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Hands-on with the Loopmancer demo


What caught my eye when I first laid eyes on the Loopmancer trailer was it’s Metroidvania-ish gameplay in a cyberpunk world, I couldn’t detach were the feelings I had when I laid eyes on Chair’s Shadow Complex. Specifically how rare it is to see these types of titles in a less fantastical setting. What I stayed for was the amount of world building the title throws at you (you will literally find 10+ collectibles fleshing out the lore of a mid-boss…and did I read it all? you bet!). While developer eBrain Studio’s portfolio isn’t exactly the most expansive, it seems like they’re swinging for the fences with Loopmancer.

Humanity has recovered from a global conflict and from the ashes, Dragon City rose. You control Xiang Zixu, a detective of the ChangXu detective agency who only recently returned to work after an auto accident left him with a prosthetic arm, his wife a parapelegic and his daughter dead. Tasked to uncover the mystery behind a series of reporter disappearances, he is sent to the slums of LongXi town to interrogate the leader of the LongXi gang…someone whom you do not have the best relationship with. As you corner him in your initial encounter, a gunshot rings out and you awake in your bed on the day July 8th 2046. It seems when you die…you mysteriously return that fixed date to repeat your investigation, that’s what puts the loop in Loopmancer.

Zixu is seemingly a master of all arms, as he will wield something as potent as a katana to something as silly as a folding stool (or a giant salted fish). For those who prefer fighting from a distance, he does pack a sidearm and projectiles but ammo is somewhat scarce. The prosthetic arm that he is equipped with also enables him to equip various battle chips that will enable him to discharge electric blasts, flames albeit with a lengthy cooldown period. Despite being a walking armory, the forces zixu will face will put up more than adequate pushback to the point where clumsy players will find themselves waking up in the beds defeated by a lowly grunt.

LongXi town is a ramshackled area of Dragon City and a blink and you’ll miss it voice line will justify its ever changing layout. Some areas will provide a series of optional challenges which will net money, upgrade cores and even collectibles which will add flavor to the world the game exists in. These challenges are a great way to keep repeated playthroughs from becoming a slog. Digging through the game’s menus you’ll find that to get to the bottom of this case, Zixu will run afoul of at least 3 additional factions and that there will be at least 7 outcomes.

I managed to complete the demo after an unimpressive 17 loops and still found myself repeatedly playing the game after the fact, specifically to unlock and upgrade weapons, retrieve collectibles and combing through all the lore found in this short demo. It’s an amazing feat given the fact the demo did not run well on my ever computer forcing me to kick it down to medium where the visual fidelity looked like I was viewing it through a foggy window, the game’s really poor load times (a particular grand nuisance especially if you are prone to dying, you’ll be seeing the loading screen, a lot.). Then there are little foibles such cutscenes requiring a “hold button to skip” especially some cutscenes will be repeated…a lot, the currency you collect will fly to your being, since given the already noisy environment adds more visual pollution.

Perhaps this is an issue for the demo, the inability to return to your apartment unless you die, thus leaving me with a multitude of upgrade cores I cannot use unless I die and therefore giving up any buffs you collected during your run. Also there are moments where the game’s veil of seriousness will drop completely due to the game’s non-western origin shows itself, such as when you meet weaponsmith Dave Ray, a image on his computer shows he is working on a pistol called “Brother Kisser”, the excessive cursing for the grunt dialogue where even the phrase “Cool Ass Brutality” can be heard unironically in the throes of combat.

Loopmancer currently does not have a locked-in release date, but Steam has marked it for a 2022 release. None of my issues with the title are things that can’t be resolved before release. Given that I’m up to loop 27 and I’m still running through the streets of LongXi town looking to squeeze out any secrets or unlockables the area has to offer is a sign that I will sink a lot of time into the title when there are even more areas to explore. Let’s hope the ChangXu Detective Agency offers over time cause I’m going to be putting in a lot on the clock.