Super Rare Originals have teamed up with developers Cuddle Monster Games to release Lone Ruin. Released in January 2023 it comes three and a half years after their initial release, Hell is Other Demons. Astute gamers will notice a consistency in style, but Lone Ruin has a whole new gameplay.
Lone Ruin, Could it be Magic, or Should it go into the Bermuda Triangle
There’s only one thing to do when a game lands on your desk that is developed by a company called Cuddle Monster Games. Have a play! Lone ruin is an adventure through a ruin that isn’t surrounded by anything. What excitement awaits? So putting the paradoxical joy of cuddle monsters and the depression of loneliness to one side it’s time to get prepared to fight for my life against some less-than-cuddly monsters. Best practice my spell casting and find a big stick to accompany me.
Lone Ruin is a twin-stick shooter, it can also be played with a keyboard and mouse if you prefer. The premise is very simple, destroy anything trying to kill you. The plot is about as existent as my Lamborghini, Rolex and villa in the Bahamas. You enter a lone ruin for no reason at all armed with just a scarf, pointy ears and a pointy finger to slay all evil. Why you are doing this is entirely up to you, maybe you’re rescuing a captured elven princess (been done), maybe you seek great treasures (been done), maybe you are out for revenge against the evil that destroyed your family (been done). Maybe it’s best if you just add your own reasons for your quest as Cuddle Monster Games have come up decidedly short in the imagination department. Let’s hope that the gameplay is awesome.
Lone Ruin is presented as an 8-bit game, with a magenta and cyan colour scheme. You enter the ruins and the gate traps you inside. A stranger gifts you a spell to choose to start with. Once you have chosen a spell then you head deeper into the ruin. The choice of spell needs to match your playing style as all are slightly different. Try and find the best combinations. The movement of your character is very smooth and the gameplay element is genuinely great fun. There are a couple of different ways to play, there is a more adventure-based mode and a survival mode. I chose to just hit the play button and go for it in adventure mode. Before you commit to entering one of the two archways, you have to see what the reward for completing the level is. Choose wisely.
Each level consists of a number of waves of enemy attacks. Spawn points appear on the floor so you know where not to be standing and then merry hell gets unleashed. Complete all the waves and you get the reward, though beware, each subsequent wave starts after a specific amount of time and not upon completion of the previous wave. Once the reward has been taken choose your next archway and do it all again. Each successive level gets a little bit harder with new enemies being introduced, but they are not overly challenging to a nimble, fleet-footed elf-type creature with a scarf.
You always have a dash ability if things get a little close for comfort. Kill the baddies, collect treasure and health to keep going. After a few levels, there is a boss level. Kill the boss and then carry on your adventure. Well, that’s what I am assuming. The skill level required does jump a little. The first few levels are as hard as pushing kids over in the playground, but the boss level is like being charged by the All Blacks in a bad mood whilst suffering from the flu. After several attempts and an equal amount of failures, I decided to hone my skills in survival mode.
Survival mode is a larger map with wave after wave of enemies. Rewards are also given for completing the waves. You need to select the most useful option or the one that suits your gameplay best. I was a huge fan of hiding behind an ice wall. There are three levels of difficulty that vary the amount of life you have at the start and the intensity of the enemies. If you are struggling just lower the difficulty to easy. Learn the enemies and their attacks, if you can predict them then you have the advantage. If you are still struggling with ease, maybe take a walk and question your life decisions. I know I did. If you play well, you get on the leaderboard so you always have a target to beat. Sometimes it’s more satisfactory to best yourself rather than the enemy.
Graphics & Audio
As mentioned previously, Lone Ruin presents itself as an 8-bit game. The graphics are all well done and suit the retro style, in fact, the slightly unusual and unexplained colour scheme also gives a great retro feel. The character movement is very good, and the little nuances of the cape flowing with the movement are very realistic as well. My favourite part is definitely the finger gun though. What else would a spell caster need? The enemies are easy enough to spot against the background, but not too obvious, the enemy movement is all very smooth as well giving a pleasurable gaming experience.
The music that accompanies your mission of unknown reason into the Lone Ruin is quite dancy whilst also being atmospheric. It instils a sense of urgency into your action and gets the adrenaline pumping. Accompanying the pumping tune is the required sound effects, mainly the sound of disappointment after taking a hit. The finger gun makes the appropriate shooting noise just in case you think it’s just a finger. There doesn’t appear to be any collection noises, no clink as gold is picked up or sigh of relief as health is gained, these are basic elements that I would expect to find.
With what looks like just 21 levels including 3 bosses Lone Ruin doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of replayability. The survival mode is a better bet to return to try and beat your previous scores. Whilst it is a fun little game, there is a lack of content to make it stand out in an already overcrowded market. I can see a little bit of a buzz for a short time, but without any standout features, I fear it will sink without a trace very quickly. Maybe it will stick around a little longer if promoted at a budget price, but that will be a decision for the marketing team.
Lone Ruin gives off a great retro vibe, and if I were playing it on my ZX Spectrum in 1985 I would have enjoyed it a lot more. In today’s market, there is so much better to choose from. Great gameplay is hindered by a lack of content and continuity, the big question is ‘Why?’. Why am I here, why am I playing it, and why doesn’t anything make sense? Hopefully Cuddle Monster Games will continue to evolve and execute some bigger and bolder ideas. The framework is there to expand and I hope that I get to see what comes next. I have awarded Lone Ruin a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.