I have played countless first games. If you need proof, my first was Minecraft when the game was still in alpha. Since then, I’ve played a lot of games that the developers say aren’t finished yet. In some cases I agreed with this characterization, in others I was surprised. Some supposedly early games were so rich in content and quality that I couldn’t believe they weren’t technically ready.
Revita is one of those games, or at least it feels that way for the first few hours. Developed by BenStar and published by Dear Villagers, this beautiful roguelike full of pixels was recently released on Steam Early Access. During that time, I spent many hours playing the game, front and back, and enjoying myself. It’s hard not to enjoy Revita when you’re immersed in its beautiful and unique graphics and catchy soundtrack. But once you get used to it, you’ll find that there’s a lot of room for improvement. In the case of Revita, early access proved to be the right decision.
Inspiration or imitation
I’m a big fan of roguelikes and roguelike games – from Hades to Rogue Legacy to Spelunky, this genre has spent weeks of my life. Playing Revita was one of my cardinal sins: I’ve compared it time and time again to similar titles in the genre. And that, for better or worse, is very similar to some of these games. I thought it was more specifically a cross between Binding Isaac and Enter the Gun. While I don’t usually like to compare games, the similarities between these games and Revita are too obvious not to mention.
Like many con artists, Revita has players play as a young boy trying to get his memories back. To do so, he ventures through a mysterious clock tower filled with monsters and returns defeated to the center of the game’s basement. Also, the currency players use to buy new items for their races. Except that this currency does not consist of coins or spent shells, but of the player’s own health. After spending hearts, players can open chests or pay homage to shrines, giving them passive buffs.
When I first saw it, I was reminded of Isaac’s Devil’s Room Connection, where the players do the same thing. Hearts are spent in this game in a similar fashion to Revita, in exchange for new skills. The difference with Revita is that there is no other currency – everything is about health. This means that inflicting damage is not just a step towards defeat; with each lost heart you lose access to items that could have helped you win. The game defeats them and allows you to regain health by absorbing the souls of defeated enemies. However, it takes a lot of souls to recover even half a heart, so it’s not really a mechanism you can rely on.
It also doesn’t help that the game’s enemies do a lot of damage. Revita takes the same approach to combat as Enter The Gungeon, but without the extreme variety. Players won’t be collecting a bunch of different weapons in Revit. Instead, they will enhance the weapon’s in-game performance with various passive items.
Revita’s biggest similarity to Enter the Gungeon is actually in the visuals. Enemies fire the same red orbs that Gungeon players instinctively want to avoid. In Revita, this fallback roll is replaced by a Dash, which makes the player invulnerable for a short time. Unlike the sprawling rooms of Enter the Gungeon, Revita crams the player and his enemies into a small space. The handling is hard to beat, and when it comes to hell, it’s even harder not to get caught up in it.
It’s clear that Revita was inspired by other successful villain titles. What he has not done, however, is integrate these inspirations in a meaningful way. Every part of Revita’s facial expression seems incomplete or unbalanced. And the more I played, the more I noticed that these different systems did not lead to an experience that would appeal to me in the same way as his muses.
Almost ready for market launch
Revita’s gameplay loop is a bit repetitive. It will not be the next Hades, nor the chains of Isaac, nor the entrance of Ganjon. Performing the clockwork game is a difficult and frustrating course. You fight the same enemies in the same rooms countless times, destroying any damage you take.
But not once did you think the game was over. In almost every way, it’s just as dense as any other roguelike mentioned. The graphics are beautiful and unique, which is hard to find in the world of pixel art style games, especially in early access. The soundtrack is full of catchy, memorable tunes that you’ll hear again the tenth or fifteenth time you play the same level. Artistically, Revita is a sound full of pieces that will delight the eyes and ears.
But this basic gameplay loop is not as appealing as other indie roguelikes. But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to return to the game. Like the other Roguelikes, it has a world with hubs where you can talk to NPCs and spend the money you collected while shopping. There is even a cat that you can pet.
While it does give you a narrative reason to return, Revita’s gameplay in its current state is just not satisfying. You die too quickly, the difficulty breeds frustration, and there are things you waste your heart on that can crush your run. RNG is very important in these games. But it can’t be an antagonist, it has to be something like a benevolent force.
For an early access title, Revita is surprisingly resilient. The game has a lot of luster, with its fun graphics and catchy soundtrack. In all the time I’ve been playing, I haven’t made a single mistake, which is a shock.
For a roguelike game to be successful, it must have a solid gameplay. Whatever the players do, from time to time they must persevere. Something that makes them want to keep coming back even when they die and respond with curses and control spikes.
The comparison between Revita and The Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon always rings true. He takes aspects of these songs and puts his own spin on them, creating something unique. But you can’t stack these fake pieces on top of each other and call it a complete game.
Don’t get me wrong, Revita is good. But he has so much potential to improve. This game is more than worth buying while it’s in early access, but that’s assuming it rebalances a good amount of game mechanics as it progresses and gives us more reasons to keep playing the loop.