I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “I’m a sucker for three things – sugary drinks, precision platformers and Metroidvanias”. In pretty much whatever form they take, I can’t help myself – it’s like an addiction. Thankfully for me, Ratalaika Games recently released Lootbox Lyfe+ by Conridical Games on the Nintendo Switch, and I was able to get my sweet, sweet fix of upgradable movement options, backtracking deliciousness and tricky platforming right in the palm of my hand.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Good balance tricky and addictive gameplay|
+ Great accessibility options
+ Doesn’t take itself too seriously
|Negatives||– Dated visual style|
– Physics are tricky to get the hang of
– Vague, hodge-podge story
|Price (When Reviewed)||£9.99|
|Our Playtime||5 hours 25 mins|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
To start, I have to say that you’d be forgiven for overlooking the charm of Lootbox Lyfe+ at first glance, because… the first glance isn’t especially attractive.
Put together from what seem to be prefabbed pixel art sprites, Lootbox Lyfe+ isn’t much of a looker. With broad block-colour foregrounds, a roster of simple environmental items and some basic trap sprites, the aesthetic reminded me of those video games you’d see kids trying to play using their telephone keypad back on 90’s breakfast TV. More egregious though are the hand drawn comic book storyboards that are offered to try and explain the goings on as you progress through the game – it’s hard not to be struck by how painfully low-res the pencil crayoned images are, looking like they have have been captured directly from a kids exercise book using the camera from a Nokia 7650. Yeesh.
That said, I have never been one to let subpar visuals get in the way of a good game, and pleasantly, neither does Lootbox Lyfe+.
The gameplay is part precision platformer and part Metroidvania, where you begin without even the ability to move! You have to find a collection of hidden lootboxes, each containing a new move, and build your platforming powers until there’s nowhere you can’t explore.
From a mechanics standpoint, it’s the usual suspects of platforming – jump, dash, wall-jump, ground-pound, double-jump etc. etc. But while there’s nothing ground-breaking about the roster of moves, they come together with a world composed of 11 very open areas to bring a real sense of exploration. There’s a genuinely satisfying feel to building your repertoire of moves and exploring the previously inaccessible areas of the map. I would find myself backtracking to the beginning area almost every time I learned a new move, eager to see what was behind that wall I couldn’t scale, or beneath the blocks I couldn’t break and the exploration definitely felt a little addictive.
From a pure, unadulterated platforming perspective, Lootbox Lyfe+ takes some getting used to. It’s hard to pin down exactly, but the physics somehow feel a little ‘heavy’? While the controls seem to be responsive enough, it sometimes feels like your momentum carries you further than you’d like, and changing direction in the air is much more difficult to judge than in similar titles. I’d liken the movement to tilting a tower that you’re trying to balance at a perfect angle – tip it just a little bit and nothing happens, but tip it just a smidge too far and you’ll have disaster – finding the sweet spot can be really tricky, and it’s the same in Lootbox Lyfe+.
The main bulk of the adventure sees you bouncing off springs, avoiding flying spears and doing your utmost to stay out of the deadly water, and while simple, the platforming is both straightforward and awkward enough to keep things interesting. There are a few collectables to snaffle up on your travels too, should you have the desire to – the sinister sounding juice syringes that let you change your character colour, and coins, which can either be used for clues on the whereabouts of more lootboxes or to purchase new headwear. There are some nicely built challenges strewn throughout the game – areas that require you to use multiple moves in unison and with little margin for error that these feel genuinely rewarding once overcome. I wouldn’t say that Lootbox Lyfe+ ever threatens to reach Celeste levels of difficulty, but I’ll admit that I coloured the air with more than a few expletives in parts.
Thankfully there are some wonderful accessibility options to offset what might be the more difficult moments in the game, should you want them. When starting a new game, you’ll be offered the opportunity to permanently set the number of hearts you have and how frequent the waypoints are to suit your experience level, which helps to shape the overall difficulty of the experience. But there are a multitude of togglable options to help you overcome any obstacle that seems to be above your skill level, including invincibility, infinite jumps and even the ability to turn off all of the instakill elements too. I’m a huge fan of offering players the option to progress and keep from hindering their enjoyment with too much frustration, and I think Conradical Games succeeded incredibly well in this regard.
As far as the characters and story go – I’d be hard pressed to share too many sure fire details, because it’s all a little vague and more than a little off-the-wall. Frankly, Lootbox Lyfe+ leans into its own silliness and succeeds by not taking itself too seriously.
The overall gist is that Liam Capello (yes, that’s really what your spherical protagonist is called!) is the last of his race, awoken from some nameless slumber into a world where the lure of lootboxes have sent his kin into a spiral of destruction. You’ll find random diary entries as you make your way through the game, offering glimpses of a lost world driven mad by addiction, but things are so scattershot that it’s impossible to piece anything together that’s especially meaningful. But then we’re talking about a game where you’re asked to control a bouncing ball with creepy eyes (and even creepier eyebrows), bopping about collecting hats and syringes… What exactly should you expect – The Da Vinci Code?
Hidden beneath the veneer of some pretty outdated visuals, Lootbox Lyfe+ is a solid little Metroidvania that offers some moments of challenge. Progressing from a stationary orb into a double-jumping, ground pounding, speed dashing platform whizz is good fun, and there’s enough unique areas to give a nice sense of exploration too. The more random elements of the game might leave some scratching their heads, but if you’re willing to put your tongue firmly in cheek and just enjoy the platforming, there’s a few hours of enjoyment to be had here.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.