I’ve been a massive fan of twin-stick shooters and the Max Payne series for years. The former is a genre that’s had a wide variety of iterations and innovations over the years, while the latter has one of my favourite franchise entries ever. OTXO is here to mesh a dark, gritty, action-packed world with a top-down twin-stick romp that works in some ways but falters in a few others.
A quick look at the game and the gameplay I recorded below, and you’ll notice immediately that it is purely black-and-white chaos painted red with the blood of your enemies. And while this is a cool and hyper-pixelated style, the depth isn’t quite there and the repetitiveness of the gameplay had me yearning for more roguelike action in other titles.
Haunted Mansion (of guns)
The premise of OTXO is quick, fairly simple, and doesn’t waste much of your time going into the intricacies of its world-building. As a silent protagonist, you find a mysterious mask on the ground, you put it on, and you’re swept up onto a beach in front of a mansion filled with enemies.
The mansion is “alive” and “shifts” so each time you enter it the stage layouts change and so do the gun-wielding baddies that stand in your way on route to rescuing your loved one who is trapped inside. This is all laid out to you over a couple of conversations with characters who are standing around giving you tips as you play and helping you unlock more abilities.
A Bloody Mess
First up, you’re presented with a drink at the bar. These change on each run and in between every few stages, giving you a (sometimes literal) leg up on your enemies. There’s a fun variety here and a lot of the upgrades you’re offered have clever references to action films and other video games like Portal. On the other side of the lobby is a woman who will add more liquor bottles/perks to the menu, giving you some more unique and wacky abilities that range from a bullet shooting out of your boot when you “kick,” to some weapons holding an extra magazine of ammunition. I enjoyed the variety here and had a great time creating combos as I progressed.
But, like with all roguelike games, when you die (and you will quite often), these perks are lost and you start from scratch on your next run. While it can be an enjoyable experiment, OTXO doesn’t have a system that made any abilities permanent. No passive upgrades or items that I could take with me upon death. When I died, I didn’t feel rewarded as I do with other titles in the genre, and that’s not a great feeling.
The crux of the action follows and the mayhem begins with you kicking down doors and blasting your enemies with dozens of weapons. Each stage or floor of the mansion is filled with fellow black and white gun wielders who you need to be rid of to unlock the door to the next area. It’s a simple enough concept seen in games like Hotline Miami.
My favourite part of OTXO was the “focus” ability; one that is always with you no matter what’s being served up at the bar. As you may have guessed, this slows down time and allows you to step around enemies and blast them into red, bloody bits. It’s really fun and works well, but it doesn’t last very long. Sure, there are upgrades to extend its time, but nothing that drastically changes how it works. OTXO is explicit in telling you that using focus is the key to survival, but I tried to use it so often that I ran out constantly and felt I was battling that system more than the people trying to kill me.
In OXTO, Chaos Ensues
OTXO also encourages you to constantly swap weapons. Instead of reloading through the chaos, you can pick up a gun and immediately start firing away. This was a fun way to create variety mid-stage and kept the action flowing. But this is an element of the game that brings up a glaring issue for me: the visuals.
The game feels too pixelated and filled with too many repetitive environments and surroundings. For example, I only have a few bullets in my SMG chamber so I’m searching the ground for another weapon as quickly as possible, but it is very difficult to figure out where they are. Everything but the blood splatter is black and white and the game moves so fast, that I found myself spamming the pickup button to grab anything I could. I found myself using my focus to slow down time and find a gun instead of using it to kill those around me.
The chaos in OTXO is mostly a good time, but I found it a little overbearing. Sure, the enemy variety eventually gets more interesting, but that doesn’t happen until several hours into the game. Plus, when time isn’t slowing down, it’s near impossible to dodge bullets and clear the rooms. I understand that is a big part of the game, managing your resources and abilities, but I felt too reliant on the focus and when it depleted, I expected to be dead in seconds flat.
OTXO has some fun elements, but many of them did not mesh well enough together for me to truly love this game. The fast-paced action is enjoyable at times, but also quite difficult to master. That may work for some, but the slowdown and focus system wasn’t versatile enough for me to feel like the powerhouse I wanted to be.
The game looks great from a distance, but I felt like I was battling the art style more than I was enjoying it. When OTXO sits still it can look great, like a black-and-white comic book splashed with deep red highlights. Unfortunately, the wild and fast action often doesn’t play nice with the setting it operates in.
You could do worse in the Roguelike genre, but you can also find similar titles that might mesh their ideas together in a more satisfying way.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PC