Loops and Loots Meet in Cyberpunk Genre Mashup Loopmancer

Loopmancer Preview

Here’s a recipe: take one part Cyberpunk 2077, one part The Ascent, and maybe toss in a dash of Metroid Prime. Add a big cup of Groundhog Day and bake. If that sounds like a tasty dish, you might want to sample Loopmancer, heading for Early Access soon, with a new demo out on Steam.

Stop Me if You Heard This One

Although the description makes it sound derivative, Loopmancer has a pretty unique look, and its gameplay has hints of its own identity as well. Still, there’s no getting around that it’s built from several different genres. Loopmancer is set in a cyberpunk-themed future, in a fictional eastern metropolis called Dragon City. It’s a rogue-lite. It’s a side-scrolling platformer.

You play as Xiang Zixu, a “brilliant private eye.” Xiang dies while investigating the death of a journalist. Strangely, he wakes up in his apartment bedroom. His phone rings and his colleague at the agency tells him of a new case: investigate the death of a journalist. There’s no I Got You Babe blaring on the radio, but the vibe is the same. Start the day again, learn from it, and apply what you learn. You lose your loot, of course, but earn permanent coins and upgrades.

Unlike the daily duplicates of Groundhog Day, the world of Dragon City and its seven zones changes each run. You may meet new characters or enemies, and the levels change in subtle or more dramatic ways. This is a great way of keeping things fresh and balancing repetition with discovery. Your actions in one loop resonate with other days. Because this is a detective story, you eventually piece together a mystery that gets more personal and tragic.

If Bill Murray had Guns and Cybernetic Implants

As he side-scrolls through Dragon City, Xiang Zixu uses a variety of weapons and acrobatic moves. He can double jump, roll and use a grappling hook to bridge large spaces. Though it isn’t strictly a platformer, Loopmancer does feature vertical spaces to navigate through. Xiang earns coins on each run, which he can use to unlock upgrades to things like health, beefier armour and weapon accuracy.

At least in the short demo I played, moving through the levels had a nice flow. The slight changes to each run means that you can’t memorize the level and stops things from being too repetitive. While there was a challenging end boss, the rank and file, generic enemies didn’t have a ton of variety. Xian Zixu has a pretty deep arsenal of cyberpunk-themed melee and ranged weapons to play with. I’m anxious to see how the other areas and enemies unfold.

Color-Drenched Cyberworld

Overall, Loopmancer’s art direction and aesthetic are colourful and detailed. It’s as if The Ascent morphed into a 2D game. That’s high praise, as I thought the latter game was one of the most visually impressive titles of 2021. It’s always a little disappointing when an action RPG doesn’t allow for character customization and a bit more investment in the protagonist. But, Loopmancer has a specific story to tell, so I get the choice.

At this early stage, Loopmancer is still pretty rough around the edges. Visuals look just unoptimized and animations need some major attention to make them more fluid.

One of the roughest elements right now is audio. English subtitles are often only an approximation of the spoken English dialogue. That’s no big deal. Less easy to ignore are the stilted and not entirely natural translations and general blandness of the writing in general. Environmental audio and weapon effects are ok, but there are lots of little problems with processing, audio mixing and levels.

Grab the Demo and See For Yourself

I knew nothing about Loopmancer going into the preview, and I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. It checks a lot of genre boxes but integrates them pretty well. While it doesn’t exactly re-invent the roguelike, the frame story does a good job of giving repetition a reason to exist aside from just being a game convention. Loopmancer looks good — if a bit generic — and its mechanics are promising if not-quite-ready-for-primetime solid. There’s a free demo on Steam that’s worth checking out for fans of roguelikes, action games and 2D platformers.

***PC code provided by the publisher***