Utopia 9 - A Volatile Vacation - Review

"Impressive quality for a two man team"

Developer - Whalegun

Publisher - QubicGames S.A.

Platform - Nintendo Switch

Release Date - January 19, 2019

Utopia 9 - A Volatile Vacation is a retro scifi themed top-down twin-stick shooter rouge-like where you play a tourist trying to survive after crash landing on a getaway gone wrong. Developed by Whalegun, a two man team based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Utopia 9 is a well built, challenging, and complex effort.

For those unfamiliar with the Rouge-like genre players are typically fed a single life protagonist and are tasked with getting as far in the game as possible until untimely suffering a permanent death. Death in rouge-likes is met with reward usually granting some sort or currency, power up, experience, or combination thereof that the player can bring forward into the next character's life. As players become more skilled at the game and their power ups/currency/experience grow, they are able to better survive and get further on each life.

Utopia 9 follows this formula and although I think it is a high quality game, it's core rouge-like game play loop failed to hook me enough to continue after my first eleven or so lives.

The eerie retro science-fiction aesthetic and soundtrack are great. You have a complex amount of mutations to choose for each character. The shooting mechanic is fine but I would prefer the firing rate to start out a bit higher. You can upgrade it as you go. Switching weapons between load-outs and individual hands on the fly is a bit counter-intuitive at first. If you play long enough you'll get used to it, and I did prefer Utopia 9's method rather than having to bring up an in-game menu to manage items.

This is certainly not a bad game, but as far as rouge-likes go, starting over shouldn't feel like a chore. I didn't feel like I was gaining enough per life to get me much further on my next run and it started to feel like an unnecessary grind. If the first few moments of each life could be balanced a bit better to get you back up to speed faster, I think I would have stuck around longer.

Utopia 9 is still worth your time especially if you are more of fan of the rouge-like genre than I am and it certainly is impressive quality from a two man team.

Check out one of my early runs below:

- Matt

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