[Review] Ruiner – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: Reikon Games
  • Publisher: Devolver Digital
  • Release date: 18/6/2020
  • Price: £17.99/$19.99
  • Review code provided by Devolver Digital

Introducing: Ruiner Switch Review

Do you like violence? Do you like techno? Feeling a bit of pent up stress and just want to let it all go? Ruiner is the game for you! 

Let’s take it back a bit and add some context here. My sport of choice is Brazilian Jiujitsu. Yes, I enjoy getting sweaty and rolling around trying to kill other men in my pajamas. COVID-19 has well and truly put paid to that and has left my slightly violent tendencies untapped. Ruiner has finally proven to be an outlet for some of that pent-up frustration, and boy what a trip it is!

There’s a story?

Ruiner is a twin-stick shooter from Polish studio Reikon Games. Imagine a long-form Hotline Miami in a dystopian sci-fi setting and you’re not far off the mark. Banging techno and ultraviolence are the order of the day as you set out on a tale of revenge to rescue your brother from Heaven, a huge corporation which seems to own the entire city of Rengkok where the game is based. The story takes a few twists and turns on its way to the climactic final battle, but really just serves as window dressing for the buffet of violence on which you embark.

…And you will know him by the trail of dead!

As I mentioned, Ruiner is a twin-stick shooter viewed from an isometric perspective. You quickly gain access to a metal pipe as a melee weapon and the titular Ruiner, an automatic pistol, before being sent into your first rumble. Much like Hotline Miami, enemies can be dispatched quickly and violently, with the downside being that you are equally squishy (at least to begin with).

After a brief tutorial, which also introduces a dodge, shield and area of effect electrical attack you are sent off on your quest to find your brother. The game plays as a series of wild arena battles against waves of enemies interspersed by brief sections of exploration, although these tend more to be very linear corridor sections and are completely devoid of any form of puzzles.

Thankfully the combat is extremely satisfying, and the game includes a range of customisation options which allow you to mould your character into your very own violent whirling dervish.

As you complete battles you gain Karma, which is essentially XP. The game includes a levelling system which unlocks additional skills for purchase and skill points can be earned through combat.

As the game progresses you gain access to different types of shields, grenades and different buffs which affect how your character performs in combat. Each of the options includes its own skill tree which allows you to build on your favourite skills. Thankfully you can simply remove any points invested at any point and remap your skill trees, allowing for a great deal of experimentation and improvisation, which is a godsend when you hit some of the harder battles in the game.

Your pipe and the Ruiner are constant companions, but more powerful weapons can be taken from the bodies of any enemies and can also be found in weapons caches or dropped as gifts by a helpful robot. You come across all kinds of shotguns, submachine guns, assault rifles and some pretty exotic weapons such as railguns. These have limited ammo to balance things out a little.

You also come across a fun range of melee weapons, from katanas to giant sledgehammers. Each of the different weapon classes handle quite differently and are all super satisfying. Enemies are shredded up, smashed and sometimes completely disintegrated in battle, giving the game a slightly horrific feel.

Despite the Hotline Miami comparisons, Ruiner is very much an action game. Combat forms about 99% of the running time and is very much skill focused rather than the type of spatial puzzles which made Hotline Miami so unique. At times I found myself wanting something to change up the gameplay loop, but the game is laser focused on the constant forward push, to the point where even your guide in the game repeatedly states “the only way forward is through.”

The game does attempt to mix things up by including a hub area. This is pretty sparse in terms of things to do and is actually pretty underutilised, with the game only sending you there on a few occasions. It is a gorgeous looking futuristic city looking like something out of Blade Runner, but it fails to really offer anything other than a nice-looking space.

The game includes some sub-missions which can be picked up in the city, but these were pretty uninspired and didn’t really add anything. These were basic missions such as collecting three trinkets in a level. The main story mission essentially follows your quest to kill eight main bosses and rescue your brother.

Crunch and splatter

Ruiner is a gorgeous looking game and Reikon have done a fantastic job in bringing it over to Switch intact. The game makes heavy use of dynamic lighting and every area is absolutely dripping in atmosphere. The areas the game takes place in are generally industrial-looking facilities and there isn’t a huge amount of variation, but the game succeeds in making these look stunning and genuinely impressive considering this is a Switch port of a game from PC and the big boy consoles!

Enemies in the game are generally humanoid, with various horrific designs including bits of machine spliced together. Cutscenes play out in engine, in some FMV scenes and also in hand-drawn 2D scenes, all of which look fantastic.

The sound design in the game is incredible, with the soundtrack consisting of an absolutely banging mix of techno and more ambient electronic music from various licensed artists. Even if you don’t pick up the game, I recommend giving the soundtrack a whirl on your streaming platform of choice! The combat itself sounds amazing, with weapons sounding crunchy and loud and conveying an appropriately dangerous tone. 

The grunts, squelches and splatters as you smash your way through the hordes, combined with the thudding soundtrack keep adrenaline high. The game is pretty unforgiving and you’ll experience many a death, but the soundtrack continues without missing a beat. Ruiner allows quick restarts and has generous checkpointing, which helps you enter that satisfying flow state. The game includes a cool high pass filter when you browse the menus, which makes it feel like you’re hearing a live mix which adapts to your actions.

Ruined?

Given that the game is a breakneck twin-stick shooter, performance is always going to be important. The game seems to fare better in handheld, where I was able to happily blast away without any issues. Everything runs along nicely at a relatively solid 30FPS. I’m no Digital Foundry, so don’t quote me on that, but in handheld the game played very nicely, and controls are extremely responsive.

In docked mode, I found things took a little hit. The visuals really pop on the big screen, but I found occasional frame drops started to take effect and were a little distracting. These didn’t cause me any huge problems but were a little disappointing especially as I had started the game in handheld. It was unusual to see this as generally games tend to fare worse in handheld. Hopefully this can be improved down the line, as so many developers continue to improve the performance of their games. CD Projekt Red have really shown what continued support can do to a game after launch, with the recent visual patch for the Witcher 3 offering a stunning visual improvement.

Final thoughts

Ruiner is a pretty short-lived game, with an initial playthrough clocking in at around five hours. There’s a new game plus mode and various difficulties to play around with as well as a speed run and colosseum mode. The colosseum strips the game right back to basic stuff and offers a choice of skill or weapon at various checkpoints as you progress. It’s a fun variation on the base game and offers something a bit longer term after the main story. That said, Ruiner is still a fairly light experience. The game is a real cathartic good time while it lasts, but there isn’t a lot to it. I did feel myself wanting a little variety in the form of some puzzling or proper exploration, but I absolutely loved the chaos and the soundtrack was perfection!

Pros

  • Glorious, violent combat
  • Absolutely killer soundtrack
  • Gorgeous graphics and lighting

Cons

  • Some judders when playing in docked
  • Underutilised hub area
  • A little short lived

Verdict

Ruiner offers up extremely satisfying, violent combat and combines it with a thudding electronic soundtrack to provide a real adrenaline rush. Imagine an isometric, techno version of the 2016 version of DOOM and you’re on the money!

4/5

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