You know you are in for quite the ride when the developer of a game tells you things like “This character you can play is Sioux, like Susie-Sue, and she starts out addicted to drugs” and “the second area is the power station which is built in the derelict remains of a goth dance club”. Black Future ’88 is a brand new fast-paced action-heavy cyberpunk rogue-like coming soon from SUPERSCARYSNAKES and I had the chance to meet up and talk with one of the games creators, Don Bellenger, about this upcoming title and what exactly sets it apart from the other 2D rogue-likes that are currently on the market.
In Black Future ’88 , you are one of the survivors in an alternate version of the year 1988 where the planet has been destroy by a nuclear apocalypse with the tower being one of the last remaining havens for mankind. As one of three characters (Don did mention there would be a couple of hidden characters in the final release) you have to climb to the top of the tower and kill the big-bad at the top. Unfortunately for you your heart is going to explode in 18 minutes, and the tower is actively trying to kill you. Various enemies, bosses and even the tower itself stand in your way.
Being a rogue-like title, the levels you visit will all be randomly generated with a variety of power ups available to you for purchase and as rewards that will increase your chances of attaining victory over the tower. Buffs, or Curses as they are called in Black Future ’88, will give your character various benefits such as being able to have more ammo for each of your weapons or increasing your health pool. One mechanic that I found particularly interesting was the drug addiction mechanic where your character will get a fairly powerful buff or ability but will mark one of the ticks on your health bar, and if you get hit you will take much more damage. As mentioned before, one of the three characters you can start your run through the tower with starts already addicted to drugs. Don mentioned that this character is the one for the hardcore players that want a good challenge.
In terms of weapons at your disposal, Black Future reminded me a lot of the popular 2D rogue-like title, Enter the Gungeon, and with good reason as the developer said that they used crazy weapons that you will be able to pick up and defend yourself with, the developer even mentioned that Gungeon was an inspiration for the games system. You will have access to 80 different weapon varieties you can stumble on, from guns that shoot honey or a rail-gun that will teleport you each time you shoot it, each with its own pool of ammo, and also the occasional melee weapons that don’t have the ammo restriction. One weapon that Don told me about that I found especially intriguing was one that doesn’t have ammo per-say but instead uses your remaining time as it’s power source, and with each shot you reduce the time you have left until your heart explodes. He explained that it is an incredibly powerful weapon, but the repercussions of using the weapon are equally hard hitting.
After speaking for a time with Don, I got to jump into the demo myself to take on the Tower and start my climb, with the developer himself as my co-op partner. I of course had to be the hardcore player choice, the rail-gun toting, drug addicted vixen, Sioux. Together, Don and I ran, jumped, shot, and dodged our way through the first area of the Tower. Overrun with plant life that relied on the runoff from the rain from the upper levels. We managed to get through and tackle the first area’s Warden, this game’s version of the bosses, without much issue. Thanks in no small part to Don doing 90% of the work and helping me choose the best options for the upgrades and weapons we found along with way.
Controls are of the twin-stick shooter variety where you move with the left joystick /keyboard and aim and shoot with the right mouse. In the current build I played, the gun will automatically fire in the direction when you point in a direction but in the final release they want to add in the option of having a fire button, so that you can aim and then shoot when you want. It’s a feature that I wish was in this current build as things could get very chaotic at times and being able to have the added precision of lining up a shot and then taking it will be a welcome addition. Your main method of staying safe is to take advantage of the dodge teleport maneuver that will let you quickly teleport away either up, down, left, or right from where you are at, even letting you pass through objects. The controls felt tight and are responsive with the uncapped frame rate which is incredibly important as this is one of the most fast paced rogue-likes I have played.
One of the defining features that sets Black Future apart as Don explained, is that the combat and game play is a more complex and deep experience, using action games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry as examples. While I myself didn’t find the connection quite as clear, he explained that much of this complexity comes from developing a build of various Curses and gear to suit a specific game play style, with some loadouts giving you a witch-time like slow motion effect and allowing you to unload on your foes. Depending on the pairings of items and buffs you have you may even unlock additional bonuses.
The visuals of Black Future ’88 pop and stand out with an amazing pixel art style full of neon colors and dark backgrounds that become a brilliant light show of bullets and explosions once combat gets intense. Enemies and the player character animations are done well with each of the characters you can play as looking distinctly different and unique. For all of the great visuals, it is in these same visuals that I come to my biggest issue with the game. With all the visual stimulation going on it can be difficult to keep track of where your character is at and what’s coming at you, making dodging and keeping yourself safe more of a chore. Throw in a second player and it becomes even more difficult. It is reassuring to note however that this is an issue that Don and the team is well aware of and that it will be addressed.
I went into Black Future ’88 a touch concerned that this would feel like just another 2D rogue-like with a pixel art aesthetic that seem to be a dime a dozen lately, but after speaking with Don and playing the game I am happy to say that I enjoyed my time with and and saw that there are aspects of the game that will set it apart from the others. With the cyberpunk-esque environments, the darker tones of the buffs and drugs, and the deeper and intense combat options you have at your disposal making this a game you should keep your eyes on if you are a fan of rogue-likes.