Roguelikes tend to fall into two categories when it comes to challenge: One in which the game does its best to stomp your face into the ground, and the other in which the game becomes laughably easy once you have a certain build or certain items. Bunker Punks however taps into the Spelunky school of thought in that the game can be easy to breeze through if you have the skill and focus, but the moment you slack off or get careless does the game commences the stomping of your face. It’s a refreshing change for a roguelike to neither be too hard nor too easy, rewarding confident play and punishing hubris.
Status: In development
Developer: Ninja Robot Dinosaur
Publisher: Ninja Robot Dinosaur
Genre: Action, Roguelike
Release Date: Pre-Spring 2017
Starting a new game leads into the usual procedure for this genre: Start off with little, gain access to more options and content upon death, rinse and repeat until victory. After selecting a punk, a character with their own weapon preferences and traits, you’re then set into a bunker, a corporate owned dungeon full of potential loot and angry guards wanting you dead. Each bunker consists of large rooms connected by narrow hallways that each act as an ‘instance’ of the bunker, with a random selection of enemies and containers to dispatch and crack open respectively in the search of loot. Credits, tech and health can be dropped in various values but so can equipment, be it armor or weaponry. In the beginning there’ll be little to select from, but upon death or completing the final bunker tech will be tradeable for unlocks such as new punks, equipment or home bunker upgrades. Credits go towards the latter, allowing you to build new rooms and installations ala X-Com, like a medical bay for a higher health cap or shooting galleries for greater weapon damage. As upgrades and options become available, it becomes clear that each new run should be built around your chosen punks to enhance their preferred weapon types, so when one falls, the next punk on your team can pick up the slack easily.
For a game still in development, it has surprisingly great controls. For a visceral comparison I’d choose Devil Daggers in terms of the controls’ tightness and loose freedom, hindered only by something of shoddy hit detection when taking a high leap in the air only to brush up by an enemy or container come to a dead stop on the way back down. With how quickly the characters move, I found myself skirting around like a rabbit on a sugar rush in the beginning being unable to land shots – It was only twenty or so minutes of goofing around in the early bunkers before I was able to get better at handling my characters and be able to leap out of the way of rapid gunshots and deadly rockets.
While the game plays well as an FPS roguelike, I can’t say I have very high hopes for the final project from what I’ve seen so far. The rooms are repetitive and the enemy variety is low, so once you start getting more lengthy, successful runs most of the fun comes from trying out the different punks and weapon combinations to figure out who’s your favorite – Even then, skillful play will make a mockery of rooms that have two mechs and a dozen drones. The Steam page (obviously) promises there’ll be more by its full release, but unless the additions really change up how to tackle bunkers and adjust your strategies, and really ramp up the difficulty, the game will end up being alright at best. Bunker Punks is still decently fun and enjoyable in its current state, so we’ll have to see what it’ll bring to the table by its projected pre-Spring 2017 release before we can properly judge its staying power.
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