How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. While there's no combat, the progression and feel of Lootbox Lyfe definitely puts it squarely in the genre.
Primary Challenge: Tricky Platforming
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Lootbox Lyfe was provided by the developer.
Buy Lootbox Lyfe if you like…
- Brutal and precise platforming
- Relaxing and forgiving platforming
- Obscure and mysterious stories
- Discovering both collectables and Story-based secrets
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A precision platformer lives or dies on level design. Each of its mechanics must be meticulously taught to the player to keep the gameplay fair, but it also needs to have increasing complexity to keep it engaging. Lootbox Lyfe could have accomplished this with a basic sequence of levels, but that comes with the risk that the player becomes bored with being told how to play all the time. So, instead, Lootbox Lyfe was made into a Metroidvania, a genre where players are challenged to explore mechanics as much as they explore the world, seamlessly tutorializing each new idea before more difficult tasks and abilities are introduced. The end result is brilliant, and thanks to some well-implemented difficulty settings, Lootbox Lyfe is either a brutal hard-but-fair challenge, or a relaxing platformer exploration game – whichever pleases you the most.
At the start you can’t even move, and you’re forced to collect the first of many lootboxes that increase your capabilities. You fall helplessly onto a box that gives you the ability to move, and you’ll soon another box that gives you the ability to jump, and your increasing addiction to finding more boxes with these powers continues until the end credits. Most of the important lootboxes are hidden inside of portals that force you to use only the new power you just acquired. This ensures you have at least a grasp on what it is you just obtained, but when you’re released from these mini-levels it’s up to you to figure out how to combine the new ability with all the others you’ve collected.
The general platforming takes a little getting used to, but it’s very precise. In spite of being a rolling head, you always stop instantly if you’re not pushing any direction. Moving straight forward builds momentum that carries into your jump, so you have to learn how much to run – or not run – to predict exactly where you’re going to land once you launch yourself into the air. Each movement upgrade layers in complexity to the challenges. Since abilities are required to access areas, Lootbox Lyfe is designed to combine powers as you explore. Special traps or interactive environments may require you to shift forms, to bounce instead of leap, and etc. creating a sort of action puzzle. Of course, the game doesn’t simply tell you how to use your new abilities to progress, so sequence breaking via creative or unexpected application of your powers is very possible.
There are no enemies in Lootbox Lyfe, no bosses, or anything that is actively trying to kill you save the occasional shooting turret. The levels are however infested with spikes, or other paintful traps, which will send you back to the nearest checkpoint if you get too friendly with them. On the default difficulty you are allowed to take up to three hits before death occurs (with the exception of some instant death traps such as water), and there’s no way to upgrade this health in-game. The space between checkpoints are usually designed to sort of tell a two part mini-story. A simplified version of an idea is introduced, and then you’re required to repeat the same concept with a much harder spin. As you’re still working to improve your game, this means you’ll be repeating the first part of that “story” a lot as you work to master the second part, ultimately hitting another blessed checkpoint if you make it. If you are having difficulty achieving intentionality with your controls, this can be very frustrating and time consuming, but it’s also very high tension and rewarding when you do succeed.
If “git gud” repetition isn’t your cup of tea though, Lootbox Lyfe has a nicely adjustable punishment system, giving you the option to ease up on what is required of you. You can increase the number of hits you can take, allowing you to make more mistakes between checkpoints. Or, you can also increase the frequency of checkpoints to eliminate the repetition altogether. Switching checkpoints to its most frequent setting basically doubles how many of those checkpoint flags you’ll see, basically adding a bookmark in the middle of each platforming mini-story. I personally liked the more frequent checkpoint option the most. For those who like to be challenged but don’t have a ton of time to grind out longer sections until your skill level is up to the trial, I would recommend turning down the number of hits you can take and increase the checkpoints to max. For those that prefer their games to expect the most out of them, you do have the option to turn down the number of checkpoints available, turning mini-stories into terrible epics of pain and agony – hopefully ending with triumph instead of broken controllers. Turning the game onto low checkpoints with only one health point prompts the game to beg you not to try it – but I’m sure there are some out there where that kind of brutality is exactly how they like it.
One of my favorite aspects of how this difficulty adjustment works is that the game is essentially the same for every player; you’re just changing how much you want to be set back when you do fail. Because of this I think that even with the highest number of hit points and checkpoint frequency, Lootbox Lyfe still sits at a medium difficulty. If you look in the game’s menu however, there are even more ways to adjust what the game expects of you. There are assist options that let you jump infinitely or even to just stop taking damage entirely. You can enjoy Lootbox Lyfe exactly how you want to, so if you just want another world to explore, you don’t have to deal with it trying to kill you all the time.
While the game does have a map system that gives you a general idea of where you are, it’s not as detailed as it could be, making it sometimes difficult to figure out where you can possibly go next. There is some feedback that gives you an idea of what you haven’t completed though. Each zone has a specific number of coins in it, which is listed on your map, so if you don’t know what to do, trying to max out the coins in an area isn’t a bad place to start. Teleporting to old areas is possible, but you have to first unlock the ability to go to specific zones by finding the lootbox that contains the option, so if you haven’t found this box yet obtaining it can be a new goal. If you are having trouble you can always spend some of the coins you’ve found on hints that point you in the right direction.
You can also spend your coins on hats, and unlike some games where they serve only an aesthetic purpose, each hat has a useful ability. One hat vibrates when you’re close to coins, the hard hat stops rocks from dealing damage to you, and the most powerful one in my opinion is the one that reduces how much gravity affects you. These hats add some customizability that contributes to the replay value of the game. If you want to challenge yourself more, then don’t use the more powerful hats. Or, you can choose to use them to reduce the difficulty of some areas you can explore. Unfortunately you can’t swap out these hats at any time – you have to go back to the shop to put them on – so you kind of have to know what you’ll be facing before you head there in order to get the most out of them.
Besides finding coins and lootboxes, there are also little story tidbits you can discover. These usually come in the form of cutscenes, but there are also a few notes and other surprises hidden away. The game’s narrative hints at your people’s dystopian history, and it’s interesting enough to think about that I’m sure there’s plenty of fun to be had discussing what you’ve found on internet forums. It’s certainly far deeper than a game about a goofy rolling head deserves, and it’s even possible that someone could derive some meaningful social commentary from it. It adds another layer of depth to the exploration and helps the world feel like a place rather than just a series of spikes that you need to avoid.
Overall Lootbox Lyfe is a great little platformer, and a fantastic value for the current asking price of $5. Every single one of its challenges is meticulously crafted to use everything you’ve learned, and the game is only as punishing as you want it to be. Exploration is rewarded with both meaningful mechanics and mysterious discoveries. Literally my only complaint about Lootbox Lyfe is that it’s not as robust as some other Metroidvania games – being a smaller indie title. But, I’m also very satisfied with what is here, so in this case, simply wanting more is a good problem for Lootbox Lyfe to have. I think no matter who you are, if you enjoy any kind of platforming, colorful graphics, and relaxing music, Lootbox Lyfe has something for everyone, so it’s an absolute no-brainer to heartily recommend it.
There is no combat, or anything similar. This is a pure platforming game
The controls are tight and there are challenges that truly test all of your abilities. It can be as difficult or as easy as you choose based on how much you want to be punished for failure.
Besides the main progression upgrades, you can find teleportation keys, coins to buy hats or hints, and other surprises.
Some platforming challenges are tricky to figure out, but other than that there aren't really any puzzles in this game
The story is mostly optional but there is enough of a mystery that some players may get some joy out of theorizing what happened in this Lootbox Lyfe's world
Gorgeous and Colorful with smooth animations and excellent conveyance
Very nostalgic SNES style music that invokes a relaxing mood
You have a lot of autonomy on the order in which you do things, multiple difficulty modes as ways to challenge yourself, plus a speedrun mode and a free roam mode.
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