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  • Writer's pictureGreg Ezell

Ak-xolotl Review: A Good Foundation That Needs A Blueprint

an axolotl holding an AK

Those who have followed Three Dads and a Console for a long time know that I am an advocate of both indie games and rogue-like/lite games. Games like Cult of the Lamb and Hades are some of my favorite indie rogue-likes/lites and they did a great job differentiating themselves from a pretty bloated genre.

Everything now seems to have rogue-like or rouge-lite elements to them and the terms are starting to cross genres. Hell, there is now a rogue-like hockey game that you can purchase on Steam (and it's great!).

When firing up this game and entering the chambers, you'll immediately get a sense of Enter the Gungeon due to the top down, twin stick, bullet hell game play. The concept works with that 2Awesome Studio wants to do. Much like Gungeon, you'll clear a room full of enemies and traps before getting your prize and moving onto the next chamber of death. Unlike Gungeon, you're able to choose what your next treasure chest is. There are multiple paths available for you which allows you to tweak your run to what is needed most.

Having a choice on how you want your run to look offers great customization. You're not just beholden to weapon choices either. Thankfully Ak-xolotl allows for things like coins, leafs, and power-ups to be part of that customization. Looking to grow your Axolittles into full blown Axolotls? Choose a leaf only option to beef up your cooking.

So far, my largest gripe is with the actual loot pool. I haven't noticed a large variety when it comes to whats available for me - but I'm not sure if that is because I'm still early in the game or if it is actually a concern. Looking at some of the Steam reviews, it does seem that a common complaint is the thin loot pool in this game.

This complaint can be remedied with some patch updates and my hope is that those are coming sooner rather than later.

There is a small camp component to this game, but don't go in thinking this is a Cult of the Lamb ripoff because those mechanics are not here. Your camp is used post-death so you can load up on your next run. There is a small pen for your Axolittles - baby axolotls you find during your runs - that you can nurture, pet, feed and raise to become fighters. This mechanic is pretty great and I enjoy the variety that 2Awesome has put into this. You can respec your axolotls class, giving you a pretty varied axolotl army. Unlike Cult of the Lamb, you're not expected to feed or house or clean up their waste and treat them like a small cult. The nurturing sections are 30 seconds, at most, but do provide a chuckle or two.

There is a downside to the specializations: they're pretty lame. Changing your class to "Gunslinger" will give you 10% more damage with pistols and make them easier to find during your run, that's it. While the idea is solid, Ak-xolotl plays it way too safe.

One thing that really annoyed me was the lack of controller customization options. Currently, there are no options for key bindings or controller input changes. I understand that a small studio won't want to divert their time and attention to something like key bindings, but customization options shouldn't be held back. Unfortunately, this is something I'll just have to live.

2Awesome Studios has already announced a roadmap for this game which seems to promise new biomes, new room types, new active abilities and classes, etc. Currently, none of these updates have timelines given to them and I'm not sure if the developer has announced any specific dates at the time of this review.

Ultimately, I don't want people to think I haven't enjoyed my time with Ak-xolotl because I have and there's a real promise here that Ak-xolotl will have enough content to make the experience worth while. 2Awesome Studios has been put together a good foundation for this game, but it needs some content to turn a house into a home.

Ak-xolotl is currently available on PS4/5, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC.


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