4 out of 5. Tight controls and strategic gameplay make this roguelite Metroid style game a great way to spend an hour, or maybe a hundred hours. Customize your weapons on the fly and conquer.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Everything is procedurally generated, but the seeds create a very authentic feeling Metroidvania experience, even if it's always a little linear.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~6 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Weapon Hacker was provided by the developer.

More Info

Developer: Luke Rissacher
Publisher: Luke Rissacher
Sub-genre: Roguelite
Features: Map System, Equipment System, Multiple Difficulty modes, Guide/Hint System, 2D Platformer, Procedural Generation, Ranged Combat, Fast Travel/Teleporters, Resource Management, Blood and Gore
Difficulty: High
Linearity/Openness: High Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Steam
Release Date: 2020/06/08
Available Languages: English

Store Links

    Steam    

Buy Weapon Hacker if you like…

  • Strategic Resource Management
  • Infinite Replayability
  • Tight Controls
  • Challenge Modes
  • Customizing Weapons

▼ Review continues below ▼

Weapon Hacker is a new entry in the growing genre of Roguelike Metroidvania games. Weapon Hacker’s main gimmick is a customizable weapon system which is used very intelligently to create a strategic and engaging game. Like most Roguelikes a primary feature is permadeath, and Weapon Hacker does not give you any extra permutations or level-ups to make things any easier. On a failed run you’re rewarded instead with new knowledge, and learning all of the game’s nuances creates an addictive loop of “just one more try.” Thanks to the weapon system and a variety of ability gates with corresponding upgrades, each run is unique no matter how many times you play. Simply put, Weapon Hacker is very well made, and it’s a strong contender for being the best in the “Roguevania” genre so far.

Compared to other Roguevania titles like Sundered or Rogue Legacy, Weapon Hacker is much more “Metroidvania”. It has strict ability gating and heavily rewarded exploration with bonus secrets, and that exploration is directly tied to the power curve. It’s probably most easily compared to A Robot Named Fight, since on the surface they use a lot of the same tropes to accomplish the same goals. Each run might have different ability gates that you use different powers to pass through, you’re required to fight a certain number of bosses with an end goal of defeating the biggest boss of all, and both games take heavy inspiration from Metroid specifically. Weapon Hacker sets itself apart with simpler control physics, which I know a lot of players will prefer. You don’t have to fight with momentum as much while jumping around as you do in Super Metroid, which is what A Robot Named Fight’s controls are inspired by.

I think the biggest difference between Weapon Hacker and all of its inspirations and competitors is that it is a lot more cerebral. You are challenged to look at each room individually and conquer them one at a time. Each room stays in exactly the same state that you left it; enemies don’t respawn, so it’s possible to permanently clear the enemies out of an area. In fact the game let’s you know when you’ve killed all the enemies and often gives you a small reward for doing so. This allows each room to serve as a sort of mini challenge and aids in keeping things fresh and interesting even when the levels are pasted together procedurally.

Another element that Weapon Hacker uses to engage strategic thinking is resource management. You essentially have three different currencies that you have to spend wisely. You have literal money which can be used to open chests and buy items from shops. Chests can also sometimes be opened with health and missiles, and thus both of these could be counted as your other two currencies. Missiles are also used to open doors Metroid style, costing you five missiles for each door. Missile doors are never required to beat the game, but they’re also the only way to access the game’s shops. Sometimes you can also get a unique weapon mod or optional ability upgrade from missile doors; you can see what your prize might be before opening a door to help your decision. Any extra missiles you keep until the end will help immensely in the final boss fight. Health of course is the only barrier between you and permadeath, so it takes some careful weighing to decide whether to gamble on what might be hidden inside a chest – although it’s usually worth it. I mentioned before that rooms stay exactly the same way you left them – this includes health drops, or any drop for that matter. Saving health drops for later alleviates some of the tough decision making when health-based chests come up.

As with any game that has random elements luck can be a major factor, but clever ingenuity can circumvent luck. Some seeds will give you wild amounts of battery power – which is the only thing that limits how many mods you can put on your guns. Other seeds starve you for battery power making you have to choose your weapon mods very carefully, or force you to take advantage of the weapon switching system so that you have multiple options for specific applications. Ability upgrades have combat implications as well. Having a seed where an ability gate is something you have to burn means that you’ll either be getting a weapon mod that makes you shoot fireballs or you’ll get a mod that turns your gun into a straight up flame thrower. Fire has its uses, so you may prefer level seeds that give you that option over something like Weapon Hacker’s ball form replacement power. On the other hand, taking what I got and rolling with it often taught me new things and I ended up enjoying most of what the game has to offer. In fact, my first successful run was with a combination of powers that I initially disliked.

Part of what makes the random loot and level design so dynamic is that there are several hidden mechanics you can use to your advantage. One example of this is that some enemies are weak to fire, and some are immune, and some enemies are already on fire when you meet them. If flaming enemies are in the same room as flammable enemies, then making them touch each other will eliminate the burnable enemies – you can even cause a chain reaction if they’re all in a row. You get weapon mods that increase the knockback on your gun which you can use exactly for pushing enemies into each other, or into spikes, or into other hazards. Another example of a hidden mechanics is with Weapon Hacker’s ball form replacement. In this game instead of turning into a ball you turn into a grub, which looks very similar to some of your enemies. There are enemies that react instantly to your presence and charge at you, but they don’t do this while you’re in grub form, making it double as a sort of disguise. Applying your observations skills will reveal quite a few more similar subtle features that you can use to your advantage.

The procedural level design is setup to make exploring feel very Metroid-like. Each boss has a key that lets you access more of the game, and while sometimes these areas are built right next to each other so each zone acts like a “level”, that’s not always the case. I’ve had seeds where both key doors were in the starting zone, making it so I had to backtrack around to complete the whole thing. Individual rooms have breakable/pass-through walls as well, so while you’re not doing bomb jumping or anything like that it definitely hearkens back to Metroid’s core designs. There are even hidden rooms that can be found, and maybe even hidden zones if your seed includes it. Getting as many weapon batteries, missiles, mods, health, and armor pickups as possible makes defeating the game’s bosses feasible – so exploration is going to be your primary focus for most of the game.

The bosses themselves are relatively simple, which is good given the game’s toolset. Fighting any of the enemies in this game is more about how you shoot at them to exploit their AI rather than your reaction skills. Thus getting weapon mods that make your bullets bounce, or fly upwards, or roll along the floor helps you keep yourself in a safe and advantageous position. If enemies get too close, by default you can only awkwardly scuttle away which usually ends badly. Instead get weapon knockback mods, or put a buzzsaw on the end of your gun that knocks them back, and you’ll stay protected. The bosses, like any room in the game, act more like a puzzle challenge than a dexterity challenge, which is in my opinion like an evolution of what Metroid originally offered with its combat in the earlier games. There are only three bosses to fight and you fight them in basically the same order, but this is a good thing for planning your exploration around your strategy. It’s different than a tightly telegraphed dexterity based challenge, but it’s just as much fun.

Once you’ve completed one successful run the game still has enough sheer variety to keep itself going, but just in case you’re also rewarded with several other extra modes. There are of course the obligatory harder difficulties, but there are also challenges that force you to use specific weapon mods as well. The most interesting mode of all to me is the pacifist mode where you’re not allowed to use your weapons to kill enemies at all. Considering the main gimmick of the game is hacking weapons this seems like a counter-intuitive mode to include, but modding your weapon for low damage and high knockback, or just to address things like breakable walls, is still a way to use the feature. In pacifist mode instead of killing things yourself, you touch an object in each room which makes enemies explode, and getting to that object safely is the main challenge. The other modes are a lot more straight forward, but they still add a little extra if you somehow get bored with the nearly infinite possibilities already included in the main mode. Also, at the time of writing this game is still being actively patched; who knows what surprising features might arise in the future.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, there’s really nothing bad I can say about Weapon Hacker – it’s just a really well made game that accomplishes its goals almost flawlessly. I think the one and only criticism I can levy against it is that it’s a little lacking in personality. While throwing you straight into the gameplay without any exposition is better than having a bad story, including environmental storytelling or even just a little extra theming can go a long way. Nevertheless Weapon Hacker is great, and I think anyone who has enjoyed other Roguevania titles should give it a shot. Regular Metroidvania fans should try it out too since this inspires a lot of the associated feelings, just make sure you set your expectations appropriately given the permadeath mechanics.


Final Score

4/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 4

The controls are very easy to get used to, and enemies have a wide variety of interactions for you to discover. Combat is more of a puzzle than a dexterity challenge, but that's still a good thing.

Platforming
– 3

Dexterous platforming isn't a huge focus, it's about the same as the Metroid games that inspire this one.

Exploration
– 4

The object of the game is to power up and defeat three bosses. All of that powering up comes from rewarding exploration.

Puzzle
– 3

Only exploration-based puzzles. Some rooms require you to be very strategic in how you solve them however - if you weren't lucky with weapon upgrades anyway

Story
– 3

Pretty much non-existent, which means it can't hurt anything.

Graphics
– 3.5

Reminiscent of 3D graphics in the late 90s, which has its own charm but may be wrongly off-putting to some.

Music
– 3.5

The music is catchy and ambient, even if it's a little forgettable

Replayability
– 4.5

Even if you get bored with the numerous mini-metroidvanias this can provide, there are several challenge modes to tackle.


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Steam Reviews
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