[Review] Relic Hunters Zero: Remix – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: Rogue Snail
  • Publisher: Akupara Games
  • Release Date: 07/05/2020
  • Price: $12.99 / £10.79
  • Review code provided by Akupara Games

Video Review

Introducing Relic Hunters Zero: Remix

Video games used to be much simpler. I know it sounds like the musings of an out of touch geezer, but I do not mean it with any negative implications. It is a fact, games were less complicated in the early days, whether it was due to technical limitations or the fact that the medium was still in its infancy. Not many titles had tutorials and were almost all “pick up and play” games. Now it can be seen as a selling point if you can play a game without much explanation. On the outside, Relic Hunters Zero: Remix feels like a callback to those days. It is an experience without much need of explanations or dialog. Pick up the controller and start experiencing it for yourself, that’s what I did.

For the Birds

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, on the Asteroid Dungeon Nemesis, legendary relics of power lay dormant, ready to be plucked by steadfast adventurers. The Relic Hunters of the starship Spaceheart set out to claim these mystical trinkets. Sadly, they were not alone, as the malevolent Duke Ducan also sought the power that the relics offer. With his army of ducks, he will stop at nothing to find the power hidden away on Nemesis.

From the get-go, the story in Relic Hunters seems quite goofy and fun. An army of evil villains and ducks led by the ominous Ducan are out for galactic domination. If this sounds like the plot of a movie from Mystery Science Theater 3000, you would not be far off. The story is not a heavy affair and only matters as a placement for the game to exist. Aside from the beginning bit of narrative, the story isn’t the real focus of the title, it’s the gameplay.

More Bang for Your Duck

Relic Hunters is a twin stick shooter with light RPG and rogue-like elements. The controls are simple enough, the left analog stick controls the character’s movement, while the right stick handles aiming. Firing your weapons is as simple as pulling the right trigger or in tandem with the left trigger allowing you to aim with more precision.  Grenades are handled with the L button when available. Lastly, you can easily switch between your two weapons with X, reload with Y, dash or sprint with B and melee with A. I found dashing to be a bit complicated to do with everything else going on in game. It could be due to the nature of twin stick design, having to take your hand off the stick to dash and then back again. It became manageable but felt a bit odd at times.

This title is jam-packed full of content between Adventure, Storm, Endless and Daily Challenges. Adventure mode is the perfect place to start as it serves as the true beginning of the game. It is broken up between twelve stages that get increasingly more challenging. To ease the burden a bit, any items purchased in the shop become selectable in the main ship hub for future playthroughs. This means you can start the next time with more bombs, ammo, bigger guns, and even relics. Guns are scattered through each level, usually smaller ones to begin with and more potent ones in the latter stages. Enemies will also drop them, along with ammo and bounty. Bounty is like cash you get for defeating enemies and having high kill streaks. Finally comes relics, which must either be purchased or dug up in the levels. This occurs occasionally after each stage. You will be given a prompt to search for treasure, and easy to follow arrows point you towards your loot.

After either completing Adventure mode or purchasing it with bounty, Endless mode becomes available. It functions like Adventure, but without the progress being saved for future runs. Here the challenge ramps up more with stipulations being applied every so often. Enemies will get more health, pick ups may be limited and so on. After completing the “final” stage, the game begins again, but with stronger enemies and different placements. As the game tells you itself, this is the “meat” of the game. Finally, you can also play Storm and Daily Challenges. Storm pits you against waves of enemies in a survival mode style challenge. Daily challenges are preset single player only challenges in which you try to get the highest score to rank on the leaderboards.

Duck and Cover

Multiplayer is such an essential piece of Relic Hunters. Almost every mode is playable with a second player. Take Endless mode, for example. When you reach the loop section, the games difficulty drastically explodes. If you are playing it by yourself, it can be quite challenging. Now if you are playing with a friend, they can help you shoulder the burden. I say burden, because some of the characters seem to be more difficult to play in a single player setting. Pinky and Biu are two examples of these more challenging characters due to their unique weapons. Pinky uses gauntlets that are amazing for up close and personal melee attacks while Biu uses a shield that can reflect most enemy projectiles.

Both characters are quite viable characters for the game, but they are more technical and challenging. Therefore, when paired with a well-rounded character like Jimmy or Red, they become easier to play because the aggro is split. With Pinky, this is perfect because she can weave in and out of the battle with her melee attacks while another player can draw the enemy fire away. The same can be said with Biu who’s shield will negate 99% of enemy fire. While he is running in and gaining the attention of the enemy, another character can safely pick off the rest of the enemies.

The Duck is in the Details

When first experiencing Relic Hunters, it is easy to look at the graphics and think this could be a game aimed at a younger audience. While the design is cutesy, it hides a challenging game underneath. I believe this style of pixelized sprites will pull in both a young audience and an older audience which craves that old school look. The characters themselves animate well and their movements are satisfying whether they are dashing around shooting guns or digging for buried treasure.

The soundtrack features plenty of peppy chiptune songs, which become more serious and tense as the game moves deeper into the asteroid. With its funky vibes, the track for first world feels like it could have been a b-side for a Sonic game. My main complaint with the music is that it didn’t stand out enough. The tracks sometimes just felt like background music, and nothing more. With that said, it was still enjoyable, but it probably won’t be something I’ll be humming a month from now.

Get Your Ducks in a Row

Despite the massive amount of content held within Relic Hunters, I found that this game suffers massive slowdown when there are large amounts of enemies on-screen. I first noticed it when using the character Red and I was fighting the boss of adventure mode. I had thrown two grenades, which will unleash his minions. These two groups, with the added hordes of the Ducan Commander, lead the Switch to a crawl. I thought this was only going to occur in handheld mode, but it was also present in docked mode. When playing multiplayer using Red, after unleashing more minions, I noticed a slowdown as well. It was not to the same extent, but it was noticeable.

Sadly, this was not the only bug I encountered in my time with Relic Hunters. I was playing Endless mode with my wife and we had just reached the last shop before the final stage in our first loop. When we went to upgrade our weapons, the game suddenly crashed without warning. It is possible it was a one-time event or the perfect storm of conditions, as I had used the shop many times with no errors. Either way, this left a sour taste in my mouth, as there was no way to truly regain our progress except to play it over.

Final Thoughts

Relic Hunters Zero: Remix really is the full package when it comes to retro throwback looter shooters. It is jam packed with modes, characters and ample amounts of weapons. While it does have some technical issues, they are not enough to damage the overall enjoyment factor, and what are games if they aren’t fun? RHZ is a perfect title for anyone that can pick up a controller and while some of the hecticness may be a bit much for younger gamers, it really is great for the whole family.

Pros

  • Extensive Amount of Game Modes
  • Frantic Gunplay
  • Great Multiplayer

Cons

  • Game Can Get Sluggish
  • Not All Characters Are Equal

Verdict

Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is a mammoth of a title for its meager price point. If looter shooters are your cup of tea, there is no better option than this retro-inspired beauty.

4/5

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