Review – AK-Xolotl
Welcome to the world of AK-Xolotl, a world where axolotl run around with guns and try to fight caterpillars, crabs, and a slew of other creatures. AK-Xolotl is a top down bullet hell roguelite, similar to that of Enter the Gungeon. Basically the main difference being that instead of fighting sentient bullets, you’re fighting other animals, insects, etc. Considering we already have an Enter the Gungeon though, how does AK-Xolotl fit into such an oversaturated genre?
While the gameplay is similar to Enter the Gungeon, in that enemies will spawn at semi-random points around each room and you need to defeat them to progress, the runs play a little more similarly to Hades. Defeat all the enemies, and then pick from a selection of rooms that will offer different rewards.
After progressing through enough rooms you’ll find the boss of the floor you’re on, like a giant crab that will definitely cause some problems the first few times you come up against it. Assuming you can make it there on your first few runs. Just like other roguelites you’ll collect power-ups through the run to customise how you play. Similarly to that of The Binding of Isaac, you don’t have a lot of health to start with, so anything that gives more health is always a big bonus, and then anything that makes you stronger of course.
In terms of game variety, there’s not a huge amount from run to run in the beginning. You’ll have a limited amount of weapons to find, power-ups to collect, and enemies to fight. Until you start beating floors, you won’t be able to unlock much new stuff outside of maybe some new axolotl to, at the very least, change up the aesthetics of the run, but not much else in the beginning. This can make the start of the game really repetitive very easily, especially since it is quite a difficult game. The key thing, like most roguelites is to stick with it. Once you get used to patterns, items, what different rooms are, etc. the game does get better.
Outside of each run, you’ll be in a hub area. There are a variety of things to do here like take care of baby axolotl, which you’ll need to nurture for them to grow so you can use them in different runs. Another thing to do is cook food, this goes hand in hand with the whole nurturing baby axolotl because different foods will give them different perks. You can get them to have more speed in each run, but may do less damage. Maybe you want to deal more damage, but have less health. You can customise each axolotl kind of any way you want. You collect ingredients for food during your runs, so when a “food room” comes along, you might actually choose to take that over a room that will give you a new weapon.
There are also a variety of shops that will open as you play more. This will offer an assortment of permanent unlocks to make the runs more tolerable, or less tolerable because some of those weapons just simply are not good (I’m looking at you laser pistol). You’ll also be able to unlock different perks, which is especially nice because the ones you start with unlocked aren’t actually all that good for the most part, except maybe the ones that give more health or make you immune to spike traps.
AK-Xolotl is super cute, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. In my constant need to compare it to Enter the Gungeon, I would say the axolotl themselves are as cute as some of the little bullet guys, but the enemies are mostly just okay. They have fairly simple designs like when you look at a crab enemy, it’s basically just a crab and nothing more. I do like that AK-Xolotl is a lot brighter than most games of its genre. There are situations where this can make it a bit harder to realise there’s a bullet headed towards you sometimes though.
While the music is good, it doesn’t get the blood pumping. There’s no real heavy beat that you would expect from a bullet hell type of a game. Plus, while the characters aren’t voices, they make a sound every time you pass them, and since one of the characters stands right in the path of going to see the baby axolotl, I hope you’re ready to hear the same noise over, and over, and over again.
I enjoyed AK-Xolotl and think it deserves most the same love other games in the genre get. Sure it might be easy to glance over because of how many roguelike/roguelites there are, but at this point surely you’ve done everything there is to do in Enter the Gungeon and want to play something similar, so here’s your chance. The idea of being able to build various characters that have different stats, like The Binding of Isaac has for its characters, is a great implementation. I hope if this game does well there’s more to add in the future, but if not then it’s still a fun experience and a great game to play “casually” (as casually as you can play a bullet-hell) for a run or two at a time.
*This is something that is being added after the fact of this review. I’ve had a few situations on Xbox Series X where the game just decides not to work as a whole. Once the game opens, it doesn’t accept any controller inputs, but I can load up any other game and have no issues. Closing the game, uninstalling and reinstalling, restarting the Xbox, none of it fixes it. I have no idea what I’m doing differently on the times that it does work, but I just wanted to add after it continued to happen while I was trying to get pictures, that sometimes the game just opts to not work entirely. Hopefully a patch will address this issue soon.
The characters are very cute, definitely marketable with the variety that are available in game. That said, some of the brighter areas can actually make it quite hard to keep an eye on bullets coming at you. It really makes me understand why other games in the genre have dark backgrounds.
Whether you want to play for twenty minutes or two hours, it’s easy to pick up and play for however many runs you’re looking to do. It’s definitely a very tough game, but that makes it all the more rewarding to do well.
While it’s missing the intense music that these kind of games kind of thrive on, the music is still good. The biggest issue is the fact that some characters are repetitively annoying when you have to pass them time after time.
I will definitely be returning to AK-Xolotl in my free time. It’s great to pick up and play, which means just like a lot of games in the genre, it’s probably perfect on Switch.
The biggest downside is the game opting to just not work at times for no real reason. That has hurt this mark massively.
Final Verdict: 6.5
AK-Xolotl is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of AK-Xolotl was provided by the publisher.