I am a sucker for my Ouya. I backed it when it was on Kickstarter and love it every time I pick up a controller to play. There are so many great games on it and I never seem to run out of something new and interesting to try. So imagine my excitement when I learned that F5 Games, out of Tulsa, were releasing their rogue-like game House of the Lost on the Ouya.
I had played HotL a couple of times on my phone but never really could get into it because of the touch screen controls. They were a bit unwieldy for me. I could never make it through more than a couple of rooms. So when I learned about the Ouya version, I just had to try it out with a controller.
To give you an idea of what HotL is like, it is what is considered a rogue-like game. These are games that feature often brutal difficulty, randomized levels and perma-death. HotL features both perma-death and brutal difficulty and slightly randomized levels. Each level has a bunch of different predefined layouts but the game randomly picks which one you play.
I picked up HotL on Monday night and have played it every night since. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am getting much better at it. I have probably played every incarnation of level one there is, but have only been to level 2 a couple of times. I did manage to make it to level 2’s boss at one point, just to be fried with a laser beam almost immediately. So I have not experienced the full game yet but one of these days, I might just be able to.
The story of HotL is that the player and his little sister were walking by an old house and she went inside and was captured. As the brave older brother, you set out to fight your way through the house and find your sister.
The graphics of the game fit the theme quite well. Each character and monster is great to look at. Level 1 is filled with zombies with exposed brains and bones sticking out where an arm would normally be. There are green slime monsters that when looked upon at the right angle resemble misshapen skulls. And finally some really big eyeballs that shoot deadly lasers at you. The later levels have even more interesting looking monsters.
But when it comes to games like this, it is the boss monsters that really shine. The first level boss fight is against a pair of deadly walking brick-like monsters. If they spot you, they will charge and try to ram you against the wall. The second boss monster is a giant squid like creature that attacks you with a hand on the left and a tentacle on the right and a giant laser shooting eyeball in the center. I haven’t seen the others, but the map you see between levels gives you a hint to their terrifying presence.
But what good would it be to fight monsters without a lot of weapons to defend yourself with. The game features both random drops from monsters as well as hidden treasure chests in which you stock your inventory. You have a primary weapon and a secondary item in which to defeat your foes. You start out the game with a trusty slingshot. You can upgrade it to a variety of other weapons such as a baseball bat, a squirtgun, and a wooden sword. Each weapon has its own attack style, and thus strategy for using it.
You also find secondary items that boost your strength or provide alternate attack modes. For instance, you can find a skateboard that boosts your speed for a few seconds, a carton of milk that heals you, or fireworks that act as a damage dealing trap. Some items are single use, while others are multi-use. Every multi-use item and weapons comes with its own cooldown timer so be careful how you use it.
One great part of the game is the ability to combine weapons and items to create new weapons. When you find a workbench, you have the option to combine the two items you have. However, if the item is not compatible with the weapon, you lose the item. One weapon combo I found, that I really loved, was a combination of the wooden sword with a candle. This resulted in a flame sword. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to use it for too long as I died about two screens later.
The controls on the Ouya are a massive improvement to the mobile controls as far as I am concerned. These types of games are just not meant to be played using touch screen buttons. The game also does something unique with the controls that I have not seen in other games. Instead of a single attack button that attacks in the direction you face, the four O-U-Y-A buttons fire in the direction that is indicated by their position on the game pad. So you can continually fire up while freely moving in every direction. This helps as you need to carefully dodge monsters while trying to shoot them.
The game also has a lot of puzzles and secret rooms and passageways for you to explore. Some rooms and puzzles lead you to treasure while others are simple dead ends. Hawever, this exploration and puzzle solving adds a nice distraction from the usual monster killing.
The Ouya version also features local co-op gameplay. I have not had a chance to play this yet as I have been home alone for the last week, but as soon as I have a chance, I will give it a shot. It looks like it may be easier that single player as there are now two players to split the monsters attention between.
The only major downside that I see is the brutal difficulty. I am not the best at playing twitch games like this and have a tendency to not react soon enough to dodge an attack. But I have been getting better. Other flaws are simply bugs that don’t break the game but can, at times, shake you out of the fun. The most frustrating being the laser shooting eyeball guys. They seem to shoot at you when they are facing you directly, but sometimes, it seems like they quickly turn, shoot you, then turn back all in a split second. This makes it very difficult to dodge and i have died many times due to that.
Over all, I had a lot of fun playing the game. It has a lot of heart and character in it. And these developers are really working to bring you a great game. So I definitely recommend it for you Ouya owners out there. If you don’t have an Ouya, you can still play it on mobile devices too. So get House of the Lost Now: