The twin-stick roguelike shooter Beyond the Long Night is a whimsical take on the genre. Developed by Noisy Head Games and published by Yogscast Games, but is it more style over substance?
In Beyond the Long Night, you play as a marshmallow character lost in a limbo underground world with other charming NPC characters. You quickly realise that the world is stuck in a time loop that is destroyed once a night. The other characters seem contented in a painful fire death every night while they want to escape the Dark Mountain.
You are told to escape the mountain and reach the Overworld, but an ever-increasing number, difficulty and cavalcade of monsters are trying to stop you.
The story is simple but engaging enough to make you want to discover more. Each character you meet has reasons for being inside the mountain and what they are trying to achieve. Each time you meet them, more story is revealed and added to your Unfolding Stories page. These NPC characters provide you with upgrades and items you can purchase. It also means the more you play, the more help you receive. This is important as this is the only benefit that carries over between each run.
I like how the story relates to the gameplay and fits the theme, which is good, as many games don’t consider how gameplay and story can work together.
Beyond the Long Night is a twin-stick shooter, so playing with a controller is highly recommended. You can play with a mouse and keyboard, yet using a controller is less tiring. The controls aren’t complicated and responsive. You don’t feel you are fighting the game, and every mistake is most likely your fault.
The game is an action roguelike in the vain of Enter the Gungeon, and dodging projectiles and learning attack patterns are required to make it far in the game. If you aren’t a fan of bullet hell type games, like me, then this is one of the first noticeable downfalls of Beyond the Long Night. You need to think fast and make sure you are paying attention. An option in the menu lets you highlight all enemies and make them stand out with neon lights. I didn’t use this option as it makes the game look world, yet I recommend people to use it.
The first time you play Beyond the Long Night, you start in your hammock sleeping and get woken up and greeted by a short tutorial showing how to play the game and the basic concepts. You quickly meet different characters and learn how they can help you. With each subsequent run, you will wake up again in bed, and the process repeats.
The game is structured with procedural generation. Each room is premade, but the mountain is built into a random arrangement. Each run will feel different, and you will quickly see similar room layouts. Each time you enter a chamber, it will likely contain enemies. The entrances and exits will be blocked, and every enemy must be defeated to advance. Once all are dead, the ruby stones (in-game currency) they drop will suck into you, and you can further explore the room or move on.
Often rooms will contain treasure chests in different rarities, with gold being the best. These chests will have stones, heart balloons that heal you, or upgrades. Rooms will sometimes contain secrets that require using stone blocks, levers to open doors or finding the correct combinations of runes to access locked areas. You can also blow up walls with bombs to reveal secret passages or use torches to burn away thorns to access overgrown areas.
If you look at your map, you can see question marks. These are special rooms and can be one of many. It could be a statue room where you can pay stones for a blessing, meet the “Annoying Child” who sells upgrades and items, or a farmer who loses all their cows. These rooms are worth visiting as your journey is way harder to accomplish if you miss them. Later, you can find an explorer who you can pay to permanently show what these rooms contain. However, the costs are high and therefore feel like something you need to dedicate separate runs to accomplish.
The game plays pleasingly, and while there aren’t many superpowers that you can get, they can combine with other ones to make humorous and unique combinations. You can upgrade your bullets to do more damage, shoot faster, slow enemies, and more. You can get a companion, and they can be upgraded to do more damage and use other magical abilities. These upgrades are few and far between but feel more than the sum of their parts with how they combine.
When enough rooms are cleared or time passes, a corrupting storm starts. This begins in one of the lower rooms and slowly goes upwards. If you enter these rooms, you will take damage, and everything previously alive in that area will now be dead. This forces you to constantly move upwards up the mountain so you can’t grind the lower levels for gear.
This is a problem with the game. It is hard. It slowly gives you a false sense of confidence, but it ramps up significantly when you reach the temple floor, and that is as far as I have made it. I have nothing against hard bullet hell and roguelike games, but Beyond the Long Night and Hunt the Night has reminded me that I am not good at them and don’t particularly enjoy them.
While Hades was difficult, it gave you enough progression between runs to make you feel you are becoming stronger and making progress, which meant you knew beating the game was inevitable (a game I beat more than thirteen times). With a game like Beyond the Long Night, I feel like I could be playing it for months and still be as good as I ever will be. A skilled person could complete the game in less than 30 minutes with little upgrades. It feels that the developers have gone in the old-school direction compared to the Hades approach.
…while there aren’t many superpowers that you can get, they can combine with other ones to make humorous and unique combinations.
I like how Beyond the Long Night reminds me of Cave Story. The pixel graphics are sharp and endearing, and each level of the mountain has its own look, even though I haven’t seen all of it.
The enemies, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Some look amazing, and others seem like a completely different games. Each enemy gives responsive feedback to attacks and can be set on fire and affected with other elemental effects. Some can be hard to spot, and most of you won’t know how they attack until you see them a few times.
There are two main types of enemies: ones that shoot and ones that try to ram into you. I found that the ranged enemies were the most annoying and more of a problem later in the game.
Your character has balloons attached to them that represent their health. I like this concept as it serves two purposes: firstly, it shows your health, and secondly, it fits the theme of you being able to fly. The balloons come in different colours, but I wonder if the colours represent anything? They probably don’t, but it would be cool if they did.
I like how your upgrades are shown on your character. Bullet upgrades show when you shoot, and dodge and companion upgrades do. This makes you feel you are becoming more powerful and also help you remember what you have upgraded.
The sound design is ideal. The musical tracks are lovely and relaxing. They don’t become a distraction and play in the background with a dream-like quality.
Many of the NPC characters use sounds or play instruments. The main one you meet at the start plays the guitar, a merchant you summon with a tweeting bird plays instruments, and all characters talk with mumbling sounds.
I prefer characters make mumbling noises than have voice acting as most people can read faster than a voice actor will deliver a line, and this game is no different in providing good mumbles.
All sounds have a responsive feel and provide feedback that fits the story, gameplay and overall theme.
The game provided plenty of replay value as it is a roguelike. You will restart the game often and many times to make headway. Even if you completed a run successfully, you could play again and try a different approach with a different style.
People who enjoy constant repetition will get their money’s worth. It is a game you will be stuck in the grove area for hours, if not days, before you make it to the temple level and beyond. I still have not completed a successful run. I can’t say diffidently how long a playthrough would take. This isn’t uncommon for roguelikes and can make it hard to review them.
I feel the cost could be lower than what they are asking for. It feels a bit too high to attract the non-hardcore fans of the genre.
Beyond the Long Night is a game you could sink hours into and slowly get better at it. You will need to accept that the game will only offer little assistance in helping you to succeed. If you win, you have done it on your own and can boast to people about how good you are.
Overall the game does enough to stand out from the rest. I have put it with other similar games like Enter the Gungeon. Games that I want to play and get better at but feel that my skill is at a plateau, and the game offer little help in helping you get better or ultimately succeed. This doesn’t mean it is a bad game. It just won’t have a universal appeal like Hades.
Developer: Noisy Head Games.
Publisher: Yogscast Games.
Release: 17th April 2023.
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