Black Future ’88 is set in a world where a gigantic tower has been built and is blocking out the sun with a nuclear rain. Worse still, the results of this mean that life is short, so short in fact that you only have 18 minutes to live before your heart explodes and kills you. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that this horrific state of affairs has been brought on by someone called Duncan. We get it; you don’t like your name, no need to destroy the whole world though, is there?
I think, personally, that the whole apocalypse thing is a bit worn out at this point. We’ve all been subjected to so many of them that they’ve somewhat lost their impact. This is especially true given the looming, and very real, dangers of climate change, modern politics and Twitter. Nevertheless, Black Future ’88’s apocalypse is a bit different to the normal brown wasteland.
Your main aim is to ascend the tower and take out Duncan before your time runs out, or before you get mercilessly gunned/cut/flamethrowered down. Your basic movements are simple enough, and you get both a double jump and a cool dash ability to start with. You shoot stuff, of course, and you can do this using a button or opt to use the right stick instead, which gives you more precise control. It takes a bit of time to adjust to the controls on the whole, but it works really well once you’ve gotten used to it.
As you fight your way through the hordes of robotic and cybernetic enemies, you’ll be able to pick up the ammo, health, and money that they drop. Sorry, I meant to say you’ll need to pick those up. If you don’t, then Skymelt (the tower) will absorb those items and level up. Each time it levels up, it chooses a new bonus, whether that be extra damage from its minions, special high-level hunters, or something even more devastating. It’s a cool system that encourages you to move quickly to avoid dying, but also to be thorough to avoid dying.
Well, try and avoid dying, at least. You’re going to die a lot. Black Future ’88 is not an easy game, nor does it want to be. You’ll be lucky to make it past the first boss, let alone to the top of the tower. It’s fast-paced, health is hard to come by, and the whole thing will have you bashing your head against the tower as long as you’re playing it. That’s a good thing for some, of course, but if you don’t like hard games, there is still some good news; there is actually an accessibility option that lets you slow down time and take less damage. This is an excellent addition to the usual nonsense found in hard games, and it’s nice to see a game that wants you to play it. It’s almost like every game could do it instead of just mocking you until you “git gud”.
Thankfully, despite the crushing difficulty, it’s not half as frustrating as you might think. This is due to how easy it is to jump back in for another run. You can chain runs together with ease and simply drop straight back in again; it makes a big difference in a game that is designed to beat you. On top of that, both the visual and audio design is excellent. That being said, it does feel a bit clinical in places and is unlikely to get its claws into you in a way that Dead Cells or Binding of Isaac may have done.