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Black Future ’88 Hands-On Impressions

Good Shepard dimmed the lights for a special event featuring Black Future ’88, a side-scrolling cyberpunk roguelike game with incredibly tight controls and a pulse-pounding synthwave soundtrack the likes of which has not been heard in games before in the October of 2019.

Having followed Black Future ’88 since PAX EAST and PAX WEST of 2018 I am happy to say that since the game’s release on November 21st, it has been performing really well. I had the opportunity to play a near-final version of the game before the release, and I can second that this game deserves the recognition and attention it has been getting.

When the nuclear bombs fell and society collapsed, humans stopped keeping track of time and the year. Life became no longer measured in months or years, but instead in the minutes you have left to live. The nuclear fire continues to rain down upon what is left of civilization and there is only one chance to stop it… the Architect must die. The Architect controls the nuclear onslaught from a looming tower above the city and must be stopped in order to save what is left of civilization; however, time is of the essence. If you do not do this all in 18 minutes, your heart will explode. Using cutting edge cybernetic weapons and augmentation, the desperate ascension to The Architect begins.

Black Future ’88 is action-packed and fills players with desperation as the game plays out in real-time, and as each minute that passes its another minute of life that inches closer to death. Ever moment literally feels like a choice between success and failure. Spending too long in a level may be one less minute spent to defeat The Architect, but it could also be another minute to gather a new weapon or a new attribute to fight the Architect. It is a desperate, challenging fight to the top, and often times I felt outnumbered but always capable. Fighting each enemy and surviving the obstacles in front of me was thrilling thanks to the tight controls and gameplay.

The gameplay to Black Future ’88 is euphoric and has some of the strictest controls I’ve seen in a side-scrolling platformer. Every bullet fired had an impact, the sensation of speed and maneuverability is sublime, and aiming at an enemy is punctual and responsive. Black Future ’88 is tremendous in it’s gameplay, and it is woven into an interstellar visual and audio presentation. Each time I played the game and heard the synthwave soundtrack felt like a rush of blood, adrenaline, and dopamine all at once. The weapons were a blast to use, from rail-cannons to a teleportation laser weapon. Even the basic guns and shotguns had an attitude, clearly designed to eviscerate enemy opponents. Using these weapons against the Wardens was fantastic as well, and during my demo, I was lucky enough to down two of them. Black Future ’88 hooked me in with its cybernetic talons and didn’t let go. I was perfectly fine with that because the developers were clearly passionate and enthusiastic about what the game sets out to do.

It’s difficult making anything cybernetic or cyberpunk in this day and age in the business, especially with the looming launch of the generation’s swan song, Cyberpunk 2077. Though it is a firm belief, especially from me, that it isn’t what you have, it’s what you do with it. For developer Super Scary Snake, a passionate and extremely well-made game has been created, and in the sea of other games that have adopted the cybernetic future, this game stands out triumphantly amongst the pack. Black Future ’88 brings a fierce tale of survival and strength to preserve the smallest fragments of humanity remaining. It is a relentlessly kinetic thrill-ride that doesn’t end but keeps going until you finish off The Architect. Black Future ’88 is a pulse-pounding synthwave-soaked action experience that I can’t wait to download and enjoy again.

Black Future ’88 launched on November 21st 2019 for Nintendo Switch and Steam. A special physical release will launch in early 2020.

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