It took me way too long to get around to playing Ruiner. The day it came out I nabbed myself a copy and… let it gather bits on my library’s shelf since. Recently, however, I felt the inexplicable desire to go on a violent, Hotline Miami–esque mutilation spree, and friends, Ruiner does not disappoint. Taking place in the 2091 metropolis of Rengkok ruled by an indomitable megacorporation, Reikon Games’ breakout game (published by indie giant Devolver Digital) plays like a sci-fi retelling of Dante’s Inferno, saturating your nice synth-leather jacket with blood and guts until the very last moment and having possibly the coolest mask I’ve seen in cyberpunk to date.
The game begins with you, as the game’s protagonist, ascending into the massive HQ of Heaven, a corporation responsible for the existence and maintenance of Virtuality, a high-fidelity simulation network that allows participants to engage in their deepest fantasies. You are there to kill the Boss at the behest of your “master”, a hacker who has infiltrated your mind and is bending you to his will, making you bludgeon and pump round after round into crowds of mirror-shaded corporate security that stand in your way. However, before you can carry out your objective, your mind is hacked back seemingly to your control by Her, a mysterious anime punk girl who reveals that those who have stripped you of your free will are holding your brother hostage.
Ruiner’s weakest point in terms of gameplay lies in its linearity. If you explore Rengkok South, you’ll come across side quests, but aside from one that requires you to search the hub world for surveillance drones convincingly disguised as cats, there is little to no effort involved. As Puppy, you’ll often be prompted to respond to the characters you speak with in VN-style dialogue scenes, but what you choose has no effect whatsoever on their responses. Fortunately, this didn’t distract me from the game, but I do question why these mechanics were included in the first place.
I regret to say the weakest part of Ruiner may be its lack of originality. It’s clear that the developers were fully aware they were making a cyberpunk game–in addition to unmistakable tropes, there are elements that are clear homages to previous works (Puppy’s “KILL YOU” expression is a clear reference to the cult classic Cyber City Oedo 808) but more common are bits and pieces of famous cyberpunk properties that don’t really bring anything new to the table. The environments are heavily reminiscent of the Deus Ex series’ hyper-industrious setpieces, while the Big Brother program, in addition to being a clear reference to 1984, functions almost exactly the same way as the most existentially terrifying scene in Ghost in the Shell. The way Virtuality operates and is maintained is nearly a carbon copy of Human Revolution’s Hyron with a dash of Altered Carbon mixed into the flavor text. And most of all, I’ve seen a hacker turn out to be a Turing-level AI in cyberpunk media to the point that it feels like it’s a worn-out trope.