It wasn’t until last year that I really got into roguelike games. It all started with Vampire Survivors, which hooked me for almost 100 hours. With its simplistic yet satisfying gameplay, it became one of the biggest hits among roguelike lovers, including myself. In my quest to find another roguelike gem, I stumbled upon the trailer for Ak-xolotl. At first glance, it featured fast-paced shooting with axolotl creatures (what were they thinking?), but the trailer made me giggle. I was genuinely intrigued by it. But can it live up to the fun I had with Vampire Survivors?
Nobody steals our Axolotls (and food) and lives !
Ak-xolotl tells the story of a group of axolotls living peacefully in their small habitat until one day when someone steals all of their babies. They soon realize that not only were their babies stolen, but also their entire food stash. Our cute little axolotl dusts off his AK-47 to take down anyone in his way to retrieve his stash. Logical? Not really, but who cares; we don’t need logic.
Ak-xolotl is a typical twin-stick roguelike game. You start with absolutely nothing and need to try to get as far as you can. Initially, you’ll have a hard time even reaching the first boss because the arenas are filled with traps and enemies that increase in strength and number. After completing an arena, up to three doors unlock, leading to the next level. Each door is marked with a symbol indicating what you can expect in the next arena, such as gems, guns, baby axolotls, mysteries, and more. This adds a strategic aspect to the game, as your choices can greatly impact your run.
Once you’ve completed all six levels in a world, you’ll face a boss battle. These battles are fun and require quick movement and anticipation of the boss’s attack patterns. If you defeat the boss, you advance to the next world. There are a total of five worlds to master, each with its own traps, enemies, and a final boss. When you finish a world or die trying, you’re sent to a hub world. Here, you can spend gems to unlock more weapons and power-ups for your next run.
There are numerous weapons and power-ups to unlock, each benefiting your run in different ways. I had a great time experimenting with them, trying various strategies to see what style suited me best, from high-damage setups with less accuracy to tank-like builds. However, I often found myself returning to the same setup. One thing is for sure, the gunplay is spot on. The twin-stick gameplay is fast, and aiming with your right thumbstick always feels precise. The dodging mechanic really shines
Good looking Axolotl
Ak-Xolotl is a retro, pixelated roguelike. It isn’t the best-looking pixel art game out there, but it also isn’t the ugliest. When compared to games like Sea of Stars and Blasphemous 2, which in my opinion represent the pinnacle of pixel art games, it clearly falls short. However, in comparison to Vampire Survivors, it’s a definite improvement.
The game’s levels are small and randomly generated, so each run feels different initially. Yet, the more you play, the more repetitive the levels become. This repetition stems from the lack of environmental objects and traps. A bush here and there, a tiny pond, a spiky trap, an exploding barrel, or a mountain to block your path is all you encounter. I would have appreciated more variety in traps to compensate for this lack.
The soundtrack is quite good. Heavy metal accompanies the arenas, alternating with calm music in the shops and hub world. Speaking of the hub world, my biggest frustration with the game emerges here.
Axolotl nursing school
The hub world is where you go to cook food, obtain better guns and power-ups, as I mentioned before. But it’s also a place to upgrade your basic stats and nurture baby axolotls to maturity. Wait, what did you just say? Yes, you read it right. There’s an entire game mechanic centered around raising the baby axolotls you’ve acquired so you can use them in your future runs. You need to pet, feed, change diapers, clean, and cuddle your baby axolotls so they accumulate enough love to grow in size. Really? Who on earth thought this was a good addition to a fast-paced game like this, completely undermining the core mechanics? I really disliked this part.
Another thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the upgrade stone. To use it, you need to harvest love from your baby axolotls (sigh). What’s worse is that you have to bring each baby axolotl to the offering stone one by one. It’s a very time-consuming and mind-numbing task because of the distance between them.
As mentioned earlier, you can also cook food in the hub world. During your runs, you can collect various food ingredients. These can be used to prepare different kinds of meals that you can give to your mature axolotls to enhance their core mechanics. Alternatively, you can cook meals to assist you during your runs, such as providing an extra healing item.
In the 15 hours I’ve played AK-xolotl, I’ve had a lot of fun with the core gameplay. Each run brings you a bit closer to the end, and the pace at which you unlock guns is just right. The twin-stick gameplay and its shooting mechanics are spot on. So, it’s a shame the game comes with an annoying pet-nursing mechanic that really slows the game down.
+ Fast paced gameplay
+ cute graphics
+ great variety of guns
- Nursing game mechanic
- not much variety in arena design