Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Full Mojo Rampage (PS4)

Though this game is published by Nicalis, and developed by 'Over The Top Games' it bares a distinct resemblance to the previous "The Binding of Isaac" games, if slightly so. It's as if they took the base formula of said mini-series, improved upon it, and made it into a new experience with a new theme. That theme being one of voodoo, magic, and the Loa death gods that surround said mythology. As the protagonist you take on the role of a willing voodoo apprentice sent out to do the bidding of your Loa master in quest driven fashion. You will face objectives that are made difficult by the spirits of the undead, and other voodoo related creations as well as the larger than life rival bosses that send out said minions. You'll even encounter side quests with things such as retro inspired goals, and rewarding multiple choice riddles. As usual the gameplay is done up in a semi-top down dungeon exploring way that is very much akin to the earlier 'The Legend of Zelda" adventures on the Nintendo DS. You'll find in place oddly reminiscent fixtures such as rooms that harbor vendors as well as rooms that contain helpful Loa spirits which will also aid you on your level by level objectives. As far as the art style goes the game has a sort of Tim Burton meets Jim Henson vibe about it. Everything from the character design to the level layouts are vividly portrayed in such a style, and are otherworldly in a way that you'd expect to see from something like Tim Burton's "The Corpse Bride".

New to the old "The Binding of Isaac" formula is a multi-tier character RPG setup that includes an aesthetic mask of your choosing, pins that contain stat related perks, Loa death god cards that each contain their own unique set of reusable spells and a Loa god summon assist. There's even an in-game hub, or item selection grid in which you can manage collected equipment, items, and relics. It is these things which will improve upon your odds of completing the randomly generated levels, and their objectively driven goals. Your selection of tools, and skills are much like what Isaac had at his disposal in his own misadventure. The only real difference this time being that they are setup more like the character hud (display) layouts in "Diablo 3". In fact I think the developer definitely took some inspiration from the Diablo franchise with said feature, and other features as they reflect that sort of feel. The fact that there's a running voodoo doll that will appear sometimes, and drop an item if defeated is very much like Diablo's treasure goblins. Inspired, or not the game definitely harbors a proper challenge, and that said challenge is amplified through the several difficulty settings that are hard starting at "Normal". I can only imagine how infuriating the final difficulty setting of "It's Voodoo!!!" must be.

With your wand, spells, and relics in hand you will go through each quest a lot like you would have in "The Binding of Isaac". There is a map of paths, and points laid out before you with the previously mentioned objective levels, branching side quests, and even a couple of boss battles. Once you enter a level you will have to shoot down enemies with your wand while utilizing your chosen Loa's spells, and assists in order to stay alive long enough to get what needs to be done, done. The equipment you pick up from treasure chests, or enemy drops will gift you passive perks while the relics, and items that come in single use or multi-use form can help you stay alive until the very end with their attack and restorative effects. Cycling through everything is simply done by pressing "L1" to move the cursor to the left, or by pressing "R1" to guide the cursor to the right. Checking on an item, or equipment's effects can be done by pressing in "R3" when the item/equipment is highlighted. This can be done on the wands as well. Speaking of wands you will be able to find, and purchase different wands along the way, but each new wand and it's effect only lasts for a limited time, and is governed by it's own depleting meter.

As far as spells go each Loa god has two unique spells that range from offensive to defensive, and even restorative. Like everything else listed in the main menu's character setup (minus the pins) you can unlock the Loa gods using the medals you collect from completed objectives, and hidden markers scattered throughout the levels. The latter markers which change in appearance according to level design also sometimes contain pin power-ups/items which in turn unlock the pins in the character setup menu. Aside from all of this your voodoo apprentice will also be gaining experience as he kills minions, and completes objectives. These gained experience points can eventually be applied to damage output, health, speed, and rate of fire making your voodoo apprentice even more effective. You'll find as I did that you'll need to level up quite a bit at first before your character will be fit to complete an entire playthrough though. As I said before the game is challenging even in it's base "Normal" difficulty setting.

Outside of the single player campaign you will also be able to engage with other online players in the same randomly generated quests or in more competitively based levels. This game does contain a matchmaking setup of it's own including a "Create a Session" option as well as a "Quick Join", and a "Find Game" option. Each choice will allow you to enjoy the game through co-op, deathmatch, team deathmatch, King of Mojo (King of the Hill), and capture the flag respectively. In the "Create a Session" option in particular you can tweak settings such as that of how loot is dispersed, whether or not the match is public, the chapter which will be played, and the difficulty. I'd say out of all matchmaking options "Create a Session" would probably be the best way to go as it will give you the match type you are looking for, and you will be the host. Of course "Find Game" may also turn up some similar results as well.

One last thing I forgot to mention is that "Full Mojo Rampage" also contains a code system. The "Voodoo Codes" can be inputted at the main menu screen, and will reward the player in various ways. I imagine the developer will be releasing limited codes for special equipment, and items for the duration of the game's life span. Meaning as long as people are playing it you are likely to see these codes pop-up online. It's one of those added perks of buying into the game.

The Verdict ...

I cannot praise this game enough. It takes several things that I love from past gaming, and non-gaming experiences, and blends them perfectly. It's a game that actually 1up's "The Binding of Isaac", dare I say it. It's like said game, but on steroids and hallucinogens. It definitely has an undeniable charm about it, and the replay value as always is immense. Your playthroughs will never be the same twice due to the randomly generated quests, and the competitive side of the online multiplayer. The fact that they took some inspiration (my assumption) from Diablo only deepens that replay value. I love it, and I know you will if you only give it a chance. Do not miss out on this gem of a game!

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