Unlike most roguelike twin-stick shooters, Beyond the Long Night is as focused on making friends as defeating enemies. Its string of silly characters and their, sometimes baffling, predicaments, elevate this indie above similar pixel action games. Additionally, the question mark-filled map, enigmatic narrative, and one-more-run gameplay make it easy to pick up to play for five minutes or five hours.
An ominous tale of uncertain journeys and a celestial objective scrolls across the screen before I spot a pale humanoid lump. The indistinct pile is snoring peacefully away in a cozy hammock. And though it seems unlikely, this is my hero.
Rousing the creature, I take control as it pops into a harness tied to four balloons. These inglorious accouterments lift me into the air to achieve my upwardly destination and represent the first taste of the game’s signature blend of absurd humor and heroic formula.
Gameplay is divided into two parts. The first is the most familiar as I rush into rooms where all entrances close until I kill every hostile creature in my vicinity. I have a gun — which also just seems to be my arm — with unlimited ammo to shoot down bug-like enemies and a Superpower, like a temporary shield or laser beam, that changes every run. I might also come across throwable items like torches or bombs to hurl at threats. Using these tools, I aim to clear the chamber before all of my balloons, which equate to my health, pop.
The second piece of the game has me using gems I pick up in my battles to aid other pale humanoids I find along the way. Some of my favorites so far include the farmer Eebi who needs money to upgrade his famous cows’ barn, a merchant titled “annoying child” who demands gems to find his boat, and good ol’ Bobbins whose dislike of confrontation and sleepy disposition make him a terrible guard.
These halves are tied together with the kind of exploration that asks players to pick between taking one of several exits into the next, unrevealed location. It’s not a sophisticated structure, moving from room to room either fighting enemies or chatting up an NPC, but it’s well-designed to keep me moving forward and engaged.
And as the game is a roguelike, I head back to my little hammock upon death to start rediscovering the labyrinth-like cave every time my last balloon bursts. Luckily, I keep the relationship I’ve made with everyone I’ve met, so I don’t have to suffer the frustration of helping them over and over.
But there’s still a long journey ahead and a sinister, cave-shaking threat continues to haunt my steps. So, I’m looking forward to finding out whatever horrible new twist that will throw into Beyond the Long Night.