OTXO is just fast-paced adrenaline-pumping roguelike-shooter goodness! (Review)

When it comes to top-down shooters, no game is more iconic than Hotline Miami. The fast-paced combat with the frequent checkpoints and the way you have to improvise on the spot to make do with whatever weapons enemies drop makes for a great gameplay loop and plenty of surprises for looking for a good time. That being said, there aren’t many games that tried to replicate the same sort of adrenaline-pumping experience in recent years… up until now, that is.

OTXO is a game I talked about previously when I played the demo – and at the time, I had an absolute blast with it. I believe that it does replicate the formula relatively well without coming across as a “clone”. It brings enough uniqueness to the table to stand out on its own, even with some of the flaws it has.

Developer: Lateralis Heavy Industries
Publisher: Super Rare Originals
Genre: Indie, Action Roguelite, Top-Down Shooter, Noir
Release Date: April 20th, 2023
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was provided by Super Rare Originals.

OTXO (pronounced “oh-cho”) is an action-roguelite in the style of a top-down shooter. The game’s plot is fairly cryptic and honestly, paper-thin, so I personally wouldn’t dig too deeply into it. After picking up a mask dropped on the tube, you don’t remember much else apart from suddenly waking up on the shore of an island. There you’re told that you can’t escape and that you need to find your loved one at the core of the mansion. In a way, it’s a simpler and less cryptic version of Golden Light‘s story.

This aforementioned mansion is home to a great many enemies – all of which are out to get ya. Thus, you need to kick, shoot and throw your way through the mansion, making use of weapons enemies drop on death, and tactically take out all enemies on the floor.

Floors are randomized with specific modifiers being applied every time, adding on to the challenge of each run. While you could perhaps plan out every move and take it slow, the game does incentivize speed and recklessness through a combo meter.

When you kill enemies, they drop coins that let you purchase upgrades at the bar. Killing enemies in unique ways or very quickly awards you with a higher combo meter and thus more coins. At the same time, your health refills between floors, so there is no need to worry about any losses you make.

The aforementioned upgrades range from simple stat increases, such as more damage or a higher fire rate for specific weapon types, to more detrimental upgrades like blood splatters healing you or extra magazines. The first drink/upgrade in the bar is free with every other drink costing coins. You can also refresh the bar to include a new selection of drinks… or you can scratch that completely and just invest your coins into unlocking new beverages for the bar’s selection.

Death is the only common denominator between runs with plenty of modifiers and upgrades to grab… I wanna say… but the room layouts and the looks of the map can feel same-ish at one point or another. There are eight different areas with a random combination of over 150 hand-crafted rooms and especially if you die early on, it can get a bit repetitive but I love how later areas steadily add new difficulties to deal with.

Enemies can’t open doors, for instance, and hence won’t notice you usually until you’re in a connected room… but in the second areas, there are glass fronts that enemies may shoot through to get to you and that’s incredibly cool. Still, I would have liked to see more variations in terms of layouts rather than room combinations. Having a foyer branch out into different corridors with rooms attached to them or having one long hall could add some spice to the procedural nature of the game.

The game goes for a black-and-white aesthetic with a pixel-art background. The only colour added into the game is the red from your enemies’ blood, slowly painting the corridors as you make your way through the mansion. It’s a stylistic choice that looks great initially but eventually, you notice how hard it can be to tell apart background and foreground objects… and how repetitive it gets eventually.

Games like 12 is better than 6 also have similar layouts for their areas but they don’t get repetitive as quickly. Similarly, to mention a roguelike here, Enter the Gungeon allows you to flip tables and use them as cover, albeit briefly.

OTXO doesn’t really need a cover mechanic but I still would love to see some variety in terms of environments. The cool looks and the amazing soundtrack can only carry the game so much before the novel years off. Having different factors like objects to flip over or strategically placed decorations could make levels more entertaining even after playing many runs.

There is no need for a cover mechanic since the game includes a “Focus” ability that lets you to cool stuff in slow-motion, like dodging bullets or killing enemies with style. It recharges somewhat slowly but improves your odds at survival considerably, especially against some of the bosses you encounter over time. More than anything, it gives you that John Woo Yu-Sen vibe that a game like this kind of just needs.

That being said, apart from more variety in the environments, I’d love to see more settings, particularly for accessibility. For starters, I love the gunplay but the sound effects for your guns just drown out so much every run, meaning I have to turn down the SFX… which then makes other stuff hard to hear. I’d love to see an option separate from the normal SFX to just reduce the gun sounds.

Another thing that I’d love to see would be a high-contrast option for background and foreground objects. Black and White is already quite “high-contrast”, obviously, but it does blend together sometimes, especially when you move around a lot and hence, having the option to turn on an outline for impassable objects or something along those lines would be incredibly appreciated.

Also, I can’t seem to change the screen mode to different options nor can I change the resolution. That’d be nice to have.

All in all, OTXO is a fast-paced and fun game to play when you’re craving sweet gunplay and mindless violence. I love the aesthetic and how the guns feel but in terms of roguelike-ness, the upgrades often don’t tie in together all that well in terms of synergies and one coherent “build” of sorts. I think part of that is because of its “mysterious but still set in reality” nature – without that limitation, the game could have so many more possibilities open up to it.

Overall, I’d recommend OTXO to anyone that looks for that Hotline Miami itch and who likes a good challenge… but beware that it can get somewhat repetitive in terms of environments relatively quickly. Personally, I think it’s a great game for quick gameplay sessions here and there – which is pretty great in my book.

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well. If you find this post on a website other than Indiecator.org, please write an e-mail to me. Thank you!

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