Developer: Reikon GamesReleased: June 2020
Publisher: Devolver DigitalPlayed on: Nintendo Switch
(Distributor provided review copy)

The future is bleak… and red, for some reason. Set in the dystopian cyber megacity Rengkok, RUINER puts you in the boots of Puppy, an ultra-violent killer on the hunt for a man they call the Boss. On the hunt, you’re contacted by a woman simply known as Her, who tells you that your employers are not who they seem, and worse: they have your brother. This sets off an epic quest through the hellish landscapes of the future as you maim, shoot, and eviscerate everything in your sight as you make your way to the heart of corporate Heaven.

Propelled by pounding electronic music and a distinctly punchy visual style, RUINER first made its mark on the PC and consoles in 2017, where it was immediately lauded for its frenetic pacing and compelling gameplay. Released now for the Nintendo Switch, RUINER finds almost nothing lost in translation, delivering a near complete experience to the hybrid system. 

Viewed from an isometric perspective, RUINER is a twin-stick shooter with an emphasis on fast paced tactics and mayhem. Puppy is capable of upgrading his skills and weaponry to match multiple playstyles, each necessary to navigate the long and frenetic levels successfully.

Combined with the easy on the eyes art style, which emphasizes stark contrasts in visuals to stand out from the harsh environments, and the pulsing soundtrack from Sidewalks and Skeletons, create a unique experience that will get the heart racing. This is definitely not an experience you go into expecting a relaxing time, but like its sibling products DARK SOULS and HOTLINE MIAMI, RUINER stands out in a field of white knuckle shoot em ups as a stellar example of a good time. 

The basics are easy to pick up. Pistols do minor damage, but are plentiful and easy to use. Shotguns are devastating at short range and at groups, yet essentially useless at range. Rifles are good for single units, worthless for multiple engagements. And explosives… explosives are good for everything. 

Elsewhere Puppy can upgrade his skills to include shields, faster movement, and decimating physical attacks, each with a unique spin on things should combat get overwhelming. The variety at hand is terrific, especially considering how easy it would be to just leave the experience at a few weapons and call it day as others in the genre have done. It also eases the pain that the brutally hard difficulty inflicts on the player, often wiping the floor with them multiple times before a single level is out, only to then laugh at their pitiful efforts for even completing the mission in the first place. 

While the actual gameplay loop is decidedly a niche product, other aspects of the game impress on other merits. The city of Rengkok for example is wonderful to look at and explore, even as it’s let down by how small it really is. There’s a couple of alleyways to explore, but that’s about it. Random passersby offer some insight into the world around you, and it’s all really compelling until you realize that it barely scratches the surface of what could be an intensely great sci-fi yarn. 

The same can be said for the plot which, while not terrible, feels slapped on over the experience when it clearly has the potential for something greater. The relationship between Puppy and Her is terrific, and the simplistic titles like Wizard, Boss, and Heaven are all evocative enough to bring to mind William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER universe. 

Quibbles aside, RUINER is a hell of a time regardless of the platform it’s played on. The Nintendo Switch port might lose out on some graphical niceties, and the FPS count is decidedly lower and not as stable as on stronger machines, yet it works surprisingly well all things considered. Both handheld and mounted modes run reasonably smoothly, and the controls are responsive throughout. 

While the overall product is certainly a niche title, RUINER is easy to recommend for fans of fast paced action and cyberpunk. If your personal Venn diagram overlaps on both, you’re in luck. RUINER is exactly for you.