Welcome to Coverage Club, our new regular series where we shift our critical eye towards smaller games that deserve some attention. Each week, our review editors select two titles and provide honest first impressions in the same style as our full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preferences, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
This week, both members of the Coverage Club indulge in their favorite genres. Alex starts a climb to the top of the Ruin of the Reckless, a melee-focused roguelite by Faux-Operative Games that shares similarities with the greats of the genre. After that, Sam keeps up the beat with the rhythm stylings of Stereo Aereo by The Stonebot Studio.
Ruin of the Reckless
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
Despite the continued popularity of procedural elements in games, it can be rare to see a new roguelite compete with the likes of Enter the Gungeon and Binding of Isaac. These games are on top of the mountain for a reason, as their complexity and gameplay variety is hard to achieve, especially for a team that is forgoing a publisher and relying on a limited vision funded by Kickstarter. Faux-Operative Games are one such team, and they seem to have beaten the odds and delivered a roguelite brawler with tight gameplay and enough random elements and secrets to keep things interesting beyond the first few runs.
Ruin of the Reckless casts you as Stargrove, a young boy out for adventure who finds himself in a mysterious tower. The inhabitants tell him that he's dead, then entice him with a wish. All he has to do is climb to the top of the tower and succeed where so many before him have failed. Thus, the game is set with a premise that is pretty familiar to fans of the genre, especially with a Gungeon-esque title screen as one of the first things you see after booting up the game. There is a female playable character available from the jump if you'd rather die as a pink haired lady, and you're simply left with an empty looking room and a pair of portals. One takes you to the main game and the other takes you to a highly recommended tutorial that unlocks a few useful Chaos Cards for you to start with.
What is a Chaos Card you ask? Basically, these are traits and sets of starting equipment that you can turn on and off as you see fit, kind of like Mutators from Unreal Tournament. This gives the game a lot of its replayability, as there is a whole host of tweaks and powers to choose from. Do you want to knock slimes around with a gauntlet fist or drive through them with a rapier? Do you want to roll deep with a horde of pets attacking for you or fling fireballs at your foes? The game's combat system is very open, but the game's randomization holds you back from dialing in a preferred loadout every time. You'll have to experiment a lot with what Reckless throws at you, and that's part of what makes the game so hard.
Yes, despite providing several opportunities to tune the difficulty over my hours with the game, I still found Ruin of the Reckless a punishing and unfulfilling experience as a solo player. Perhaps climbing the tower is tuned better for co-op, but even that wouldn't fix some of the more glaring issues with staying alive. This is a melee focused game, which means you'll almost always have to get up close and personal with whatever creatures you happen to be fighting. It's a numbers game, and you're bound to take some hits when its twenty against one. Health is a precious commodity, and you'll often have to heal at opportunities where you could have otherwise powered up.
Once you climb a few floors, you'll start facing tougher opponents, as is normal for this type of game. However, the upgrades and small bits of progression you get from run to run don't actually make you any stronger on the outset, so early floors continue to pose the same difficulty no matter how many times you've played through them. I managed to get to the first boss of the game once, and she stomped me into the ground with a quick fury that left me no room to learn her tactics. Most players will hit this stiff wall of difficulty within the first few hours of play, and only the most masochistic of players will feel the drive to venture onward after that.
This is all truly a shame, as there's a lot to like about Ruin of the Reckless. The graphics really pop, showcasing a world full of unique and interesting character designs. The melee combat really makes you feel powerful as you knock one slime into three more and send an entire room of enemies ricocheting around like billiard balls. As long as you enter with the right expectations, this ruin is certainly worth a look for a pair of friends seeking a new dungeon to crawl.
Ruin of the Reckless was played on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
I tend to enjoy weird rhythm games. I find trying to keep to a beat to be enjoyable, and games like The Metronomicon, Aaero, and Klang (all of which would 100% have shown up in this series had TechRaptor not already reviewed them) really attract me. As such, I wanted to check out Stereo Aereo, a game where a rock band hops in their spaceships and flies down a highway, shooting and dodging things to the beat.
The basic story is simple and works with the game's plot well. Stereo Aereo is a band that gets a once-in-a-lifetime gig to go play as the openers for a galactic rock show. Sounds awesome, right? The only condition is that they have to get across the galaxy to get to said rock show. They also have to actually be on time. What follows is the band traveling across the galaxy, fighting off robotic mobsters and angry police officers so they can make the show. The story works well enough with the game, providing enough context that I enjoyed it.
You'll play as one of the three members of the band: either Rock Rocket, Harmony Rift, or Old Soul Orlenads. No matter who you play, the style of the game is the same. Your ship will automatically fly down a five-lane path and you need to either avoid obstacles or shoot them. You can only shoot purple obstacles though, so you have to pay attention to the color of each item that gets in your way.
Since this is a music game, this all happens to the rhythm of the music. You'll be jamming out to one of fifteen original tracks made for the game. Most of the ones that I played fell under a simple rock/synth mix. The game took place in various futuristic settings, like some crazy sprawling cities with flying cars or in the middle of an asteroid field. Mostly it's just flavor and doesn't really affect what happens during each song though.
Occasionally you'll get a boss fight to actually spice things up. They don't play too different from your normal segments, you'll still be dodging most objects and shooting purple ones. Just now there's a big enemy causing problems as well. They're fun, but not exactly a massive break from the normal gameplay.
Actually, if there's one major problem I had with Stereo Aereo, it was that I felt like I played the entire game by the end of the first three songs. There isn't quite enough unique scenarios when it comes to the game, and I felt like the game could have used more of that. Is it bad? Nah. In fact, it's quite entertaining and I would actually recommend the game to rhythm game fans looking for something new and cheap to try.
Stereo Aereo was played on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
What do you think of this week's Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another look? Let us know in the comments below, and don't forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.