[Review] Black Future ’88 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Derek Wright
  • Developer: SuperScarySnakes
  • Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
  • Release Date: 21/11/2019
  • Price: $19.99 / £17.99
  • Review code provided by Good Shepherd Entertainment

Back to the Bleak Future

Cyberpunk seems to be all the rage these days. More and more stories about advanced civilizations overwrought with issues about what it really means to be human in an increasingly mechanized world. From Psycho-Pass to Deus Ex Machina, we are able to experience dark futures and hope to learn how from other’s mistakes. Still, what if we went back in time to a point we didn’t have all of the knowledge we currently hold and then we were hit by a cataclysm so devastating, our world as we know it would not come to exist? This is exactly the tale of Black Future ’88.

Black Future ’88 takes place in an alternate version of 1988 after a nuclear warhead destroyed most of the world. The sky became dark and the remnants of humanity stopped measuring time, and so it stayed 1988. The culprit behind the destruction was a scientist named Duncan, who also created the monstrosity known as Skymelt. Skymelt holds the key to a better future and so the survivors climb the tower hoping to bring it and Duncan tumbling to the ground.

‘Til Your Heart Stops

Black Future ’88 is a synth-punk rougelike 2D platform shooter that places you in control of one of five misfits trying to take down Skymelt, an ever evolving living tower and its architect Duncan. Each character starts with two weapons, usually one with unlimited ammo and one with expendable ammo. More weapons are found within the walls of the towers and as you play, more will become unlocked.

Reaching the top of the tower is your ultimate goal, but it won’t be easy as there are wardens stopping your progress. If you can topple the wardens, Duncan waits for you atop the tower, but he won’t go down without a fight! Did I mention you only have 18 minutes to reach the top of the tower? You only have 18 minutes and then your heart explodes!

With this being a rougelike, each death brings about a new tower route, different enemies and different guns. One aspect of Black Future’s rougelike elements I enjoyed were the Hunters. These were bounty hunters that would appear in your playthrough at random. Before you would ever fight them, a dialog box would appear in the top right of the screen, usually they would taunt you about being on your tail and depending on how you play, you may not see them at all. Yet, if you do run into these hunters, they are mini bosses that can drop powerful weapons, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled.

Like many roguelikes, there is an upgrade system, but in Black Future, its more of an unlock system. After each run, you are given experience points based on your skills. They will then unlock more weapons, perks, curses and the like for you to find in Skymelt. This was a cool feature as it didn’t guarantee success but gives you a better chance because there are more tools available. Personally, I would have preferred a system that buffs the character overtime, but I still had a lot of fun trying out the many new items and skills.

Retrograde Future

With the game being set in perpetual 1988, it seems only fitting it would feature stylized pixel graphics. I imagine this is what graphics would have evolved into if game developers in this timeline were still creating. The sprites are clean, but dirty. Clean in the aspect that while the game is stopped, you can see all the details but dirty in that when the game is moving, it is easy to get lost. I found that many times I would run into enemies and bullets because there was so much going on. It did take some time to get used to, but some may be put off by the chaos.

The soundscape of Skymelt is filled with glorious 80’s inspired synth tunes. These pumping beats were perfect for the chaotic action taking place on the screen. I’m a huge fan of this style of music, so the more games that feature quality synthwave, the better.

Cracks in the System

While playing Black Future on both the big screen and handheld, it ran with little to no issues, for the most part. I did find a few issues with slowdown when the screen became overwhelmed with enemies and explosions. One time in particular, I entered a room to find three hunters and enemies with explosive weapons. The game stuttered quite a bit and to be honest, I’m not sure what happened as it struggled to keep up with my inputs until my character eventually died from one of the unseen explosions.

Final Thoughts

Black Future ’88 is a game that offers up some interesting ideas in the rougelike genre to make the game its own. The time limit never felt like a deterrent but a friendly reminder that I can play one more round, as its just 18 minutes (or less). The overall experience was fun, but at times felt too much based on luck. If I didn’t get a great weapon, I wouldn’t progress further than one or two bosses. On the other hand, if I found my weapon of choice, it seemed like my other perks and buffs discovered in my playthrough gave me everything I needed to topple Duncan.

Pros

  • Quick Pick Up and Play (18 Minutes to live!)
  • Great Synthwave Soundtrack

Cons

  • Upgrade System
  • Slowdown
  • Sometimes Overly Chaotic

Verdict

Black Future ’88 is a fun and frenzied rougelike that isn’t for everyone, but for those that stick around, they will surely find a game worth holding onto.

3.5/5

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