Roguelikes can get tiring after a while. Even though there’s a satisfying “one more run” rush that you often get from these sorts of games that reset your progress after a single death, that rush eventually fades and gives way to fatigue. Do I really want to go through another run after I got so far last time? Do I really want to scrape together enough experience points or gold to unlock a marginally useful permanent upgrade? Do I really want to keep playing? I’ve had thoughts like that run through my mind with plenty of roguelike games, but in all of my time with Relic Hunters Zero: Remix, those feelings never came close to manifesting.
Developed by Brazilian team Rogue Snail, Relic Hunters Zero: Remix sports stylish visuals and a light-hearted world that I was quick to get invested in. As a member of the Spaceheart crew, you and the six other playable characters are tasked with racing across the galaxy and hunting down ancient relics in order to secure them before the forces of the evil Ducan Empire get their hands on them. While light on story, there’s still plenty of quirky charm to the writing of Relic Hunters Zero: Remix, like some of your relics being fancy cocktails or the fact that the Ducan warriors are just literally ducks.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix might come across as a childish title at first glance, but the cutesy, chibi characters and bright colors of the world act as a natural camouflage to the brutal twin-stick shooter that lies underneath that stylish coat of paint. In Adventure mode, you’re tasked with traversing 12 different stages in your pursuit of the Ducan Commander, the final and incredibly brutal boss of the brisk campaign.
While left stick moves your character and right stick aims your gun, you can’t just go in guns blazing. Ammo is consistently scarce, forcing you to pick your shots carefully. You can land precision kills by aiming with the left shoulder button, but this comes at the cost of bringing your movement speed to a halt. Additionally, you can roll or dash using the B button to avoid oncoming attacks. That maneuver is downright mandatory in massive firefights, but the fact that it’s mapped to the B button makes it incredibly difficult to utilize effectively. Even if your gaming thumb is particularly huge, it’s awkward to try and slam the B button in a tense moment as you’re aiming your weapon. Being able to map the dodge to a different button would help, but Relic Hunters Zero: Remix doesn’t have any controller remapping options.
Still, even without consistent control of your dash, you’ll still be able to make solid progress in Relic Hunters Zero: Remix thanks to the relic system. There are eight different relics in the game, split into three pieces each. Collecting all three pieces of one will permanently unlock it, allowing you to enable it during runs for benefits like doubled health, health absorption upon defeating an enemy, and more. At the end of each Adventure level, you’ll have a random chance to discover a relic piece in the ground, but you can also buy missing relic pieces in-between sections with your bounty (cash, basically). The double whammy of Adventure mode runs being so short and relics being uncovered so often made it so I always felt ready, willing, and excited to dive back in after a failed encounter with the Ducan Commander. It’s a perfect storm that leads to an addictive, if brief, campaign.
If you want to crank things up, you can also go for the brutally challenging Storm mode. In this mode, you’ll spawn on a map and defeat enemies to gather bounty to unlock chests scattered around the field and upgrade tokens to power up any weapons you find. These chests can also contain fully assembled relics, and you’ll need to find those fast to deal with the staggeringly difficult foes you’ll face. There’s much more enemy variety in this mode, which I appreciated, but environments across the entire Relic Hunters Zero: Remix lacked that variety. While level layouts may be procedurally generated, all that amounts to is boxes and enemies being placed throughout each map slightly differently. With the same tile sets and color palettes used in each section of Adventure and Storm modes, the visual repetitiveness will get to you quickly.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix takes the standard roguelike experience and shifts it into overdrive, delivering a faster and more consistently rewarding experience. I always felt like I was making progress and never felt like a run was wasted. Some technical issues and a lack of environment variety keep the game from sticking the landing, though. With more environment variety and remappable controls, Relic Hunters Zero: Remix could easily go from good to great.
A review code was provided by the publisher.