It's a pixelated action fest in this cute rougelike game. Conny has shot himself in the trigger finger...
After the absolutely phenomenal Hades, I gained a whole new appreciation for a genre I hadn't previously been familiar with. Falling in love with that game created a small problem in that it feels so superior to everything else, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with other games in the genre. Last year's Cult of the Lamb was a shining example of that, and AK-xolotl is at least proof that the genre can offer more entertaining games. Even if they are nowhere near as good as Hades. Despite the fact that AK-xolotl is very simple in many ways, it is also entertaining on the same premises. A straightforward and fast-paced roguelike that has enough charm to make you enjoy it - at least in small doses.
Before we get into the game itself, let's do a nature lesson: Axolotl is an amphibian. So, the lesson is over. After a short intro, the only remaining axolotl is extremely vengeful and with a weapon at the ready, it sets out to kill. Like most games in the genre, a level is randomised and you have to hold your breath, avoid enemy projectiles and clear each room of them before getting a chest with a reward and moving on to the next one. Sometimes you are given several paths to choose from with an icon above showing what kind of reward you can expect when you clear the next room in the treasure chest that drops down when the room is completed.
So far, everything feels traditional. You die often, and each time this happens you return to The Pond, the game's hub world. This expands as the game progresses (with new deaths) and soon small shops open up and you can also collect baby axolotls to breed. It's a nice break between each new attempt even if there isn't much to enjoy.
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Once back in the chaos, you run around, shoot with your weapon that you can aim in a circle and pick up new weapons and abilities. Everything is very simple both in terms of visuals and game mechanics. Regarding the former, there's not much to it. The pixel graphics are cosy, even if they do feel a bit simplistic. Some things, like taking care of your captured axolotls, have a sequence that feels a bit too "five minutes of work in Paint". Similarly, the rooms of the courses are a bit too similar even though they change environment when you kill the boss waiting at the end of each level. The music is also a bit too shrill and annoying for my taste.
The game mechanics are also very simple. You can carry two weapons and you sometimes get abilities that remain during your so-called "run" and you can also buy some permanent ones, although it takes a little too long to acquire these. The game becomes quite tedious in the long run and small doses of gaming were preferred by yours truly but it feels like the possibility to upgrade takes a bit too long. If you are incredibly good at this type of game, this doesn't matter as much, of course, but I would have liked to be able to permanently upgrade my salamander a little faster. In addition, each new attempt feels quite identical to the previous one even if the layout of the rooms changes slightly, but you quickly fall into a pattern of it feeling very similar all the time. Something that should get a little extra positive judgement at the end of the text is the enemies, which I like the design of. All kinds of ducks, crocodiles, raccoons, rats and other things are trying to kill you and I like how the screen is filled with these crazy baddies that you have to defeat.
The simple conclusion and this text summary is that I have fun when I play but it is also a bit thin on content and becomes extremely repetitive quite quickly. I have struggled with a little wavering regarding the rating but feel that I have still landed in that it is an okay game in the end. Nothing more nor less.
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6 / 10
Entertaining in all its simplicity, charming enemies and characters