REVIEW : Atomicrops (PC)
Atomicrops is a roguelite experiment, a genre that has always attracted hardcore gamers with its permadeath mechanics and thanks to the procedurality of its maps. The Bird Bath Games game, published by Raw Fury, mixes the shooter with gameplay that winks at farming simulators and tower defence. The vibe of the title is reminiscent of Vlambeer’s Nuclear Throne, with a hint of Plant vs. Zombies where plants are hostile.
The premises are simple and convincing. In a post-apocalyptic world, where rabbits carry plasma guns and hills have eyes, a girl inherits a very small plot of land from her grandfather. Thanks to these hectares of pixels he will support his village, inhabited by mutant vegetables, and will try to survive the passing of seasons and years. The farm will grow, but over time the threats and – who knows – friendships will also increase.
On this last point, the trailers wink strongly, suggesting that as in Stardew Valley it will be possible to relate to NPCs to build stable relationships. In reality, let’s immediately warn, this mechanic is kept at a level of resource management, delivery of items and increase of relational points to enhance the character and the farm, depending on the favourite NPCs. Nothing too immersive, but in any case a nice touch of colour, given the good design of the characters and creatures.
Atomicrops does not catapult our character into deadly dungeons. The lands where we will make our expeditions are flat open spaces of different biomes. They are vast areas, with encampments and nests of opprobrium which, if defeated, will release objects of various kinds (keys, upgrades, economic resources). At the heart of it all: the farm. In other words, the map is built in such a way that it revolves around the terrain that we will have to upgrade, farm and protect. Every three days, equivalent to single expeditions, we will have bonuses depending on our results and also the season will change. Consequently, the characteristics of the places and enemies that surround us will also change.
There are three stages of the game. The first, the day, lasts about two minutes: it consists in the search for resources and the care of the land. We will have to choose wisely whether to ignore the harvest in favour of exploration or vice versa. The harvest is essential to buy weapons, pets that boost statistics and speed up cultivation, means of transport and tractors. The latter is equivalent to special techniques, bombs capable of destroying multiple enemies in one hit.
The second phase, the night, is made up of invasions and waves of mobs. It is a delicate and hectic moment, in which we will be surrounded by every front and investing in turrets can help us survive. The monsters are varied: alternating bombs, spherical bullets, precision shots from a distance, melee charges. In case enemies eat the crop we will earn much less than expected, which means fewer weapons and less chance of surviving in the days to come, often characterized by the presence of huge and chaotic bosses.
Third and last phase, the Hub, in which we will be able to buy timber to build ready and open new areas of the Wastelands, obtain power-ups that can speed up farm life, or unlock object slots and firearms with different ranges and rate of fire from the standard gun. Weapons that, unfortunately, tend to break after a single shipment, making it even more difficult to choose what to invest the hard-earned tubers on.
On the farming component, it is appropriate to say a few words separately. Cultivating the land is done by alternating multiple commands and multiple actions: first, you hoe and plant, one clod at a time. Then it fertilizes (fertilizer is the most common drop of monsters), finally it waters automatically, staying close to the ground. A system that perhaps, separated from the exploration phase, would have been much more fun. In this way, it is a psychological ballast, a tower defence one, guilty of causing exploration to become sobbing. A good idea would have been to manage the cultivation in the Hub phase, to relegate only the defence to the action phase.
It is clear, considering that we are talking about a roguelite in which time has its weight, that it is certainly not an easy game. The very classic bullet hell element is not so complex and punitive: hearts and healing items help. But the difficulty is given by the lack of energy and lethal power that a bad “vintage” can entail. One thinks of the survival dynamics of games like Don’t Starve or the pressing temporal component of Risk of Rain.
The graphics are of excellent impact and quality: a clear pixel art, with colours that do hypersaturated details and chromatically desaturated backgrounds. The enemies are truly varied. Smooth animations. The soundtrack is excellent and atypical, syncopated like that of the credits of Spongebob Squarepants, made up of Hawaiian guitars and percussion. It is important because it is especially noticeable at the appearance of the bosses, and it is curious how certain cheerful tunes turn into combat themes full of unexpected pathos. A mistake, after all, can lead to starting all over again.
The main criticism of the game lies in certain less fluid scenario transitions, especially in the first post-tutorial moments. The farm-simulator component, as already mentioned above, does not have perfect synergy with the roguelite one. Combining multiple genres doesn’t necessarily mean mixing them, sometimes combining them would be the best idea.