When I think of a twin stick shooter, I instantly remember the joy of carving through hundreds of aliens in Housemarque’s Alienation, the razor-sharp controls of Geometry Wars and the never-ending challenge of Dead Ops Arcade, the addictive Easter egg hidden in the bowels of Call of Duty: Black Ops. These, with hundreds like them, are all excellent shoot ‘em up titles. Yet at the core of the experience, there was little that separated them from one another.
Ruiner, the debut title from Warsaw-based developer Reikon bucks the trend of the twin stick shoot ‘em up by slowing things down a bit, significantly reducing the enemy count while turning the difficulty up to eleven.
Set in a cyberpunk metropolis in the year 2091, our hero Puppy, clad in an extreme version of Wrench’s (Watch Dogs 2) mask, is on the search for his kidnapped brother with the help of a hacker referred to only as Her.
The fifteen levels in Ruiner are each made up of a number of stages. You’ll escape from each after you’ve survived a set number of enemy waves consisting of no more than five or six enemies at a time. Aside from the occasional boss fight, this is how the entirety of Ruiner plays out.
While this may seem like a matter of rinse and repeat (and to an extent it is), Ruiner features a diverse range of enemy types, plenty of projectile and melee weapons and a whopping thirteen special abilities to unlock and upgrade. And this is where the game will suck you in as mastering the abilities and switching between them with finesse is a challenge in its own right. Knowing which ones to use against each enemy is a whole other ballgame and as soon as you feel you’ve figured out the best way to kill the baddies, a new kind of enemy is thrown at you and you’re guaranteed to kick the bucket over and over again until you figure them out.
While Ruiner doesn’t wholly embrace the challenge and progression of the Dark Souls series there is still a small sense of it which is a pretty big achievement in a – let’s face it – arcade-style game. Enemies are so varied that getting your arse kicked as you learn to defeat them is half the fun.
What lets Ruiner down is the monotony of its levels. Thin corridors connecting open spaces all feature the same industrial design despite their (apparent) varying locations. While the graphics themselves are excellent with smooth animations and incredible lighting effects producing a real sense of depth, weight and atmosphere, the seemingly never ending factory levels grow old quickly taking away a large portion of your sense of progression.
To add fuel to the fire, the campaign is surprisingly short at a mere 5ish hours; it can be stretched out by increasing the difficulty which, despite the names given, ranges from Hard to freaking Impossible. The game suffers further from a minor yet frustrating bug which randomly results in a certain enemy type being impervious to attacks and dialogue — all of which is delivered in text — featuring a number of cringeworthy spelling and grammatical errors.
While falling into a genre saturated with thousands of titles, Ruiner is a shoot ‘em up like few others. Sure, it’s not as fast paced as most, and it features far fewer enemies than the norm, but it’s a game that requires precision, calculation and a hell of a lot of patience. The number of upgrades and abilities to play around with make it worth playing through to the end but it’s ruined (get it?) by a short campaign, and repetitive levels. If it were to feature a well-executed endless/survival mode the play re-play factor might have increased slightly but in its current form you’re unlikely to play this more than once. Only drop coin on this if you’re a huge fan of the genre.
Ruiner was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.