As I wandered from long line to long line between the Xbox and Sony booths on the E3 show floor, a single indie station caught my eye. This was [email protected], a game that I’ve covered before during its time on Steam Greenlight. I’m happy to say that it’s not just coming to PC anymore, as I was able to sample a build of the game running on a PlayStation 4 at Sony’s booth.
For those not familiar, [email protected] is a roguelike that attempts to modernize the ASCII look of the originators of the genre. This leads to a stark contrast between old and new. Everything is black and white to start with, but there are flashes of color as you play, including enchanted rune letters and the flame coming from your lit torch. The style is what initially drew me to the game in the first place, and seeing it in person has only solidified my position.
Speaking of enchanted runes, roguelikes live and die by the amount of variety they can present from run to run. [email protected] drops loot for its players in the form of letters. White letters are standard, while colored letters hold some enchanted properties. In keeping with the ASCII theme, you can use these letter to build things such as weapons, and I was able to craft an icy sword and a poison-tipped blade before my demo was through. What I liked about this system was that players weren’t stuck choosing between one type of any particular weapon. If you’re able to craft five different types of swords, they’re all just a click away in your inventory.
Acquiring a huge list of armaments is the trick since [email protected] lives up to its name. As you’d expect, each run starts off fresh, and I spent most of the first level of my demo with just my fists and a torch to burn zombies alive. Even then, it was enjoyable to run through and defeat common enemies, and I also took the opportunity to smash most of my surroundings into chunks of alphabet soup. While I love the stylized look, I didn’t particularly care for how it ended my run. I saw an enemy, ran towards it, and then suddenly fell to my death. Due to the black and white nature of the graphics, it seemed easy to wander off into a bottomless pit without any warning beforehand, and cheap deaths are the last thing you want in a game like this.
For the most part, my time with [email protected] was positive, and I had fun chatting with producer Richard Wood while I played. He let me in on everything that would change from run to run, including a wide array of funny messages that softened the blow of my quick demise. I still think the game holds some promise and will find some fans among those who started their gaming journey on NetHack instead of Mario Bros.