I must admit I was a tad sceptical when I first looked at Atomicrops; I love bullet hell shooters, but mixing it with farming? Happily, I’m pleased to say that having spent quite some time with it now, not only does it gel these two polar opposite genres brilliantly, but it manages to be an all round tremendously fun – though tough – game.
A brief tutorial kicks things off, teaching us how to till the soil, plants seeds and harvest our crops – all of which is handled in about as an intuitive way as possible, mostly taking place on one button or automatically. After fending off a short wave of enemies, we’re thrown in head first to survive in this comically over the top post apocalypse.
Each time we step foot on our irradiated farm, we have a few minutes to gather seeds, fertilizer and whatever else we may need to grow some food to take back to base camp. We’re gifted a basket of basic produce to start, but any extra’s need sourcing from the wasteland around us. It did take a couple of goes to get to grips with, as it’s not immediately clear where we gather these from. While our base area is fairly safe – only a handful of weak foes roam it – crossing the bridges North, South, East and West of us leads to areas full of enemies and items.
Dotted around these are camps, guarded by a set of foes; killing all of them then unlock s either the boxes within, or sees a fluffy little bunny poop out some seeds for us. Each area has its own unique variants on what we’ll need to contend with, though the loot is randomly assigned so there didn’t appear to be much of a benefit to fighting the harder areas early on.
There’s not enough time to explore even one of these areas fully in a single day though, as once night rolls around we need to be back at base, defending our fledgling crops from all sorts of attackers. It’s here that the bullet hell elements come in, and while it’s not exactly Ikaruga levels of insanity, there’s still a fair old challenge in fighting them off while dodging bullets and planting harvesting crops before the end of the night. It can get pretty hectic, and more than once did I get hit by enemy fire hidden behind my own, or by the crops themselves. Our life doesn’t regenerate either across days, we’re only able to take a few hits before dying. We can buy extra Heart Beets back at base, but they are a premium and often take a few days to get enough roses to buy just one.
Crops require not only your defence, but water, fertilizer and some help from friendly insects to grow fully. As well as seeds, we can find extras to help us out each day, such as a cow that will water them for us, a turret to help fend enemies off, or bees that help plants grow faster. There are also carrier pigeons that bestow bigger perks like expanding out soil area, or filling every free slot with seeds, as well as tractors that can harvest bushes or enemies for yet more seeds or items. Once grown, we need to harvest them quickly and get more planted, lest we come back home with lacking supplies.
Each season is broken down into three runs, with the last featuring a tough boss fight added to the usual night time carnage. Survive, and we speak to the mayor to see how well we did and gain rewards if certain targets are met. Often we’ll get plenty of seeds, upgrades and currency and can use this at the local stalls to load up on better weaponry, seeds and other items to help in our fight. The default pea shooter is good as a basic weapon, but it’s definitely advisable to splash out on one of the guns from the store each day (they break after one day of use). Expensive upgrades enhance them further, and the difference is most certainly noticeable, though you’ll need to weigh up whether to buy other useful items too.
As is the case for what feels like 90% of titles that pass ours doors these days, Atomicrops also features a rogue-like mechanic i.e. the need to start from scratch once we die. While some recent titles I’ve played have managed to win me over, I’m still not 100% behind this genre; thankfully, I enjoyed Atomicrops more than enough to get past my usual frustrations. The core loop is fun, and there are more than enough power ups to find early on that it never felt like a chore to get back up to speed. In fact, as everything is random I actually found on each successive run that I enjoyed it more due to getting completely different items. The knowledge gained on each run meant I was actively searching for specific things, but usually I’d find a great alternative instead. It is possible to unlock permanent upgrades too, though it’ll take a little while to come across the required event to do so.
While it may seem like an odd pairing on the face of it, Atomicrops blend of farming, rogue-like elements and bullet hell shooter make for one incredibly fun game. Starting from scratch upon death still isn’t my favourite thing in the world, but Atomicrops is definitely one of the better examples of this system.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.