Posted on 09 Dec 2017 by Sawyer Scherbenske


The Defence

Developer: Reikon Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Action, Indie
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 26 Sep 2017

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.8 GHz
AMD Athlon II X4 3.1 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 460
AMD Radeon HD 6850
HDD: 22 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.4 GHz
AMD FX 3.9 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 660
AMD Radeon HD 7970
HDD: 22 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

RUINER comes to us from Reikon Games and Devolver Digital, and is proof that hitting bad guys with pipes will still be a thing even in gritty, cyberpunk futures. No matter how satisfying whacking bad guys is though, can it last for the 6-8 hour gameplay time? And can a relatively simple and linear beat-em-up like RUINER really survive these days?

The Trial

In a single (if lengthy) sentence, RUINER is a gritty, brutal, and innovative beat-em-up set in a cyberpunk future and is all about a man with a with an LCD screen for a face whose brother is missing. The 14 levels and 6-8 hours of gameplay feel like a short, gritty package, and are plenty to tell Ruiner’s simple revenge story. A story filled with chaotically entertaining gameplay and challenges.

While the relatively bare-bones story about LCD face finding his brother serves as a nice reason to visit similar looking industrial hallways and beat up goons and robots, it won’t be winning any narrative awards. But it’s okay, because it was never trying to. Instead, RUINER is all about the gameplay.

This is a challenging game for gamers who love action, synthwave beats, cyberpunk dystopias, and playing a badass. Narrative choice is limited to a few shallow dialogue choices, while character development is wholly up to you. Are you a Mike Haggar enthusiast with a love for metal pipes? You can unlock a six-part dash and massive damage boosts to launch thugs across the room with melee weapons. Alternatively, you can unlock grenades, orbital weapon drops, and rechargeable health like it’s Halo for a longer-range approach. You start with nothing but a dash, pipe, and autopistol, but you’ll finish with an arsenal of your choice.

She's your guide on the murderventure.

Best of all, you can switch between using long range or your melee weapons effortlessly, and the variety in each fight is outstanding. What starts as a clean floor quickly gets littered with guns to choose from, and the combo of extremely limited ammunition and variety of guns leads to quick weapon swapping. You’ll have a favorite weapon for sure, but you’ll have to make sure you git gud with most of them if you want to make it to the last level.

If that sounded powerful, it’s not, because you’ll be dying a lot. Whether it be a gimmicky boss, mini-boss, or challenge room of goons and traps you’re facing, there will be multiple situations that take you out repeatedly. That being said, the difficulty curve of these fights is solid. There aren’t any abrupt spikes, and the combination of responsive controls and quick loading times make each win or loss feel fair despite the challenge.

Speaking of results, you’ll be ranked from D – S by your hacker companion to show how well you did in each fight, and you are rewarded with a snippet of dialogue and art for each result. Death also gives you a quick quip from your “friend” egging you on with “that was painful to watch” or “keep going puppy.” While hearing your buddy sling lines like that at you, after just taking a flaming shotgun shell to the face, can make you want to shotgun the game out of your window, RUINER lives in that “tough-but-fair” realm of difficulty. You’ll either revel in the challenges or despise every enemy from the first level.

Dudes exploding everywhere is pretty common.

Though, as we said, there aren’t difficulty spikes, there are some occasional walls. Sometimes, you will build your character wrong for a certain fight and just die instantly. To offset this, thankfully RUINER lets you respec your character any time, and lets you try out that projectile kinetic shield when you’re tired of your bullet time.

There’s also a small hub world in the heart of your city/cesspool: Rengkok. It’s spotted with NPC’s that will give you simple quests that are enough to give you a break from the fast-paced insanity and get you acquainted with all the hot-spots. The city denizens are some pretty colorful characters, like a BDSM nun and a weeaboo cat hacker. They are often quite interesting and have their own character portraits and dialogue, but are ultimately minor, underdeveloped aspects of the game.

Even as underdeveloped as it is though, it adds to RUINER’s aesthetic. Unlike Rengkok, it’s immediately apparent that a lot of thought went into the bouncy, trancy beats that you’ll be hearing throughout the game. The ever-present red glow that emanates off of almost every light and action from the neon signs in the city, to the garishly crimson shadow that you leave behind you after a dash. They’re small touches, but they’re always there and do a lot of work to support the game as a whole.

The Verdict

RUINER’s environments and storytelling are glaring, unapologetic flaws, but its gameplay makes up for them. What starts out as a march through bland techno-warehouse alleyways evolves into an exciting series of challenge rooms that leave you excited for the next one. There are plenty of games where you play the badass, level up, and beat dudes up, but seeing weapons littering the ground around you after a fight with half a pip of health left is a thrilling feeling for challenge-seekers.

Case Review

  • Responsive: RUINER is a fast game, and gives you the fast, responsive controls to keep up with the insanity.

  • Upgrades: It’s unusual for a twin-stick shooter to have an upgrade tree at all, and RUINER’s is giant and lets you play how you want to.

  • Try Again: Fast gameplay and faster reload times make sure that you’re never out of the action for long.

  • Controls: Not having customizable controls is a baffling choice. While the default controls are fine, some people will be irritated by this oversight.

  • Difficult: Challenge is a core concept, and if you don’t want to be egged on after the many, many deaths you’ll inevitably have, don’t play RUINER.

  • Story: It’s barebones and nobody will be writing fan theories about this plot.

  • Environments: There’s nothing special about these zones. They all look like evil factories from Terminator 2.

3.5 Score: 3.5/5
What Ruiner lacks in story, it makes up for in chaotic gameplay and a good learning curve.


  • Graphics: The graphics options are standard fair. You have settings like textures, shadows, and effects ranging from “low” to “very high” alongside an option to play windowed, borderless, or fullscreen. There’s no FOV slider, since Rider is built very strictly around a specific field of view. Both resolution and brightness are changeable, which might be nice for people who get tired of squinting their eyes at the glaring neon signs everywhere.
  • Audio: For as good as the music is, the options are pretty limited. There’s game sound, background music, and master volume sliders as well as total muste options.
  • Controls: While the default controls become second nature to use, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to change them at the beginning. Unfortunately, Ruiner doesn’t allow you to rebind keys as you please, but does have an intuitive button layout at least.


2.5 Score: 2.5/5

Aesthetically, RUINER is a classical cyberpunk masterpiece. Visual influences are clear: Ghost In The Shell, Akira, Cyber City Oedo 808, and Shadowrun create a dark world of slums populated with destitute cyborgs, hackers, and techno-mysticism. While the art is beautiful the visuals effects often take it too far with flashing and sharp contrasting colours flickering during numerous sequences. Meanwhile levels are often bathed in an abundance of red lights or pale colours that make it look as though the world itself is ill, however these had their downside too. I’m not epileptic or nauseated by games but RUINER only took about an hour to give me a splitting headache that lasted the rest of the day.

Gameplay meanwhile consists of melee and ranged attacks both fit into the twin-stick control scheme rather well. You have additional abilities like dropping a shield, grenades, slowing time, etc but I rarely bothered with them because of the abundance of throw-away weapons and powerful melee attacks usually left me able to deal with enemies with relative ease. Unfortunately, after several hours with the game I didn’t feel like I’d improved at all; the game dishes out S rankings easily even if you take a considerable amount of damage. Even after lowering the difficulty to easy I found it still impossible to avoid taking a hit, even coming close to death several times. I like to consider myself a competent, if not good, gamer and no stranger to twin-stick shooters but I still couldn’t noticeably improve my skills at avoiding hits which lent the game a very mixed feeling of both being unfair and too easy. Boss encounters were similarly lacking – many could be defeated by just running at them and swinging away with your melee weapon while they ineffectually try to get away from you.

Sound design is forgettable, I couldn’t tell you the melody to any of the in-game music or the sound of any of the weapons. Dialogue is handled entirely by text with no voice acting and choices in conversations are meaningless and the graphic of your character’s mask that goes along with them usually doesn’t match up with the mood or response which made the whole thing even more hollow and half-arsed than it already was. By the two hour mark I already didn’t care about the story or any of the characters any more. By the four hour mark I was just mashing the A button to get through the text and results screens as fast as possible. At the five hour mark I’d given up entirely, sensing the game was going nowhere and would have nothing left hidden away to impress. RUINER is a competent and aesthetically pleasing game (at least to cyberpunk fans) but is lacking soul, game-feel, and a compelling reason to play more than a couple of stages. Go play Binding Of Isaac or A Wizard’s Lizard instead.


4 Score: 4/5

When I first heard about RUINER over a year ago I knew I had to keep an eye on it solely because of the style. As with most games nowadays, 1 ½ years is a long time so style, gameplay, and even the sound sometimes don’t end up what they appeared to be in the very first footage we see. But everything Reikon Games showed us in their announcement trailer is present in the final game. Except, they put the knob up to 11. Flickering visuals that make you feel like the Simpsons in Japan when Battling Seizure Robots come up on the TV. Fast, dark and beat heavy techno music in the background all the while enemies dash like mad to evade all of your weapons attacks. And while there are a fair amount of weapons in the game, the usefulness is rather limited. Time slows down for a second when you pick up a new weapon, but all that matters in the end is your trusty melee stick and the dozen abilities that you unlock throughout the game. It took me a while to figure out how heavily the game relies on you using these abilities too, which isn’t the game’s fault, just me being a greenhorn that never played a twin stick shooter before.

I caught myself turning up the volume of the game way more than I’m used to while gaming. The music is constantly putting you on edge and you end up rushing through the levels, with the dashing ability being the most useful and prominent power it’s not too surprising that this ends up happening either. The stages are about 10 minutes long each so short bursts of RUINER are your best bet and that suited me just fine. Perhaps that’s the way to go with this game anyway. Playing it for far longer will wear you down rather quick with its hyperactive visuals and techno music. I can see how these two things alone could make it less appealing to some or even most folk, but this certain kind of outlandish presentation just hits a special spot in me. This style doesn’t come often in games and it’s hard to actually pull it off like Reikon Games did. So if you’re a sucker for stylish cyberpunk techno epilepsy seizure inducing twin stick shooters, RUINER is the game for you.

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