Gaming

Cyberpunk Game Blade Runner Celebrates Groundhog Day

You had my curiosity, now you have my attention.
GIF: eBrain Studio / Kotaku

Loopmancer what would happen if cyberpunk sleeping dogs was turned into groundhog day-esk bagel.

Developed by eBrain Studios, Loopmancer is a stylish platform game set in the near future of 2046. You play as Xiang Zixu, a cyber detective on the hunt for a missing journalist in the underworld of Dragon City.

When clues to a missing journalist come within Xiang’s reach, he is tastelessly killed. After Xiang dies, he finds himself back in the bedroom of his luxurious apartment, which only video game characters can have. Right here groundhog day time loop rules come into effect. Xiang is reassembling the clues you have gathered from his previous lives so you can make choices that will affect how the rest of the story unfolds. While the game has yet to be officially released, a demo is available to play on Steam.

Fight in Loopmancer it’s fast paced with fluid dodges and short brawls between 3D platformer levels. Some areas change randomly, adding new gameplay to the new cycle.

To keep roguelite combat fresh, Loopmancer uses a weapon purchase system similar to shelving. Tiny robots scattered throughout the levels, called PUT machines, let you buy new weapons using E-coin, the currency that drops from destructible crates and enemies. You can invest in a variety of purchasable weapons placed throughout the levels, such as armed fish. If you die, these funds will count towards your next cycle and will be permanently unlocked after you make a purchase. This not only encourages the complete destruction of enemies in the levels, but also adds variety to your approach to combat in the game. Logistics terminals, the game’s checkpoints, allow you to heal Xiang and teleport around the map.

Screenshot of the Flappy Bird fake minigame by Loopmancer, Flappy Sedan.

Flappy Beer– I mean Flappy Sedan – this is a mini-game in Loopmancer.
Screenshot: eBrain Studio / Kotaku

Moving around and dodging the enemies scattered around the area is enjoyable, especially since friendly fire makes them explode like those old advertisement for Fruit Gushers with an odd ax or a grenade throw, either from himself or from his comrades. Hacking enemies also causes them to spew hilarious, albeit repetitive, expletive-filled lines. I got a lot of joy hearing Wilhelm’s cries and SpongeBob’s cries for their severed legs.

While fighting LoopmancerThe time-loop roguelite elements are great, the plot aspect in the demo is a bit confusing. Even though the game has the foresight to anticipate how tedious repeated dialogue can be, and offer a skip button for both cutscenes and character interactions, there were times when I wasn’t sure if I should risk talking to characters or reading codes in levels. Loops sometimes lead to alternate dialogue with Xiang where the characters will provide new information, forcing me to click through dialogue I’ve already heard for a chance to hear something worth my time. However, most of them came from two characters and were more of a fictional text than details of the case.

Although there are funny moments when Xiang will taunt his colleagues by betting on what he already knows about the details of his mission, gaining knowledge from his countless deaths chasing leads before they question him about the parameters of his mission. Dialogue at these moments is sparse depending on how just (or unjust) your untimely death was in previous cycles. However, you can’t miss Xiang’s slow speech. Ghost in armorA wake up scene and a wandering step towards your car before starting the next cycle. While you can skip the cutscene of him driving to work, doing it every loop becomes annoying after a while.

Screenshot from Loopmancer's demo of Xiang petting her cat.

Stroking the cat Loopmancer gives you in-game rewards other than cat petting.
Screenshot: eBrain Studio / Kotaku

To my credit Loopmancer loaded with lore that most cyberpunk indie games lack. While in most cases this would be a plus, Loopmancer through codes and diary entries works against high-speed gameplay demo requirements, although it could be better in the full game. At all levels, you will find codes and diary entries from both newly minted gang members and unfortunate residents of its cities. Although these texts give an idea of Loopmanceran intriguing world-building, they are also speed traps of long scribbles of text that abruptly stop the flow of platforming and combat. Going out of your way to read the codes becomes a gamble with finding a message you’ve already read or a new entry in its entirety thanks to randomly altered areas of the game.

Loopmancer — an impressive demonstration, especially since it is the first game of the Beijing team of 21 people. Hopefully eBrain Studios will fix the bugs after the game’s scheduled release later this year because I could see speedrunners eating Loopmancer up.


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