Black Future ’88 is a wonderfully unique roguelike that combines fast paced action with a gorgeous synth-punk aesthetic. Despite some minor issues with the gameplay, Black Future ’88 would make a wonderful addition to any roguelike collection.
In a plot that would be at home in any old-school synth-punk beat-em-up, you play as one of five playable characters with only minutes left to live. In that time, you must ascend a procedurally generated tower filled with traps and robotic enemies in order to kill the architect and stop the nuclear rain.
The bright colored synth-punk aesthetic works well for Black Future ’88. Each large room brims with personality and each enemy is easy to identify. I particularly loved the way mercenaries would threaten you as you progressed. These threats made the inevitable showdown all the more exciting.
In terms of gameplay, Black Future ’88 is mostly a vertical bullet dodging shooter. Enemies drop guns and swords which you can use to murder their friends. On the switch, aiming the guns is fairly difficult. Fortunately, the Switch has an auto-aim mode, allowing you to focus on traversal and dodging.
Unfortunately, I did not find most of the guns to be extremely interesting. Especially with the auto-aim, new weapons only seemed important if they had more ammo or output more damage. The only exceptions to this rule are the “Night” weapons which teleport you to the location of a slain enemy, allowing you to quickly zap across the map to an exit. Given how satisfying the Night weapons are to use, it is a shame that the rest of the arsenal does not provide as much enjoyment.
The platforming in the game can also be a little problematic. Your jump has significant height to it, but can be hard to aim. This problem is exacerbated at the tops of levels where the roof can cut a jump short. Additionally, the dash button can be difficult to control with your character falling immediately after it ends. For a game centered around vertical climbing, Black Future ’88 is at its least enjoyable during the platforming.
The gunplay and the awesome analog-synth soundtrack more than make up for the platforming issues. It can be extremely satisfying to jump through a stage destroying robots and dodging lasers to the beat of the music. While the game does feature couch coop, I did not have a chance to try it out. That said, I can imagine the game is even better with friends.
Overall, Black Future ’88 has everything I look for in a roguelike. The moment to moment gameplay is exciting, easy to pick up, and hard to master. If you’re looking for a roguelike to play this holiday season, Black Future ’88 is a great entry into the genre.