You can get your hands on some wonderful indie gems these days. Seeing fresh new ideas and takes on a genre is what makes finding and playing these games so much fun. It’s why I was pretty excited to get stuck into Relic Hunters Zero: Remix, the latest entry from Rogue Snail and Akupara Games into the Relic Hunters universe.
So, a little bit of story. The evil Duke Dulcan and his army of ducks have set up shop in Asteroid Dungeon Nemesis. Searching for powerful artifacts, he hopes to take control of the galaxy and rule with an iron fist. It’s up to the Spaceheart and its crew of Relic Hunters to thwart his evil plans and find some pretty interesting and powerful relics along the way that will help stick it to the Duke and his army of ducks.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is first and foremost a twin stick shooter. You control movement and aiming via the left and right analogue sticks, and can fire with a tap of the ZR button. You have access to aiming your weapons too via the ZL button and can throw grenades with a tap of the L button. Aiming slows your movement so it plays some importance in being tactical about when to use it. You can use the B button to sprint or dodge, though this depletes stamina. The A button will allow you to throw out a melee attack, should you run out of ammo or need to break your way through objects in the levels. It isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s a tried-and-tested formula that does the job nicely.
Naturally in a game of this type, the aim is to avoid getting shot up while laying down serious firepower into your enemies. You have your standard health bar that varies dependent on character, as well as access to a shield that replenishes whilst your dodging bullets. You can increase the size of your shield on the fly with pickups, but if it gets broken it will revert back to its standard size for the character.
As mentioned, you can run out of ammo. The amount you have is split between light, medium and heavy which is shown on the left side of the screen. Whilst ammo isn’t scarce and can be found in boxes throughout each stage or by dispatching enemies, you’d be surprised how quickly you can deplete it with how hectic things get. There’s a variety of pick ups in each stage including ammo, medkits, overshields and grenades. Managing these items between stages is key to being successful. You’ll also come across some great weapons for your arsenal ranging from simple handguns and shotguns all the way up to assault rifles and rocket launchers. There’s plenty of variety to unleash on the ducks with some designs for the weapons coming from the Relic Hunter community itself.
You’ll encounter a variety of enemies throughout the game ranging from your basic duck grunts to stronger Ducat commanders that vary in health, shields and weapons. There’s also some rather fearsome dog like enemies that come at you with speed, eventually having variant that can fly to avoid your fire and shoot energy blasts that hit like a dumper truck. It’s not super extensive, but there’s enough in there to keep you on your toes. When you eventually make it to the end of the game you’ll face off against Duke Dulcan, and he is a pretty mean customer indeed. Clearing out enemies is required in each stage to be able to move on, so you’ll quickly get used to how to dispatch them with the best results.
Being called Relic Hunters, you’d expect the game to have well… relic hunting. You won’t be disappointed either. There are a total of eight relics to collect throughout your adventure and each has a particular use. Some can give you extra health and shields for example or replenish your ammo on the fly and increase your damage. You have to collect three pieces of each relic to complete it and gain the benefit. It gives purpose to finding the relics from a tactical point of view, rather than just being a typical collectible. You’ll occasionally have the opportunity to dig for one at the end of a stage, though this is random. There are options to purchase relic pieces from a vendor every couple of stages or so too, so don’t be too remiss if you have a particularly fruitless run.
Before starting a stage you have the option to load up your character from your ship. This can include consumables, ammo and weapons that you’ve already unlocked through your playthrough’s as well as equipping the relics you may have already completed, allowing you to go into your next run with an edge making replaying earlier levels a lot of fun. Bounty, the currency used to make these purchases is represented by pink stars that drop when you dispatch your enemies. You’ll eventually save up enough to unlock the ability to start at later stages which can make the grind a little easier too if you’re looking for specific relic pieces in that area.
The game starts off with having two characters unlocked, Jimmy and Pinkyy. Each character has their own set of stats and skills and there’s a further five to unlock. I won’t go into too much detail around the character unlocks because each is a lot of fun to play and one of the best elements of this game is trying out the new characters. Suffice it to say that each is a lot of fun to play in their own right. The methods for unlock vary from earning a certain amount of bounty, to making it through the game without using checkpoints.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix can be played in multiplayer locally while using a Dual Joy-Con and Pro Controller setup. We tried this out and it was a mish mash of heck with bullets flying everywhere but it was a hell of a lot of fun too so if you get the chance to play the game with a friend, you won’t be sorry!
Beyond the basic adventure mode that you start with, you’ll unlock other modes like ‘Endless’, ‘Storm’ and ‘Daily’ mode. ‘Endless’ mode does what it says, puts you through an endless run. This mode also adds the ability to collect weapon parts and upgrade your weapons every couple of stages as well as hitting you with conditions like increased enemy damage etc… that you can remove for a bounty fee every couple of levels or so.
‘Storm’ will put you in an arena setting where you face off against waves of enemies and mini-bosses, and the ‘Daily’ mode will give you the opportunity to show off your Relic Hunter chops by playing to earn a score and rank against other players around the world. It’s a neat little option and all these modes come together to extend replayability in a big way.
The visuals of Relic Hunter are your typical pixel art foray, but they are effectively done nonetheless. The stages are bright and colourful and a joy to look at. I want to give special mention to the soundtrack though, the quality of the chiptune music is a funky assault on the eardrums. And I mean that in THE best way possible. It’s equal parts space-y and retro in equal measure and just works so well! So much so that I’m listening to it whilst writing this.
There are 12 levels in total spread across 5 stages in adventure mode. As mentioned, beyond that there are the other modes to get stuck into so there’s plenty to enjoy in Relic Hunters Zero: Remix and because it’s handheld it has plenty of opportunity to be a title that you can just pick up and play at your leisure, and I’m sure that it’s something that will make this title a bit more lasting.
I enjoyed getting my hunt on in Relic Hunters Zero: Remix. It’s back-to-back non-stop-action and bullet dodging had me glued to the screen for longer than I care to admit. There’s something about it’s simplicity that made a lasting impression with me and likely will for many moons to come.
If I had to level perhaps one criticism at the style, I’d say it would likely become repetitive over time. That said, I still think that there’s so much to do in the game that it’d take a while to get bored and it’s still a strong contender to return to if I’m feeling like I want to blow off some steam.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is a fun-fuelled relic hunting extravaganza that will keep you coming back for more!