Black Future ‘88 from SuperScarySnakes and Good Shepherd is a hardcore 2D cyberpunk action roguelike that glows on Nintendo Switch. Find out why in our Black Future ’88 review!
In synth-punk 2D action roguelike Black Future ’88, you have 18 minutes to climb up and totally murder the architect of a deadly living tower that is always changing and evolving. Due to the game’s roguelike nature, every run that you do will have you go through a procedurally generated climb that will challenge your skills every step of the way. Duncan, the tower’s architect, unleashed nuclear chaos during the summer of 1988, and by December of that year, the sky was black with deadly rain. People just stopped counting time as we know it, and it’s been 1988 ever since. Time is not counted in days, weeks, or months, but in minutes… since everything and everyone is pretty much about to die.
As soon as I started to play for this Black Future ’88 review, I was instantly grabbed by the awesome synthwave soundtrack and the gorgeous pixel art. It’s a neon-heavy cyberpunk inspired universe, with a matching soundtrack that perfectly matches the game’s look and feel, evolving as things get even more hectic in the next section, and on the section after that one, and on the next one… you’ll find yourself tapping with your feet and grooving with your body as you play this one.
The controls are easy to get the hang off for this 2D action roguelike since your character will run around with the left analog stick or the D-Pad as you aim and attack with the right one. You can jump and double jump with the B button (or with the L button), dashing with the A button (or the R button) to quickly move around each area as you try to put some distance between you and your opponents – dashing also makes you invincible. You can switch weapons with the ZR button depending on your loadout and can activate a special attack with the ZL button. You can also autoattack with the Y button if you find yourself in a deadly predicament. The game will allow you to practice all of this by throwing you into a short tutorial section so that you can get the hang of things.
As you explore each section of the tower, you might find specialty stations where you can trade some of the time you have left to live to grab a new ability to install. These include, for example, a Sequence Optimizer that makes it possible for your weapons to not cost any ammo when you’re riding a high enough combo, a Firewall that allows your character to become fire and explosion-proof as long as your combo is high enough, or a Nails Implant that will spit out nails when you’re damaged, but it also curses you with receiving higher overall damage.
An interesting gameplay twist is that while you, the player, are taking on a roguelike, the tower itself – named SKYMELT – is also playing a roguelike of its own! Allow me to elaborate: SKYMELT is always watching, evolving as you move from one section to the next. Anything that you leave behind in an area will be picked up by the tower in Black Future ’88, which will, in turn, allow it to pick up some perks of its own. What this could translate into is you have to battle stronger enemies for the next area, facing trickier traps, and more, which will certainly change how you approach the rest of your run.
You can select from five different characters, and each one will have some buffs and weaknesses to consider. When you first start to play Black Future ’88, you’ll only have two characters for you to select from. One of them will have a Survivor’s Pistol, a standard weapon with a solid firing rate, as well as a Snake Bite, a weapon with a limited ammo count that packs a bigger punch. The other character will have a Rusty Repeater as well as a Black Richter sword, a powerful short-range melee weapon. On top of this, said character will also have a higher ammo max count for any weapons it can find during the climb up the tower.
Depending on you do on each of your runs, you will be rewarded with experience points that can allow you to level up. You will get experience points based on how many seconds your run lasted, how many times you fired your weapons, the number of kills you got, the weapons you picked up, how many times you dashed, the secrets you found, how many curses you gained, as well as how many warders you killed. Leveling up will unlock new stuff that you can find during subsequent runs into the tower, such as new buffs and curses, or new weapons.
Speaking of wardens, they are the enemies that act as the bosses for each of the sections of the tower you will be exploring. While playing, you can see that the game is showing you a skull icon that points in a general direction. If you follow it, then you will end up taking the shortest path toward the next warder you will have to fight, which is a good thing when you’re short on time and need to make as much progress as possible, but it’s not a good option if you’re trying to explore the entire floor as you search for more buffs for your character.
Black Future ’88 is a challenging but fun 2D action roguelike with plenty of content to enjoy, as well as a high difficulty that will test your skills in full. Doing a proper full run to the top of the tower and being victorious is not an easy feat, as there is a lot of trial and error thrown into the mix as you learn how each of the enemies you face behaves, as well as what the hazards in each floor and the wardens you battle at the end of the road can do. Add the option for taking on a different daily challenge each day, with a change of climbing up the online leaderboards, and you have a solid option on Nintendo Switch for only $14.99. Are you up for the challenge?
This Black Future ’88 review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Good Shepherd.