Over the Top Games’ new roguelike-lite, Full Mojo Rampage, is quite the voodoo soup, one that has been slowly bubbling away in Steam’s dangerous “Early Access” section since late 2013. The game, having finally reached its boiling point in May 2014, is now out, and we are about to find out just how tasty this crazy concoction is.
In the game, players are cute, big-headed voodoo apprentices, performing tasks for their chosen voodoo gods, Loas, by fighting against hordes of things that go bump in the night. The game is what you’d call a ‘twin-stick’ shooter on the consoles. Here on The Slowdown, of course, we don’t have to use dirty words like that, as the game plays perfectly well on a mouse and a keyboard, too.
From the get-go, it’s clear that the game’s gotta lotta mojo to it. As soon as the outrageous, monochrome cartoon intro starts playing, and the background music strikes the ear as both catchy and personable, players are no doubt being served with a helping that is both charming and funny. In-game, then, Full Mojo Rampage is simple and approachable on the one hand, and challenging and varied on the other.
As is customary for the chosen genre, Full Mojo Rampage has instant permadeath, with each playthrough slightly different, as campaigns and levels are randomly generated based on a formula – quite expertly, too, if I may add. The layouts and structures of the campaigns vary in order, type, and length, with harder difficulty levels further ramping up the length and size of the campaigns.
The game’s surprisingly mature campaign generator strings together different types of level (swamp, dungeon, cemetery, etc.) in a relatively pre-arranged order. The levels themselves have vastly different looks and feels, with some level types appearing exclusively in later campaigns.
The basic set-up is based on completing objectives, starting from destroying totems, and going all the way to slaying rampant ghost chickens, or protecting friendly zombies from hostile skeletons(!!). There are bottles of rum to be picked up, and skeleton skulls to steal. The objectives themselves – as wildly variable as they sound – are mostly fetch quests: First, you find your target, and then either pick it up, activate it, or destroy it.
Each level has a randomized set of potential helpful locations, too, like Loa shrines, shops, treasure rooms, and what I consider by far the most original feature to Full Mojo Rampage – Mojo Mixers. More on these later.
These days, many PC games have great difficulty in finding a natural balance for their controls; either there is too much finesse, with far too many actions, keys and buttons for any one person to learn; or there is too little of it, making gameplay a maddeningly simple exercise of mashing the same button over and over.
Full Mojo Rampage, here, strikes a fine balance. Overall, its action is comprised of just three aspects: shooting enemies, avoiding damage, and utilizing two class-based voodoo spells (activated with space and right mouse button). The spells, having a delayed activation, require players to carefully choose the right spot for each usage. The harder the game gets, the more important it becomes to utilize the skills of your class carefully and effectively. This makes Full Mojo Rampage’s gameplay at once very simple to learn, yet complex to master.
The soup is further spiced up with collectible and upgradeable voodoo pins, consumables (health potions, multi-usable attacks or defenses, etc.) and equippable “mojos” that improve your character’s base stats for the duration of the campaign. Further buffs can also be acquired.
Here again Full Mojo Rampage’s simple, yet surprising versatility delights: The maddening scarcity of inventory space, coupled with an abundance of pick-ups, makes inventory management a very important aspect of the game. While more slots can be permanently opened up by unlocking voodoo pins, and also acquired on a campaign-basis by finding secrets in the levels, what really adds an all-new dimension to the game are its Mojo Mixers.
In a Mojo Mixer, players can freely combine the effects of two different mojos, turning two of them into one – and as such, saving dearly needed inventory space! Mojos can only be mixed together once, and not all mojos can be combined, either. This forces players to carefully think about which mojos they want to hold on to, which they want to mix, and which should be discarded or sold off. This whole mix, then, makes for a great inventory-based minigame unto itself!
Unlike most other titles in the genre, the game has permanent leveling, too, so players gain experience and can choose to level up stats as they play. The game also has two collectable currencies; money, and medals. Both are used to unlock more features for your character, like amusing new masks, and new playable classes. Like in The Binding of Isaac – the genre’s hallmark title – players also have a huge library of items to collect.
In addition to everything else, Full Mojo Rampage also has a neat, cute fiction all its own, with its bickering voodoo gods, strange mojos, and curious events and locations. The various random events illustrate this side of the game especially well.
Co-op Voodoo Mayhem
A big portion of the game is simply learning the ropes. The game can seem dauntingly difficult at first, with very few players having completed the game’s four campaigns so far. Like in any roguelike, however, perseverance pays off, and you’ll start breezing through in no time if you pay enough attention to your stats and surroundings.
A rather surprising point of comparison, both in terms of the game’s playful look and feel, and its gameplay mechanics, can actually be found in the co-op MMO Spiral Knights. If you enjoyed that game, you’ll be instantly at home with Full Mojo Rampage. Here too, like in Spiral Knights, Over the Top Games are keen to emphasise the role of co-op.
Rightly so; after all, co-op is never not relevant. The Slowdown tested the game with teams of two, three, and four players, and found the balance (rewards, enemy scaling, and difficulty overall) to be pretty much on the money. Slight differences nevertheless arise, as the game is definitely at its easiest with just two players, with difficulty increasing slightly with each additional player – a simple fact of the multiplayer team always getting a total of 3 extra lives (compared to zero in single-player mode). As long as there are extra lives, and one player remains on their feet, the game continues, but should all apprentices be downed simultaneously, it’s game over man.
The more players, then, the more precious these three lives become; the more players, the more chaos, and all the more crazy accidents: Even though the game has no friendly fire, I could swear I’ve been killed by my teammates, too! Overall, we found that campaign difficulty only begins to truly ramp up during the third campaign (out of four), where players do need to start to learn the ropes and co-ordinate well together. Class synergies aren’t a huge thing at this point in the game’s development, but it does help to be playing different roles. The campaigns are surprisingly varied, each with its specific layout and story.
Certainly, there could be more campaign content to the game, but the only real issue with the game in its current form is balancing. Simply put, some classes in the game are better than others – Maman Brigitte and Lenglensou currently dominate a whopping 70% of the statistics – and the harder difficulties in the game are in fact pretty much impossibly hard at this juncture – as acknowledged by the devs. One could also complain about the balance of the mojos; some are superlative, and some utterly useless. The duration and potency of most wands also leaves something to be desired.
Just four levels of main campaign can sound a little short. That’s not to say there’s not enough to play, however: In addition to the very challenging main story, the game also sports random daily quests and a survival mode, both with leaderboards. There are also multiple PvP modes to boot – deathmatch, team deathmatch, King Mojo, and Capture the Flag. Refreshingly, for a game that just seeped out of Early Access, Full Mojo Rampage is surprisingly mature, with many game modes and enough content to engage with.
At this juncture, players should be looking at a minimum of 15-20 hours of solid entertainment, and the Over the Top Team have plans for “new quests and modes”1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some DLC along the way, either – masks, baby, masks!
Sweet Voodoo Tricks
It’s perfectly clear that a lot of love went into the game’s design, both artistically and mechanically. Full Mojo Rampage remains surprisingly polished, with configurable graphics (that make the game very playable even on lower-end systems like laptops), windowed mode, camera tilting, and gamepad support.
Above all, however, the game is simply delectable, with lots of off-kilter humour in the dialogues, hilarious masks and enemies, and easter eggs and homages (of which there are plenty). The developers’ passion for the project is simply omnipresent, and bleeds right into every nook and cranny found in the game, including its very play. Having friends to play with will only make this game a better time still.
The game may not be quite as bizarre as The Binding of Isaac, and not quite as accessible as Rogue Legacy, or quite as tough as Sword of the Stars: The Pit, but it’s every bit as much fun as any roguelike-lite. Oh, and remember kids – stay away from Baron Samedi!
Access to the game was provided for the purpose of this review.