Title: Black Future ’88
Available On: Switch, PC
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Genre: Action, Roguelike
Version Tested: Switch
Official Site: Black Future ’88
Release Date: November 21st, 2019
In an alternate version of 1988, nuclear cataclysm has destroyed most of what humans hold dear. Endless rain has blacked out the sun. The remaining survivors stopped keeping track of what year, or even time, it is. They only have one goal: reach the top of an ever-changing tower to make the man responsible pay. But it won’t be easy.
A World Torn Apart
The story of Black Future ’88 is far from the main draw, nor is it the most original. But it is an important piece of the puzzle and it does create an interesting cyberpunk aesthetic. In the Summer of 1988, a man named Duncan dropped his first bomb. This led to nuclear fallout, bringing endless rain and floods that wiped out most survivors. Those who were left stopped keeping track of time and started devoting their lives to surviving and bringing him down.
Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the player, Duncan is held up at the top of a constantly evolving tower packed to the brim with dangerous, robotic enemies. And guns. So, so many guns. Your task is to make it through the gauntlet. But spend your time wisely. You only have 18 minutes left to live.
Why exactly you have a time limit to explore this tower is never really explained. But I never found it to be a factor while playing. Either I would be killed by the onslaught of enemies or I would defeat Duncan before time ran out.
A World of Chaos
The gameplay is where Black Future ’88 shines brightest. You have access to 2 out of 5 characters once you start. And each of the heroes has different perks/buffs and comes with different weapons. Although, you’ll find new weapons in almost every room in the tower since enemies are constantly dropping them. This allows you to try out the game’s many weapons. And there are also shopkeeps in several rooms to purchase weapons, armor, and ammo. However, you can only hold two weapons at a time.
But boy, do you get a lot of use out of those two spots. I was constantly swapping out what I was using. Combining my attacks with various perks is immensely satisfying. One of my favorite guns is the Night Nail. It fires a powerful shot but also comes with the strategic advantage of swapping your character’s place with whatever enemy you hit. I also liked using the Gonnerator, an incredibly strong revolver whose force pushes you back a bit but also slows your falling speed while firing in mid-air. The game also offers close-range weapons, like a sword. But I didn’t find myself using them too often. While they pack a mean punch, they leave you vulnerable. As you level up after each run, you’ll unlock new weapons, abilities, and characters. However, it’s really the possibility for those weapons and abilities to appear while you’re playing. I would have preferred a way to choose what weapons I’m using beforehand.
Outside of the mini-bosses and Duncan, there isn’t much variety in the enemy types. They may look a bit different and have slightly different firing speeds. But they’re all just bullet-spraying sources for you to get around. It doesn’t really take away from the gameplay experience. But it does lend each room a “sameness” quality, and that takes away from the procedurally generated factor.
A World of Speed
Then there are the perks or upgrades. You can find these by defeating wardens, or mini-bosses. But you’ll also stumble upon portals that take you to an obelisk. Touching the obelisk costs 60 precious seconds but grants you a fantastic ability. And like I said, I never found the time limit to be an issue.
Your character can double-jump, which helps to reach platforms and avoid enemy fire. This is the bit of gameplay I found to be the stiffest. The second jump doesn’t go nearly as high as the first. Your character also has the ability to dash, but some perks can turn that minor platforming element into the most important aspect of the game. For example, one of my favorites is Saving Grace. This makes your dash longer and sometimes heals you while dashing through bullets. Saving Grace is a perfect name for it since health (or blood packs as they’re called here) is hard to come by. If you’ve got the time, you can leave one enemy alive, dashing through their bullets to regenerate health before you move on to the next room.
I also really liked Night Piercer. This perk lets you dash through walls and deal damage to enemies. Saving Grace, Night Piercer, and my weapons of choice all combined for a hefty blend of completely destroying my opponents. And the draw of discovering new combinations makes me want to play more.
A World of Beauty
Black Future ’88 is a treat to the senses. The bright neon colors and the synth-heavy soundtrack make for an engaging cyberpunk aesthetic. I should note though that I primarily played this in Switch’s handheld mode. But it’s well-suited for that style of play. The short span of play sessions the game offers is perfect for gaming on-the-go. It should also be noted that I played in single-player mode. But it offers couch co-op as well as daily challenges to test yourself on the leader board.
The way the map works in Black Future ’88 is also quite interesting. You don’t have access to one at all times. Each room has at least two exits, with a symbol telling you which direction a warden is in. That’s a nice little feature so you don’t have to worry about the time limit as much. But some enemies will also drop a map/portal. You can look at the tower’s layout and teleport back to any room you’ve been in. Some rooms have a “?” icon, indicating something important is there like a shopkeep. If it also happens to be a room you haven’t been to and you’ve got the time to do so, you can just teleport back closely and go exploring. It’s backtracking without the strain of going through multiple rooms.
While there is a great amount of action going on at any given moment, I only encountered a frame rate drop during one of the warden fights. But it was so severe that it was difficult for me to tell what was going on. There was also a moment where I dashed towards a wall and ended up stuck in it. I had to back out entirely and start over. These moments are infrequent, but they are there.
Verdict: Black Future ’88 offers a slice of fast-paced, action-heavy gameplay that, while not the deepest experience, does offer enough variety in weapon and ability types to keep players coming back for more.
- Great Weapon/Ability Variety
- Cyberpunk Visuals
- Synth-heavy Soundtrack
- Well-suited for Switch's On-the-go Design
- Streamlined Backtracking
- Lack of Enemy Variety
- Some Technical Bugs
- Lackluster Double-jump
- No way to choose what weapons you'll be able to use as they appear in the tower randomly