Loopmancer delivers stylish 2D action again and again

by on April 25, 2022

Maybe it’s a matter of perspective, but I’m not sure being stuck in a timeloop would be that bad. I mean an endless cycle of death and failure wouldn’t be a great time, but on the other hand endless mulligans would have its uses. Take the case of Xiang Xizu for example, protagonist of Loopmancer. Sure, his loops all tend to close with him getting a bullet in the mullet, but least he gets to pet his kitty cat at the start of every fresh run. It’s worth it, too. Not only is Mr Snuggles a very good boi, but petting him imparts a temporary buff that can make all the difference to your day.

Before we go on, some background. Xiang is a kind of mercenary cop, somewhere between a private detective and a special agent. He gets called in when there’s a particularly tough case no one else can solve. The neon-lit streets of Xiang’s cyberpunk city are dangerous, and it takes a special kind of badass to clean them up. But Xiang is also grieving after the death of his daughter, and is desperate to get to the truth behind the tragedy.


Loopmancer: Run, gun, bleed, repeat

Each run of Loopmancer begins with Xiang waking up in his apartment. It’s raining outside, there’s a cat inside, and the phone is ringing. How the structure will work in the full game isn’t clear yet. Whether each case will be a new loop or you’ll have to play the whole thing each time remains to be seen. At present the demo only goes as far as the first boss, but it’s enough to give us a taste of things to come.

Loopmancer is a side-scrolling action game with a little shooting and a little slashing and lots of dodging. It desperately needs a parry, although there’s one mentioned in the control options so it may be an unlock later. As the aforementioned cop you’re called in to help find a missing reporter. The last person she interviewed is something of a personal nemesis, and so there’s a lot riding on it.

Cutscenes look decent but the animation is a little off and the voice work isn’t great. That said, the city itself and its environments are gorgeous. Style pools on every surface, from the stunning lighting to the detailed backdrops. Enemies come at you in groups from both sides, but few are much of a challenge. However, when the action gets frantic it’s easy to lose your bearings. Without a dedicated block button you spend more time dodging than anything else.



There’s a selection of different weapons and items to find though. Xiang’s buddy offers an initial choice of randomised items, from pistols and shotguns to machetes and powered gloves. As in, say, Dead Cells, you unlock more by spending in-game currency and then they’ll drop into the loot pool going forward. A robot merchant called Funk pops up during the missions to offer further choices.

Usually Funk is standing beside a machine that allows you to either heal your body or repair your equipment. The effect is finite, though, and so far I’ve seen no way to refill the paltry two sodas you go in with that restore HP. One of the buffs from fussing your cat give you an extra one, but once they’re gone they’re gone. It’s perhaps the only real issue with the difficutly. The mission is very long, punctuated by a tough boss fight and a few sections where you’ll need to dodge cars coming out of the background that will obliterate your health if you’re not careful. A few extra heals wouldn’t go amiss.

You also have a power move such as a shockwave or fire burst, a utility item like, for example, proximity mines, and an overcharge move to mix into combat. The issue isn’t variety, although the random nature of possible drops means some runs are easier than others. Rather, the problem is that there’s so much going on it can be difficult to feel in control. Again, this may be tighter in the finished game.


Future hit?

That being said, there’s something undeniably likeable about Loopmancer. The combat is smooth, and the traversal satisfying. Xiang has a grapple on one arm that can latch onto specific points to pull him up to high ledges, and a double jump that makes no sense in context but doesn’t need to. But it’s the little details that make a difference. When Xiang drops to a lower deck, for example, he doesn’t just drop through the floor, but grabs the gantry and swings down. It sounds like nothing, but it’s cool in practice.

Loopmancer needs some real work doing in places. The voice acting, for one, needs some attention. The cutscene animations need to be a little smoother, and the combat needs a few tweaks to feel more deliberate and less manic. I’m also not a fan of having to visit the police station, buy weapons, and skip the same half a dozen cutscenes at the start of every new loop. But there’s massive potential shown in the demo, and if eBrain Studio can fix the issues, Loopmancer could be something very special indeed.

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