Metal Gear Solid 5 teams up with Spelunky for one of 2023’s most rewarding roguelikes

If you have even a passing familiarity with Solid metal gear 5: Phantom Pain, you probably remember his Fulton recovery system. To provide personnel and equipment to the base building element of the game, you extract these things from the open world by attaching them to balloons, which float off-screen for convenient transportation to the headquarters of your paramilitary operation. thugs. By any measure, and especially by the measure of an extremely detailed military stealth action game, it’s an immensely stupid flourish.

It’s so silly, in fact, that it fits perfectly into the cartoon styles of Mr. Sun’s Hat Box, as if he had always belonged there. Because in this roguelike platformer developed by Kenny Sun, you also lead a rogue paramilitary operation unresponsive to government borders or its laws (you are, after all, a delivery man for a company called “Amazin”). The difference is that you operate from a client’s basement in order to recover a stolen package, embarking on missions that resemble the perilous 2D platforming levels of Potholing. Completing these missions helps fund your operation, providing you with both an arsenal and an army to use through mission rewards, black market purchases, and balloons attached to any of the items and characters seemingly useful ones you might come across along the way. .

quite different metal gear, you don’t play as a single character. Instead, you individually control the randomly generated person blob(s) you selected for a mission, where they may very well die permanently. Characters are distinguished (besides various tongue-in-cheek nicknames) primarily by their individual attributes, an array of traits and quirks that completely change how you approach the game depending on the mission and agent. These variables are further complicated by the wide range of equipment available, which includes ping pong paddles, shark hats and bouncing flan plates in addition to the typical selection of guns, explosives and weapons. sharp objects.

The potential agents of Mr. Sun's Hatbox are

Image: Kenny Sun/Raw Fury

Especially in the early hours of the game, many character traits are unwanted and you’re basically forced to work around what little you have. An agent could have the extremely useful “taser” trait to stun any guard they touch. But they can also have “dry eyes,” which darken the screen every few seconds because they have to blink a lot.

A big part of the game is to strategize around these quirks when possible. Breaking a guard’s neck, for example, the “guilty conscience” trait sends your character hopping around in uncontrollable panic for a few brief but potentially crucial seconds in which they could fall into a trap or fall into the line of fire. another guard. To work around this, you can take care to kill exclusively (and probably more impersonally) with weapons, or you can drag each body to a secluded area where it’s safe for your assigned agent to shake off any post-kill jitters. .

But it’s easy to lose track of these strategies in the heat of battle or in the pile of available units and equipment, and the resulting chaotic chain reactions mean that Mr. Sun’s Hat Box so special. I, for example, accidentally knocked out my agent with his own boomerang, which activated the “weak intestines” trait to shit immediately after being hit, which I later discovered leads a guard to investigate the origin of the brand new stench. On another mission, I learned the hard way that the “forgetting” trait removes the indicator for the unique character you’re supposed to keep alive.

One of Mr. Sun's Hatbox agents navigates a 2D platforming level full of ladders, knobs and long chains to climb

Image: Kenny Sun/Raw Fury

The result is all the pleasure of a particularly uncontrollable Potholing session with the additional wrinkle of persistent progress; base building sneakily forces you to not only keep tabs on your gear stores, but also consider your staff and who among them you can afford to lose. Consistently choosing a specific agent for missions will buff them, giving them more health as they grow out of unnecessary and additionally useful traits. But that agent does so gain in value over time, to the point that their combination of useful traits becomes hard to justify risking on anything other than the toughest and most crucial missions, if at all. Additionally, mechanics like the skill tree are based on the levels of the characters you’ve benched to perform these tasks – a seasoned level 7 agent will contribute more to finding the skill tree than a new one. come level 2. The game pushes you to stick your best units with office duties while risking the most unpredictable agents in the field.

In the process, Mr. Sun’s Hat Box brilliantly answers the age-old question of how to encourage players to take risks and engage with new mechanics rather than sticking exclusively with familiar ones. By tricking you into courting chaos, it creates a gameplay loop where so many of the most intense and inventive moments stem from one hilarious failure. It’s the rare game that’s as thrilling to lose as it is to win.

Mr. Sun’s Hat Box was released on April 20 for Nintendo Switch and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PC using a download code provided by Raw Fury. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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