I remember playing games on the NES and rarely finishing them because the developers back then valued masochism and broken gaming equipment over actual game completion. I'd argue high difficulty stretches re-playability for a long period of time, up until the point of no return (ie the controller ends up in pieces). But [email protected] has an interesting balance of pissing players off just enough so that re-playability sticks around without causing fits of rage that result in controller confetti. Plus, it's nostalgic as hell. One Smurfs game came to mind that utilized ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange, if you're so inclined to know) back in the day, but that game was more rage-inducing since I didn't get very far beyond the loading screen. Luckily for us, [email protected] loads beyond the screen into a game that's worth jumping into for awhile.
The ASCII in this game is done tastefully--for example, your character's shield is an @ symbol. Fitting. Crafting weapons requires a recipe book and proper ingredients--letters. This is the first time I can say I've successfully crafted a broadsword from letters of the alphabet. [email protected] has a fresh take on what developers were forced to use years ago, since polygons weren't heard of back then and 3D animation wasn't a "legitimate" avenue for video games. It's a responsive roguelike that causes smiles to crack inbetween the ragefests. Although the artistic style is welcomed, at times it was difficult to really make out what was on screen because everything is made from white letters--sometimes making things hard to distinguish.
But why such rage? Many hate? So fury? Death is permadeath, and unfortunately it hit my the hardest with this debacle. It's a game that runs in the vein of Galak-Z, where dying means going back to the very beginning after a ragefest moment. All items, levels, skills, and progress reset to goose-egg. As before, [email protected] lives up to it's name.
Aside from gaining all the sweet loot and then losing it all due to drinking a potion my character already knew was poisonous, I'm happy to see there's the random aspect of the game--it's always a wonder what the red potion could do. Well in the case of the game that I played, it was a poisonous potion. When someone else plays [email protected], it might bring them vitality, heal, or cause a different effect. It's all set by RNG. But I'd argue my potion-drinking mishap was caused by a confusing menu. I forgot whether to use the analog sticks or the directional pad at the menu to move or assign items. Futhermore, it wasn't clear how I could throw said poisonous potion, which was my original intent. To add, I didn't know the food items I picked up were stored in inventory. It felt more as if my character should have eaten them on the spot instead of throwing them into inventory. These are all slight criticisms for what I think is still a solid game for anyone.
This combination of ASCII glory, randomized game mechanics, satisfyingly difficult levels, destructable environments, crafting, and level design goes a long way, especially after you're done memorizing technological acronyms for computer science class. [email protected] is available now on the Playstation store. Check out the co-op trailer below to see what else the game offers.