Arcadegeddon Review - A Dubstep In The Wrong Direction

  • First Released Jul 8, 2021
  • XBSX
Mark Delaney on Google+

This forgettable genre-blender chases several trends but adds nothing of note to any of them.

Arcadegeddon is a fusion of several different genres. Rather than play quite like any other game you may be familiar with, it's more like an amalgamation of some of the trendiest mechanics, meta-games, and genres currently dominating the video game world. It's part co-op loot-shooter, part roguelite, and part fashion show treadmill, borrowing from games such as Destiny, Fortnite, and even Hades in different but individually self-evident ways.

Like a Netflix algorithm that spits out actor and genre pairings based on market research, Arcadegeddon is a bland mish-mash of several games you'd enjoy better separately. It's not that they don't work as a whole; it's that Arcadegeddon feels so focus-tested on what worked before it that it forgets to add its own unique hook.

Immediately, the game's grating sci-fi world gives off strong Steve-Buscemi-with-a-skateboard vibes. Characters named Plug, Label, Juicy, and others exist in a world nearly vibrating from the perpetual dubstep soundtrack leaking out of speakers, and though the color palette is appealing, nothing these characters have to say is.

Most of them occupy a few trope-filled archetypes, like a pompous zen master or an anarchic punk, and the game spends a remarkably long time in dialogue with these characters who are essentially cardboard cutouts that dole out quests in the form of challenges and never move from their respective hangouts around the game's central arcade hub. It feels as though somewhere it was decided that this world had to justify itself, but given that the extent of the story is shorter than this paragraph, I'm not sure why that is. When characters do speak, they tend to say stuff like the word 'hashtag' out loud, unfortunately.

Flexy and Lexy are quest-givers who, like the others, talk too much.
Flexy and Lexy are quest-givers who, like the others, talk too much.

The game's setting is often changing due to its story conceit. You're out to save an indie arcade in an alien world where the soulless mega-corp FunFunCo. is threatening to run all mom-and-pop shops out of the business. You do this by moving through and fighting inside arcade games a la Wreck-It Ralph. This allows for you to be placed in a breezy coastal paradise in one level, a lava-filled hellscape the next, and a cyberpunkish tech dystopia after that. The level variety is decent, and the game's vibrant colors look lovely no matter the setting, but each somewhat procedurally generated setting soon reveals its modular parts, and it doesn't take long before levels start to feel too familiar within any particular setting.

The third-person gunplay is the game's strongest suit. Aided by a sometimes-too-sticky aim assist, this is less a game about nailing tough shots and more about looking fast and cool while you and up to three co-op partners take down enemies by the dozens to hundreds in every level. Each hub level will throw a randomized objective at you--lock down this area, destroy these targets, et al. It's always something you've seen before, but the variety and creativity of weapons paired with the just-keep-swimming level design harkens back to Sunset Overdrive in a way that promises some mindless fun for a little while, anyway.

Some guns are meant to stand in for your typical video game weapons, such as a basic assault rifle or SMG. But others will freeze enemies in place, allowing you to powerslide into and shatter them, or will fill them with air and pop them like a water balloon left on the faucet. Abundant red barrels, health and ammo pick-ups, and loot chests are scattered all over, so there's good reason to spend a moment seeking out more enemies and better loot, especially if a boss battle is available.

These optional bosses transport you outside of your level and into their arenas, so you can avoid them if you feel underpowered on a particular run, or jump into the fray for the game's best loot. Each of the game's four bosses is different from one another, but again, none will feel like anything fresh to anyone who's been playing games for a few years.

Between every two levels, you'll restock at randomized weapon shops, raise the difficulty further than it does automatically (if you so choose), and regroup to fight another day. These roguelite runs are, like most things, better in co-op, but no matter the team size, Arcadegeddon fails to justify the time it asks of you.

Levels feature wonderful colors, but their layouts quickly start to reappear and cry out for a change of scenery that isn't coming.
Levels feature wonderful colors, but their layouts quickly start to reappear and cry out for a change of scenery that isn't coming.

A run ends when you die and you have no Continues left over--the first one's free, but after that, you pay with a temporary earned currency or else head back to base. You don't take anything with you when you die except for XP and some skill points, so even if you come across the best version of your favorite weapon, you won't really get to load out with it until much later when a higher level permits you to start with different weapons. New cooldown abilities can be added to your repertoire too, and they help turn your basic character into a particular build such as glass cannon, healer, and the other usual playstyles I need not name.

All of that would be fine if the cosmetic rewards--the centerpiece of the game's loot system--were worth it. Granted, live-service games often launch with lackluster cosmetics, so perhaps Arcadegeddon will have more fashionable options later, but out of the gate, everything in the unlockable section or even the real-money store just seems fine. You can unlock new colorways and stickers to further customize your shirts, jackets, shorts, shoes, helmets, masks, and more, but it all blurs together.

By that I mean, I'd have been content to wear most anything in the shop, but none of it felt like the carrot on the stick that really enticed me to unlock it. Rather than tease out exciting cosmetics, Arcadegeddon's closet feels full of similar neon futuristic options that all just look okay. Even the real-money cosmetics barely stood out from the free unlockables, save for a few animated textures.

For a few in-game hours, Arcadegeddon may seem like a loud and gaudy co-op shooter worth a slot in your weekend rotation, but the combination of been-there-done-that objectives, a shallow loot pool, and a grating cast of characters soon unravels what could've been the next standout co-op game from a team otherwise doing well in that space. But this end result merely looks like better games in certain lights. It has aspirations to be many things at once, but Arcadegeddon struggles to formulate its own identity and suffers death by a thousand market research data points.

Mark Delaney on Google+
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The Good

  • Creative weapons can be combined for many different playstyles
  • Fast-paced running and gunning in co-op provides some fun for a short while

The Bad

  • Shallow cosmetic loot pool leaves the fashion element lacking
  • Combines several trending genres and mechanics into a soulless cocktail
  • Despite several diverse settings, semi-randomized levels quickly become rote

About the Author

Mark spent 15 hours sprinting, shooting, jumping, and powersliding down colorful levels in solo and multiplayer modes before accepting that nothing new or interesting was around the next corner. A review code was provided by the publisher.