It’s a kind of innocence to some humor, an innocence it needs to function. You realize this when you think of Guacamelee, Drinkbox’s breakout PS Vita hit – a game with these weird things called “memes” in it, a game called wordplay. I feel like we probably would not enjoy a game of memes in 2021 – they are known now and kind of strangely important, and then you lose your innocence. But Drinkbox has kept the innocence elsewhere with No one saves the world. It’s another silly, but also seemingly very good game that is built on humor first and clever evolution of the genre just behind, and another game called puns.
You play as someone called Nobody in Nobody Saves the World, who releases the breaking metroidvania costume of Guacamelee (without any known chicken-sized tunnels) for the fantastic cloak of a dungeon-crawling action RPG. It’s not the genre I expected, after beating me through Guacamelee, but it’s a result of the studio wanting to stay “engaged and creative,” as lead designer Ian Campbell put it, and the result is a game that feels the same: energetic and zippy and full of snap.
There are small twists and turns on the genre. The first is that No Save the World is built around swapping “forms” on the go. No one is an empty and comically useless canvas of a character nibbling a special wand, whose waving allows you to transform into one of what Campbell says are 17 or 18 forms available at the moment (“we try to do more, but that’s what we do”). have right now “), each a bit ridiculous and targeted” non-standard “. I took on my first dungeon like a rat, for example with some poison-y, gnawing attacks, and then unlocked a fairly user-friendly ranger, followed by a strange, much smaller run of the mill magician summoning rabbit families and jabs people with a fan of cards. It’s a horse and so on (I do not sell this as ridiculous, I am aware of that! But sometimes humor is simply levity, and Drinkbox has a magical light touch).
The ARPG side of things is traditional, at first glance, and asks you to get all over the world by crashing through the separate dungeons, but Drinkbox’s spin is that you complete small goals or missions, as opposed to grinding. In practice, this does not feel very different – you gnaw your way through X number of enemies, clear a large dungeon or summon Y magical rabbits, and it gives you some points as you unlock more characters, more skills and so on (including the “stars” like required to move on to new parts of the upper world), but the actual process remains the same: do more play, get more things.
But playing is fun! And the process is part of it, and flows into the wonderful, merish, virtuous RPG cycle. Each character has their own set of skills and passives that complement each other (a rat-nibble poisons too, another ability detonates all poisoned), but later you get the opportunity to mix and match. This is combined with enemies starting to get shields or “departments”, which require specific types of damage – dark, explosive, etc. – before they are vulnerable to damage of any other kind, and now you have to think. Prison holes warn you about what kind of departments are in front of you, and then you can decide to attach the rats’ nipples to your range, or connect the possibility to summon rabbits with what you do with the horse.
Beyond the nonsense, this is obviously about systems: the right synergy and min-maxing and all the joyfully life-consuming things that come with a proper ARPG. Sticking to the magician, for example, is an ability that allows you to sacrifice one of your families for an attack, and an ability that causes them to explode in poor health or death, and one that heals them when they deal damage. so you can summon and then blast a rabbit to deal with injury, get an injury lift, giving the rest a healing lift, and so on. All this flows back into the cycle of unlocking and completing quests and progressions, back to summoning animals and blasting them.
There are some peculiarities that get used to – the game’s biggest challenge was the control form, I found out, where you attack the way you face, but control the way you face with movement, which means you have to keep one of the triggers to punish as opposed to to fair, punitive – but this can only be me, and Drinkbox’s flair remains. It is pacy and fluid, smooth but light. It’s great, and a great example of what this studio is all about. A team with a lovable goof, at ground level, which soon gives way to a much deeper battle and systems, and a quiet mastery of the genre.