Ruiner (Switch) Review: Heavy Action and Slick Cyberpunk Style

by David Sanchez June 24, 2020 @ 10:28 am

Ruiner game on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch

Reikon Games’ Ruiner has been out on multiple platforms for a while now, but the game has finally found its way to Nintendo Switch. The Devolver Digital-published cyberpunk action game garnered its share of acclaim previously, and it’s great to see that the tough, rewarding action and superb cinematic style of the game have translated seamlessly onto Nintendo’s console. Simply put, Ruiner is a fun ride, and if you’ve yet to play it and own a Switch, there should be nothing stopping you from enjoying the game’s nonstop thrills.

Hacked and Slashed

Top-down shooter gameplay in Ruiner.

Ruiner starts out pretty vague but with a clear-cut goal: “kill the Boss.” The image of a man flashes onscreen as you hear those words. So that’s exactly what you set out to do. It isn’t long before a hacker known only as “Her” taps into your mind and tells you that there’s more to everything that’s going on than you might think. Before long, Her tells you that your brother’s been kidnapped, so your new priority becomes to rescue him, all the while taking down criminal gangs along the way.

There’s a lot of narrative intrigue in Ruiner. You’ll get the feeling you’re being lied to by certain characters, and you’ll find a few twists and turns during the course of the game. The game is really well-written most of the time, with only a few stumbles where the writing could be a little clunky. Even then, the fact that this is a top-down arcade action game with shooting and hack-and-slash gameplay is interesting. This type of narrative depth usually isn’t reserved for this genre, so it’s refreshing seeing a fully realized, plot-rich world here.

Ruiner shoot 'em up gameplay.

The game’s stages are large and feature multiple areas for you to explore and bosses to battle. Ruiner does a good job of dropping you into stages that are filled with enemies and a few secrets to uncover without overwhelming you with oversized or overstuffed levels.

You can use one gun and one melee weapon at a time, and along the way you’ll find better weapons. These usually have limited use, so once they wear out, you’ll switch back to your defaults. Aside from varying degrees of powerful swords and maces, you’ll find assault rifles, SMGs, and flamethrowers. And that’s just a few of the game’s better guns — there are a lot of cool weapons for you to discover and play around with.

Ruiner Creeps gang.

If the gameplay of Ruiner was solely running, gunning, and brawling, it would’ve worked well and still been a great game. On top of the challenging action, Ruiner also includes an RPG element that walks the line between somewhat deep and intuitive. You’ll find XP in chests, as well as through an item that grinds all unused weapons in an area once a battle ends and turns it into XP (a super-useful and novel idea). You’ll then earn upgrade points to unlock and level up a lot of different abilities.

You’ll find yourself outnumbered during all encounters in Ruiner, but you’re given the tools to succeed. Those tools, along with some twitch reflexes, are all you’ll need to succeed. Oh, and sometimes patience. Even on the normal setting, the difficulty of Ruiner is quite high, though it’s nowhere near as hard as the newer crop of tough-as-nails action games we’ve sen. Still, there will be moments where even when playing carefully, you’ll be dominated by enemies. Your best chances of survival are adapting and reacting accordingly.

A Flashy Cyberpunk World with Some Nice Optional Activities

Rengkok hub world in Ruiner.

The really cool thing about Ruiner is how it continuously adds bits and pieces to flesh out and expand upon its arcade action. Between missions, you’ll hang out in the town of Rengkok, a bustling metropolis that’s filled with shops and bars. NPCs flood the crowded streets — it’s like something out of Blade Runner. A lot of these NPCs won’t contribute much to the experience, but a few have some fun little side quests for you to complete in the hub world and in the actual mission stages.

Rengkok’s aesthetic is hyper-stylish and captures the vibe of true cyberpunk fiction. There are tall buildings and narrow paths, neon signs, and glowing text everywhere. It’s really cool. Meanwhile, the stages themselves have a sort of techno-industrial look to them, with strong red lighting covering the screen. The visual direction of Ruiner often felt like it embraced the cinematic masterpieces of Blade Runner and Mandy.

Ruiner - Her.

Speaking of which, another aspect where Ruiner really stands out when compared to other top-down action games is in its cinematic flair. You’re not just going from level to level and killing bad guys. There are fun, quick cutscenes sprinkled throughout that introduce you to new characters and bosses. The movie-like action will slow down and the camera will zoom in on characters, treating you to a unique visual experience that’s not common in action games of this type.

The character dialogue is mostly text — with the exception of Her, who makes quick comments when you reach a new area or get killed. Hearing Her say, “That was painful to watch,” or, “Get up, Puppy (her nickname for our unnamed lead)” is pretty neat. Full voice acting would’ve been nice, sure, but the text-driven narrative doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

Ruiner cyberpunk art style.

On the other end of the audio spectrum, the music of Ruiner is a solid combination of electronic beats, dreampop-like vocals, and fast-paced synth tunes. The music is great — fast-paced during battles and chill in the hub world. Every tune fits every situation, and on top of that the songs are all catchy and get you zoned into the action.

Ruiner does a lot of things, and it does all of them really well. It introduces new systems but it never feels stuffed. The action is hard and chaotic. The cinematic direction is outstanding. The game can get pretty tough at times, but it never feels unfair. And though the writing stumbles here and there, it’s still solid overall. If you’ve been snoozing on Ruiner, you need to rectify that posthaste now that the game’s available on Switch. Straight up, this is one of the best cyberpunk-themed action games to come along in recent years.

Score: 9 out of 10

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