June 20, 2024
What could have been a vibrant and futuristic take on roguelikes instead suffers with technical issues and little drive to make it worth pursuing. The Finger Guns review:

What could have been a vibrant and futuristic take on roguelikes instead suffers with technical issues and little drive to make it worth pursuing. The Finger Guns review.

I blame Hades for this. The title, rightfully so, won Best Game at the BAFTAS, as well as changed my mind on roguelikes/lites. In its wake, I’ve held a better respect for the sub-genre. One of more… acceptance, shall we say. So, with Danger Scavenger offered to me, I thought I’d give it a go.

Now, I do try and go into these games with an open mind. I don’t expect deep, explorative narratives. That’s why Hades caught me by surprise. The very nature of this type of game is meant to be quick and fun, with a possible underlying story behind it. That it looks good to draw you in helps, as this game does, but if it’s all show and no substance where is the fun? Or more importantly, the longevity?

Danger Scavenger looks the part, no doubts there. It’s just whether looks alone can substantiate the need to keep playing a game in this genre. So with that in mind, let’s see if it’s worth digging out or leaving on the scrap pile…

Generic Team, Assemble!

Roguelikes/lites are a strange exception to the whole “plot-driven adventure” type of game. Dead Cells, for example, has a very loose one, whilst The Binding of Isaac has a weirdly convoluted one. To this day, I’m still not overly sure what’s going on. My point is, you’d like something to compel you to see it through.

When you look at the cast of characters in Danger Scavenger, you might think you’re in for some Borderlands-esque world building. Who are this bunch of eclectic scrapping scrappers? Is the big fella with a minigun and big hat channelling Blaine from Predator? What about the spunky, pink-haired girl that joins him, what brings them together…?

Well, your guess is as good as mine. Why am I fighting hordes of robots on rooftops, rather than say, anywhere else? What purpose do I have here other than to just, essentially, play a roguelike? When something like the earlier examples subvert your expectations, it’s hard not to want more. So when this comes out, with no rhyme or reason to stick at it, it is disappointing. Admittedly that’s how they all started, but we gamers are fickle. When a game does better in the genre that bore it, we expect anything to follow to match that.

My drive is to shoot robots and progress through randomised levels, solely for the purpose of doing that again and again. You die, inevitably, and you restart. Some scrap gets saved, you upgrade, you throw yourself at the proverbial wall again. Maybe you’ll get further, or maybe the game’s procedurally generated level/enemy layout will catch you out. Who knows…

Shoot, Loot, Reboot

In regards to its actually gameplay, Danger Scavenger is standard rogue affair. The only difference being that you’re on top of the world, not fighting in dungeons, basements or creepy castles.

You start off picking your preferred avatar, depending on your play style. Whilst not too different, some favour melee whilst others are suited for long-range or all-round skill. Or so the game says, yet it all boils down to the same “run around with the left stick, shoot with the right” gameplay anyway.

A new run drops you onto a rooftop, with each level offering one of two ways to proceed. Choices are often “Enemies use X or Y for weapons”, with some deviation to tougher yet rewarding routes from time to time. Most of the time you’re in control of where you go, others the game steers you towards the harder routes. Not in a malicious way, more to test you if you’re cruising through it.

There are items and new weapons to collect along the way, which is welcomed. The idea being that you change out on the fly and discover what weapons and perks/buffs suit you. That part, to Danger Scavenger’s credit, is handled well. You might think the starting machine gun is okay, but a homing rocket launcher is going to be a significantly better draw some levels in.

Get far enough without dying and you’ll be treated to a boss battle after so many levels. Once you’re done, straight onto the next building. Or you die, harvest some of what you’ve earned and go back to the hub to start again. I’d hate to call it generic, because that would apply to any other rogue. It’s just that’s the core concept, and in that regard, it has it down.

Framerate Gone Rogue

With that description in mind, you might be wondering why I’m so dismissive of this when I’m praising other games of this nature. Sounds biased that I’m all over the Game of the Year, yet dunking on this one for being the same thing, no? Well, the difference being that Supergiant have made the effort with their game’s performance. Star Drifters, conversely, have not.

I say this without hyperbole and ill intent, but it runs like absolute crap on the Switch. Not the full TV version of the console, in which you could try and blame screen latency issues. No, I mean the Switch Lite. The handheld console perfectly suited to this kind of thing. The same console that can run Xenoblade Chronicles, Ghostrunner or Breath of the Wild absolutely fine. You’d think a smaller, less intense game would have no issues, wouldn’t you?

In games like this, they’re often analogous to bullet hell games (Ikaruga, R-Type, etc) in that enemies and projectiles litter the screen. It’s par for the course, and what’s meant to be the selling point: can you handle the carnage? Thing is, it’s quite hard to handle the muscle-twitch reaction times of evasion and shooting when you’re hardware can’t.

Which I would understand if it were a graphically intense game. But it’s not, it’s the opposite. Okay, not quite wireframe models like Rez, but certainly not much more of an advancement. It’s not a good sign that even a basic looking game like this is so poorly optimised and runs badly. People know trying to run Flight Simulator on anything other than a supercomputer is going to look choppy. Yet a game like this, looking as cute and colourful as it does, shouldn’t be pushing my Switch to what looks like straining point.

Should Be Buried Rather Than Salvaged

I don’t like being mercilessly cruel to a game. When a team has worked on something, knowing that I’m tearing it down isn’t a happy feeling. But then, it’s also my job to either recommend or warn you, dear reader, of whether a game is guff or not. Admittedly, reviews are subjective (one man’s trash, etc), yet sometimes you just have to be honest.

Danger Scavenger is such low-hanging fruit on the tree of roguelikes/lites that it feels like it was put out to fill an unwarranted gap. Not quite shovel-wear but rather a lazy attempt to ride the wave that the genre is experiencing. Admittedly yes, this has been on Steam for a while too, so it wasn’t rushed out in the wake of other, bigger games. Yet would that not make the dev want to look back at their offering and maybe refine it somewhat before putting it out there?

If this were your first entry into the isometric-like world of looter, shooter, death and reboot-ers then you wouldn’t have anything to compare it to. Heck, you might even enjoy the core concept when the game attempts to run properly. Yet when there are many other, better games that don’t have insane amounts of screen-tearing and lagging, this won’t be enjoyable.

Nothing To Scavenge

If this review seems a lot briefer than my grand verbalising over games I like, well… it is. Sure, I could pad this out with examples of the various perks you obtain, or run a brief bestiary on the types of enemy you face. I could list a full explanation of how the perks/punishment system plays very similar to another in a much, much better game.

However, I feel like that would be wasted as this game isn’t going to get a positive review from me. It’s going to get a backhanded compliment at the end (you’ll see), but it won’t be a glowing recommendation. It felt like attrition to get far enough in a run, not because of how the game plays, but how it handles. I can’t exactly blame my hardware, were I playing on PC and it not being up to spec. No, this is a straight out-of-the-box, universal console that everyone has.

As I said at the start, my opinion on roguelikes/lites has definitely changed over the years. Dead Cells started the turn, with the other one that I’ve worshipped earlier cementing that. Yet just because my opinion has changed, it doesn’t mean every game in that field gets a pass. If anything, it makes me more critical when shoddy games try and ape that success without the effort.

Danger Scavenger, unfortunately, fails on its own as a rogue, let alone comparatively. With its boring and scant premise, to its shocking performance issues, none of it was really fun to play. Maybe over time, through patches and massive price drops, this might be worth it (see, there it is). For now, there are much better options available.

A low effort and badly optimised affair, Danger Scavenger offers little in the genre of games it’s trying to tap into. Leave it on the scrap pile and dig up some gold elsewhere.

Danger Scavenger is available now on Nintendo Switch (reviewed on Switch Lite), PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Developer: Star Drifters
Publisher: Forever Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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