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The post apocalyptic world of Black Future 88 is frozen in the 1980’s as people live for their last moments rather than their future. Black Future 88 is a rogue-like action platformer with a multitude of enemies and weapons and an ever changing environment to explore as you see how long you can last for on your fight through Skymelt.
You take control of one of two characters to begin with and each has their own attributes and starting weapons, they both also have different times that they can stay alive for. One of the key features of Black Future 88 is that your character only has so long to live before their heart explodes, meaning that if you want to get far in the game you really can’t drag your feet looking through every room and sniffing out any upgrades, thankfully an indicator on screen always shows the way to the boss so you don’t have to waste unnecessary time looking around for where you’re supposed to go. Another of the key features is that, if when you dispatch an enemy you don’t pick up the items it drops, then the Skymelt tower will claim it for itself and increase its power which will in turn make the game more difficult for you by adding to the amount of enemies or by sending bounty hunters after you, among other things.
Black Future 88 controls pretty well regardless of the control scheme you choose to use on your Switch and you can always pass one of your Joycons to a friend to get them to join in with you which can make the game just that little bit easier. If you do decide to have a friend join you and they are defeated, you can sacrifice some of your own health to bring them back into the fray and that extra bit of fire power can come in quite handy, though I found it was more difficult to keep track of my own character when there was so much happening on screen.
As you trudge your way through the halls of Skymelt, blasting down your enemies, they will occasionally drop new and more powerful weapons for you to use as well as ammo or blood packs. There’s so many weapons to choose from that you’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite, especially considering the more you play, the more you’ll unlock. I personally preferred using the sword that’s equipped to one of the starter characters because you could use it to bat away enemy projectiles and it was more than a little powerful to make up for the short range.
Since Black Future 88 is more a rinse and repeat type of game, it doesn’t matter how good you are and how far you get, thanks to the fact that your character’s heart will explode you’ll always die and it’s when you die that you unlock the majority of new things by a level up type bar. There are various other things to find in Skymelt as well though such as buffs that will allow you to use more dashes or fire more rounds, my favourite was the one that allowed me to restore my health by dashing through an enemies’ bullets since it gave me the freedom to go all out and not be more concerned with dodging than going on the offensive. When you find these buffs more often than not they’ll be cursed so it means that by accepting them you’ll lose health or it’ll limit your dash ability or in the case of buffs that aren’t cursed, you’ll have to spend time to get them, edging you closer to the inevitable, luckily the benefits usually outweigh the curses. Unfortunately you don’t get to keep the the things you find in Skymelt, each time you die you have to start fresh and this means that you also won’t have your hard earned buffs, but on the flip side it also means Skymelt is reset to normal as well.
As well as weapons and buffs, you can also find new characters hidden in the tower, though the entire time I played I only manged to find one since I was more concerned with finding things to unlock rather than seeing how far I could go, given the inevitable outcome. Having said that, I did defeat my fair share of bosses as well and they provide you with buffs that are more special than the average ones but because of the random nature it’s not always one of the choices, though I did notice them crop up much more the more times I defeated them. Navigating the game world is easy enough and to make things even easier, most rooms will have teleporters that allow you to zip about and you’ll even find the odd shortcut which allows you to skip ahead to a different section of Skymelt.
Black Future 88 is one of those games that’s meant to be hard but I feel like the fact that your character will die no matter what you do, takes a little of the pressure off and in a weird way kind of makes the game seem a little easier since I’m not too worried about dying, there were even multiple times when I defeated a boss from start to finish on no more than a single health segment. It didn’t feel as though it was as hard as it appeared on the surface and I feel like the lack of pressure coupled with the rinse and repeat gameplay is what attributed to that, gradually building my skills in the game without even really being aware that I was improving. There is an assist mode if you feel like the game is beyond your skill level but it isn’t something I felt the need to use so I can’t really say what it’s like to play with it on.
It’s a great game and a lot of fun to play, taking away the frustration and tension of dying has made this game so much more appealing in my opinion and the icing on the cake here is the fantastic soundtrack, it does a great job of getting you in the mood to play. My only real gripe with this game is that there’s occasionally a text box that pops up at the bottom of the screen and obstructs your view if you happen to be down there.
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