Since the sun stopped shinning, the remaining citizens of Earth stopped keeping time. Therefore, it is a perpetual 1988 in this 2D dystopia and murderous robots are trying to take their revenge. The story in Black Future ‘88 is dismal, and even a little Matrix-ish, but the entire experience leans into this bleak narrative.
Playing as one of the last survivors, the goal is to gun your way through a procedurally generated tower filled with an army of enemies, hazards, and bosses. Making matters much worse, your heart is programmed to explode in twenty minutes so the player constantly needs to move, fight, and make progress to the top. Needless to say, the game is designed to kill the player repeatedly with only truly skilled players being able to see the true end. Honestly, the twenty minute time limit is a bit misleading as players will get blown to bits by enemies or a boss way before then. There is an assist mode that is designed to make the game easier with less enemies and a slow-mo effect but this isn’t how the game should be played.
Each playable character brings a different loadout to the fight but new weapons can be found along the way. Players also have the ability to enhance weapons by spending money to upgrade. The weapon variety also stands out since there is an arsenal available, each with pros and cons for a given situation. Combat in this fast paced action title is much more than run and gun as there are options. Like any side scrolling action game, the attack button, in this case the “Y” button, can be mashed to fire each weapon. However, more skilled or dedicated players might want to take advantage of the second analog stick to aim, essentially making the game a twin stick shooter. The player can also hold two weapons at a time and upgrade them with use. This takes quite a bit of time but such is the nature of Roguelikes.
High impact weaponry and the throngs of enemies isn’t the only thing that makes this an action game. Double jumps, dash moves, literal screen shaking explosions, a massive map, and tricky bosses round out the entire package. Since the game changes every time, along with map lay out, weapon placement, and bosses, players need to think on the fly and react. Two player co-op is also available locally that can help reduce the challenge but can increase the entertainment value depending who your partner is. But all the features you want are here including a soundtrack select, which is composed of crazy EDM, fast-paced tunes that suits the gameplay and dark visual tones.
Despite some graphical inconsistencies (the 2D sprites are so well detailed, it can be difficult to distinguish what is a non-interactive part of the background and what has collision detection in the foreground), there is a lot to like in Black Future ’88. The steep difficulty might annoy some players but that is sort of the point. Rogues are designed to beat you down, over and over, until you finally make that one complete run which yields immense satisfaction. There are so many indie Rogues out there today but this is Switch eShop mixes well with Contra-style gameplay and will probably fly under the radar as a sleeper hit.