Flying Blind

HIGH Equipping the duck head.

LOW Getting powerups and having no idea what they do.

WTF What is the deal with the writing?

Getting roguelikes right is real trick. The best ones are challenging but not punishing, mysterious but not inscrutable, and temper the penalties of failure with persistent elements that inspire players to keep trying. It’s a lot to juggle and difficult to nail, but when the pieces click into place it might just be my favorite genre. Straimium Immortaly… doesn’t manage it.

The premise doesn’t matter much here, but the main character is some sort of flying space ninja creature invading a hive of other, different space creatures. Flavor dialogue pops up and almost taunts the player in a strange, off-kilter tone, but it can all be safely ignored.

Once started, the player controls the tiny ninja in small, 2D single-room environments connected by doorways. They can fly, dash, shoot in the four cardinal directions, and they’ve got access to a limited-resource super weapon. It’s a great foundation, but Immortaly lacks necessary focus on multiple levels.

The first area where it’s unclear are its visuals — as in, literally unclear. Although the spritework is nice in isolation, there’s too much going on and it’s hard to get a sense of what’s happening thanks to visual effects in the background that sometimes look like they’re in the foreground. Also, enemies shoot loads of projectiles, but some look like pickups while others look like harmless window dressing. Even after turning off as many visual options as possible the readability in combat is not great, and poor readability means taking damage that could have been avoided.

Also unclear is just how items and powerups work. I’ve gotten some pickups and couldn’t tell at all what they did, and whenever I found one of the randomly-generated shops, I was never sure what the items on sale were. Of course, there’s always a bit of experimentation required in any roguelike, but this void of information is well below what most in the genre offer.

These things might not be game-ruining in and of themselves, but the difficulty in Straimium Immortaly is fairly high. The character is only able to shoot in four directions (up, down, left, right) which limits their offensive ability in airborne combat, so between being unable to fire in all directions and taking cheap hits from muddled screens, I found myself dying quickly and feeling like neither my skill nor knowledge were improving with each attempt.

On the plus side, the configuration of each randomly-generated level is locked into place until the player decides to fully restart the game. They won’t keep powerups or abilities if they die, but they can try again with all of the rooms, enemies and items just as they were. Having this knowledge does give a bit of a leg up. On the other hand, it also means this feature is only of use when the player rolls an advantageous map that’s good enough to attempt a serious run on.

Straimium also offers some unlocks and mutators which can be toggled on or off, and one of the first I earned let me take less damage — helpful! — but it’s unclear how to unlock more, and even with reduced damage, it still felt like a frustrating, defeating experience.

Straimium Immortaly is the second title I’ve tried from Caiysware (the other being Skelly Selest, also on Switch) and I see unreached potential in this work. Both offer good ideas and a few nice moments, but neither has the level of polish or balance needed to deliver an engaging challenge. That said, I do feel like the dev is on the cusp of greatness and I’ll be curious to see their next attempt.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Caiysware and published by Digerati. It is currently available on PS4, PC, XBO and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch.

Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed(X) hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes OR There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes and Use of Drugs. I gotta be honest, this list of warnings caught me by surprise. Enemies bleed a bit when shot, but the violence is pretty standard. However, I have no idea what the ‘suggestive themes’ are and as far as drugs… well, the whole thing sort of looks like a bad trip, but I can’t point to any specifics.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue comes via text and there are no audio cues necessary for play. I spent almost my entire time with the sound off and had no issues. It’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Brad Gallaway
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