Review: Risk of Rain

“Beautifully mysterious atmosphere. Distinct 8-bit art style with stellar instrumental soundtrack. Very replayable and great fun, an intriguing game through and through.”


Hopoo Games’ flagship project Risk of Rain is a 2D platform shooter with a very interesting difficulty mechanic: the difficulty constantly ramps up as you play. (Fun Fact: Hopoo Games is two-man operation, both of them students from the University of Washington)

The game starts with the player’s character surviving a crash-landing on a mysterious alien planet, who then emerges from an escape pod and searches for a means to get off-world.

  • The premise is straightforward. 1. Find the teleporter. 2. Remove hostile native life in your way. 3. Activate teleporter 4. Slay gigantic boss(es) and remove even more hostile native life. 5. Teleport and repeat.
  • Yet, the timed difficulty system creates an interesting dilemma for the player: decide between gathering essential power-boosting items before moving on, or teleport immediately to avoid facing stronger enemies in the early levels.
ROR - 5
Even killing aliens requires professional time management. Note the timer above.
  • Gameplay is well put-together with boss fights interesting and varied. Among them, you get to face titanic jellyfish, flaming serpents and towering stone-men, each with their own style of attack and strategy to defeat.
  • Although unforgiving and random in outlook, the game is well-balanced and never too easy or too difficult, with success mostly dependent on the player’s initiative during intense moments. In short, you die because you screwed up.
  • Multiple playthroughs hardly get stale. Items, locations and their respective layouts change with each game, not to mention the variety of unlockable characters in store for the player.
  • There are also game-changing artifacts that can be found and activated to alter the entire experience, constantly keeping the game fresh. One of them even lets you choose the nature of the items you pick up, allowing for a more controlled character build.
Many unlockable characters; many items; many rule-changing artifacts; many sleepless nights.
  • In the graphics department, the game’s 8-bit visual style is quite detailed and pleasant to look at, with animations well-designed. Running this game shouldn’t be an issue for most. Do note, however, that this game may strain lower-end PCs when there are many enemies on-screen.
  • One cannot go on relating the Risk of Rain experience without talking about its amazing soundtrack. Chris Christodoulou’s progressive compositions are spot-on in delivering the very feel the game’s creators strive to achieve: mystery, subtlety, and majesty.
  • Below is a sample piece which demonstrates Christodoulou’s artistry – never too in-your-face and laced with sophisticated undertones, it frames the canvas that is the game and does it perfectly.
  • Defamiliariziation is a potent tool employed in Risk of Rain’s story: the main character’s smallness is constantly contrasted with the vast landscape and the aliens, elevating the sense of strangeness within the story’s environment.
  • An intriguing feature is the ambiguity of the player’s protagonist role. The fact that mundane items imbue extraordinary powers, combined with the peculiar names of the higher difficulty tiers seem to reflect the hero’s gradual descent into insanity.
  • Moreover, the endings leave a haunting tone which hint at something morally amiss about the player’s actions. This is coupled with the personal logs you collect as you play, which reveal the aliens to be less hostile than earlier perceived.
And so he returned home, built a cosy cottage by the lake and lived happily ever with his…oh wait.
  • Beneath Risk of Rain’s simple appearance lies a tastefully complex and masterfully subtle theme. At SG$10.50, the game punches way above its weight and is a deserving purchase that should be in your game library.

That being said,

  •  Risk of Rain can be an occasional visual mess when the effects of your items stack. When thrust into a horde of enemies with their very own animations playing, locating the main character can become quite an ordeal for some.
Like, what’s going on man? Also, “HAHAHAHA” difficulty.
  • Nonetheless, it is the only issue I’ve encountered with the game over the past year, being a mild annoyance which hardly compromises gameplay.

Overall, Risk of Rain nets a quality A- for the phenomenal experience it delivers.
There is a surprising literary depth to this game which I cannot describe, and that’s saying something about this wondrous package of pixelated action.

(Oh, and there’s co-operative multiplayer too if you’re not excited yet)