VGamingNews

OTXO

28 March, 2024 - 4:00 pm by
About 12 mins to read
Reviewed on: PC

I love the monochrome look – it’s stylish in a way that’s simply timeless. Crisp black on pure white will never not be cool. You know what’s cooler though? Black and white with a slosh of colour – especially when that colour is blood red… Think Sin City or MadWorld and you’ve got it right.

Lateralis Heavy Industries clearly got this memo when they put together their twin-stick shooter, OTXO, which certainly splashes plenty of red across that stylish black and white canvas. Released as a Super Rare Original on PC last year, OTXO makes its way to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch this week, and we were keen to finally pull the trigger on a review we’ve had in the chamber since it launched on Steam almost 12 months ago.

OTXO opens with a couple sitting in a subway car, minding their own business when a stranger alights and drops a strange mask on the floor. Inexplicably choosing to put the mask on, the man is torn from his lover and awakens on a mysterious beach overlooked by a foreboding mansion. You’re told that there’s no way to leave and that you can’t truly die whilst wearing the mask – the only way to escape is to reach the heart of the mansion and rescue your beloved. But to do that, you’ll have to shoot your way through room after room of homicidal maniacs who are armed to the teeth and all looking to protect the mansion.


At A Glance

OTXO

Positives

+ Quick-twitch, pick-up-and-play action
+ Shit-kicking soundtrack
+ Cool, throwback styling

Negatives  

– No long game
– Maybe a little too monochrome in parts
– Limited mechanics that get a little repetitive

Overall

6 /10

Played On

PC

Also Available On

Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4

Find out about our scoring policy here.


While there is an obscure story to OTXO, it’s more about the hands-on gameplay, which requires you to shoot the hell out of all the bad guys on each floor before moving on to the next. Each floor is broken up into a number of rooms, with groups of goons patrolling each – the mission is simple – just kick the door in, put your guns to work, rinse and repeat. But since ammo in your weapons is limited to just two full clips, once all your rounds are spent, you’ll have to discard your gun and snatch one up from a fallen enemy, meaning you’ll have to master multiple weapon types as you fight your way to the heart of the house. Killing enemies in quick succession is encouraged, as this raises your combo meter which will reward you with more coins per kill; you can later spend your cash on drinks at the bar, which offer you temporary upgrades to your stats and weapons, as well as a myriad of other effects. When you fall short (notice that’s ‘when’ not ‘if’), you’ll be thrown back to the beach to begin your run again.

The gameplay is incredibly fast – like, bullet out of a gun fast. Once you boot down that door and open up line of sight with the goons on the other side, you’ll be swarmed from all sides and pumped full of hot lead in a matter of moments. Honestly, it caught me by surprise just how fast things could go sideways in OTXO, and I routinely found myself respawning on the beach more quickly than I like to admit early on. Underscoring the gameplay is a heavy duty techno soundtrack that perfectly mimics the fast-paced and brutal action. It takes mere moments for the music to take hold of you, and you’ll immediately feel in perfect synergy with your shotgun-wielding lunatic on a revenge mission. There’s something guttural about it – the music is overflowing with vengeance. It’s psychotic, and it’s excellent.

Thankfully, you have a trick up your sleeve to help you even the odds, and that’s in the Max Payne-inspired slo-mo skill called Focus. Slowing the world down makes things much more manageable and helps you wade through tonnes of baddies without taking so much as a scratch, though you can only employ this for a few seconds at a time. For players less concerned with racking up a high combo count and more worried about staying alive, it’s incredibly tempting to hang around in between rooms for your Focus to replenish before kicking down the next door. Focus really is a powerful equaliser to the frenetic pace of the enemies, and by presenting players with high difficulty fights alongside this powerful, time-limited skill, it acts as something of a killshot to the speed of the gameplay – encouraging you to actually go more slowly and not more quickly. Since the main driver is to kill as many dudes as possible as fast as you can, it would have made more sense to have kills replenish your Focus, or to have it recharge a set amount based on your last combo score, though I admit that would undoubtedly ramp up the already high difficulty to an all new level. It’s nothing world ending, but it does feel rather counterintuitive. 

Visually, OTXO takes a top-down pixel art approach that will immediately conjure up comparisons to Dennaton Games’ Hotline Miami, but instead of being bombarded with the leary colours of the 80s, you’re instead treated to that aforementioned monochrome look. It won’t be long before that clean black and white look is thoroughly splattered with blood stains though, and the simplicity of the style is incredibly striking. OTXO wins a lot more style points than you’d expect from just cursory glances at the screenshots, though it isn’t without its drawbacks, as some of the detail is tricky to discern and the white outlines of weapons can be particularly difficult to make out, especially when under fire. 

OTXO is sold as “a violent top-down shooter with roguelite elements”, but if a roguelite is a watered down version of a roguelike, then I’d have to describe OTXO as a Diet Roguelite (or a Roguelite Max, if you’d prefer).  Sure, you have the procedurally generated levels and you make multiple runs that often end in failure, but there’s one very key element missing from OTXO that would even qualify it as a roguelite in my book – the long game. For me, the quintessential feature of a roguelike (or -lite) is continually chipping away at the grand scheme of the game – unlocking new weapons or new characters; opening up additional upgrades, side quests or maybe even mini-games, all to give you the feeling that you’re making overall progress through each successive run, even if they individually don’t amount to much. 

OTXO misses the mark here, and each run feels very much a standalone affair -it’s a ‘shit-or-bust’ scenario- it’s just win or lose, with nothing new opening up as you continue to play. It’s true that you can spend a bunch of coins to unlock potential new drinks in successive runs, but since those are randomised each time (and some of them are of little-to-no use anyway), you’re not really offered any long term encouragement to keep going. In that sense, I actually liken OTXO much more to an arcade shooter from back in the day, where you keep playing for the sense of pride in saying that you finally finished the game, rather than any intrinsic mechanic that makes it beneficial for you to play over and over again.

I will admit that I kinda suck at OTXO, but I did enjoy stalking room-to-room and shredding countless baddies, at least while each run lasted. After I inevitably made a silly mistake -like forgetting to reload before bursting through a door, or missing the broad side of a barn and having my Focus run out- and being utterly wasted, I found it tough to get excited to start a fresh run again right away. With no long term progression to stoke the need to keep going, OTXO struggles to turn repetition into addiction, which is a shame.

But in short bursts, OTXO is great fun – in fact, I think the release on Nintendo Switch might just be the secret sauce the twin-stick noir needs to really flourish. Booting up the Switch in the passenger seat of the car, on the bus or on the train, and blasting away at a bunch of goons until you get clipped or reach your destination is a perfect way to enjoy the short-but-sweet gameplay loop. You can fit in a few runs and enjoy getting somewhere before likely needing to start all over again by the start of your next commute. Or perhaps if you get stuck on Xenoblade or Tears of the Kingdom, you can fire up OTXO and gank a few fools to let off some steam without having to worry about getting caught up in two long term projects. (And speaking of Steam, OTXO is Steam Deck certified, so would work as an equally good distraction for the handheld-evolved PC Master Race among us.)

All told, OTXO is quicker than a muzzle flash, offering rapid-fire twin-stick action that is seriously intense. Wrapped in a cool monochrome package and splashed heavily with the blood of your enemies, what it lacks in visual clarity it more than makes up for with an impressive sense of style. The gameplay isn’t built for lasting impressions though; with no long-game to speak of, it’s strictly a ‘how far can you get this time’ affair that harkens back to the arcade shooters of the 80s and 90s. Best enjoyed as a run or two in between more meaty experiences, OTXO is perfect for the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck, where you can wile away short commutes with a hail of bullets before slipping your machine back in its holster, ready to let rip again at a moments notice.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.


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Our Rating
6