You only have 18 minutes to complete 'Black Future '88'

Don't worry, you'll likely be dead by then.

While a number of games have incorporated a countdown timer to increase the pressure upon players (looking at you, Dead Rising), few have taken it to extremes quite like Black Future '88, a wild new synthpunk platform shooter from indie studio Superscarysnakes.

In it, one or two players must fight their way through six zones to the top of a cursed tower in order to kill its insane owner in an alternate reality's 1988. The problem is, you've only got 18 minutes in which to do so before your character's heart explodes. And, once that happens, you've got to start over again all the way back at the ground floor. But, given how much fun I had playing this game at the Indie Megabooth during GDC 2018, that's not necessarily be a bad thing.

The game's visuals are nothing short of spectacular. Heavily influenced by 1980s design aesthetics, BF88 leverages neon lights and copious amounts of theatrical fog to highlight the game's dystopian setting. Subtle effects like the background darkening when you unload on enemies with extremely power weapons helps highlight the robot-blasting action. The game's original analog-synth soundtrack performed by Tremor Low rounds out the retro-cyberpunk feel. It's what a Running Man video game probably would have looked like had one ever been released for the NES.

But for as pretty as the scenery is, BF88 is ruthlessly unforgiving, even by roguelike game standards. Your character, one of five available, does not get any stronger or more capable as you play through the game -- though the enemies and bosses certainly do. Heck, the tower itself actively works against you. Each level is procedurally generated, prohibiting players from memorizing the least dangerous route, and any money that you leave on the ground from downed enemies is re-absorbed by the tower to improve its traps and deploy stronger enemies.

Even the items scattered about to help you also inflict a degree of harm. Buffs and rightfully known in-game as curses. For example, one curse that improves the rate of weapon and item drops will also increase the strength and number of enemies you must face. Instead, you must obtain increasingly powerful weapons in order to survive the tower's onslaught. The demo that I played offered around 50 different weapons, each with its own unique strengths and applications, though the developer expects to have 100 available to use by the time the game ships. Though the game is ludicrously difficult -- I died no fewer than a dozen times in the 20 minutes I played -- it is incredibly entertaining. Were this an arcade game, it would be getting all of my quarters.

Black Future '88 will be coming to PC later this year, hopefully before being ported to consoles.

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