Rashlander is a 2D lunar lander roguelite that plays around with orbital gravity and uses it to create challenging gameplay. There aren’t very many games like it that I’m aware of which makes this a very unique coffee break experience.
You control a fragile spaceship and your goal is to simply survive and land on the teleporter at the end of 5 increasingly difficult levels. The challenge comes from limited fuel, various traps such as black holes, large spiky doors, and even enemy ships that will shoot you down. Because this is a lunar lander-type game, most of what you’ll be doing is carefully orienting your ship to land on various objectives such as refuel stations or research docks. It sounds relatively easy on paper but it’s surprisingly finicky because the gravity of the game factors in things like asteroid size, the bigger the rock is, the more gravity it has. The surface-level gameplay loop is simple and addictive, but it isn’t all that Rashlander has to offer.
Rashlander gets increasingly complicated the more you get into it. There are a ton of little secrets and things to take advantage of. The biggest things of note are secret alternate routes you can take if you get to the exit of a level quickly enough. There are hidden upgrades at the end of these secret levels that are incredibly useful, such as a govcorp access key that lets you get your own weaponized ship to fight back against enemies. There’s also a way to loop back to the start of the game if you get to the end of the final level fast enough, which is good for score running.
Simple unless you decide otherwise
A nitpick I have is that a lot of the most interesting aspects of this game are driven by going for high-score rather than a simple completion. You have to want to experiment with things to get much more out of this game aside from a pacifistic and short mini space adventure. The game significantly opens up once you start trying to go for the best score possible, and all of the complexity comes from this playstyle. If you’re driven by the score you’re exploring and collecting as much as possible. There are tiny nodes that can give you extra lives, crashed spacecraft for fuel upgrades, secret rifts you can crack open, an alternate dimension with significantly higher difficulty, etc. The game is pretty packed with little things you can do but you have to kinda go out of your way to go for them.
In terms of run variety, the game is good enough. There are a small variety of upgrades to choose from after each level and there are several different ships to use. A lot of the upgrades aren’t actually universal benefits, most of them require trading one thing for another, such as trading 1 upgrade option for 1 more life or trading text legibility for a fuel upgrade. It’s a fun system that makes choices more interesting because you’re juggling all your resources. The different ships similarly have pros and cons to them. I tend to just pick the default ship because the other ones tend to be things like no collision damage or being incredibly hard to control. I see most of these ships as just an optional challenge to make the game harder rather than different playable characters.
The presentation of Rashlander is fantastic. The soundtrack is good enough that I’ve listened to it several times over on Spotify, and I love the intensity of the level 4 and 5 tracks, fitting perfectly with the difficulty. Visually the game is very colorful and bright, everything is conveyed in simple shapes and the pixel art is very clean. The controls aren’t able to be rebound but the game only requires the left analog stick to twist your ship around and the A button to use fuel to accelerate. There are a *ton* of accessibility options including mouse-only control, several visual modifiers, and the ability to disable collision.
Overall, Rashlander is a one-of-a-kind roguelite that thrives off its simplicity and hidden complexity. I’d definitely recommend anybody to give it a shot, especially for the cheap $5 asking price.
+ Addictive gameplay loop
+ Lots of secrets and challenges
+ Great presentation
– Have to go out of your way for complexity
– Run variety could be stronger