available, such as Leyden jars, that contain electricity, so these can also form part of your arsenal.
Exploring the dungeons of Lost Ruins is fraught with danger, as you might imagine. Running and jumping are both pretty good, even if the jumping is sometimes a little imprecise, and trying to figure out how to open a door to get at a treasure chest is sometimes quite challenging. There are puzzles, of a sort, involving doors, weights and even cannons, but there’s nothing too tricky to get to grips with. In fact, the jumping mechanic demands that you leap at the last possible millimetre of platform space, and sadly is sometimes quite annoying to get right. As you’d expect, that’s a bit of a pain when you have climbed almost to the top of a shaft and you plummet straight back down to the bottom, sigh a bit, then start climbing again.
Other than that, and the odd way that aerial attacks are performed (the instant you press the attack button, the heroine ceases all forward motion and drops straight down, often into an attack you were trying to avoid), the exploration side of things is good as well.
With lots of weapons and armour to find, each with different effects, and bosses to discover and destroy, there is a lot of content to go at in Lost Ruins. The simplicity of the graphics and gameplay actually help with the hook, as the urge to explore is strong; it is this which will keep drawing you back in.
If you are in the market for a side scrolling slash-em-up/platform-survival game, you could do a lot worse than take in these Lost Ruins.
Lost Ruins is available from the Xbox Store