Malfortune is a twin-stick shooter made by a single person that has a distinctly Undertale-ish hook—you can decide who lives and who dies, either absorbing the essences of bosses (who are physical manifestations of things like luck and fear) for extra power or sparing them. Likewise, random NPCs can be killed if you’re so inclined. Malfortune’s store page promises three endings, as well as repercussions for killing things like luck as it removes that element from the universe. Realistically, I probably should have started off playing as a pacifist, but I accidentally killed the first NPC I met and decided to just go along with it and become a destroyer of worlds. Seeing the effects of these executions will probably require another playthrough.
You get bullets for damaging with dashes
The very first thing I noticed is the total absence of music. Apart from the some beeps and bloops, the menu and exploration areas appear to be completely silent, with the only music that plays coming in during boss fights. Setting that aside for now, the basic gameplay alternates between a handful of puzzle rooms and boss fights. You have the ability to dash in any direction as an attack or evasive move, with this effectively operating on a cooldown. Then you have bullets for inflicting long-range damage and destroying boxes, and this is where I was confused at first. It turns out that you earn bullets for doing damage with dashes, so the early sections that block you off with boxes require nothing more than dashing into training dummies a few times to replenish your ammo. It took me awhile to figure that out.
The first boss fight is against the personification of luck, and this is a pretty hard fight when you’re still getting used to the flow of everything. Right off the bat there are some things that I really like and don’t like; the way there’s an aim assist that locks onto bosses makes playing with a controller much more comfortable, but being able to go under the boss HP bar (17:28) could become a problem later on when things get a bit more chaotic. Still, this boss fight was a challenge without feeling cheap.
Joy and Misery, BFFs
Once that early area is over with, you start to get into more switch puzzles. Heavy objects follow you automatically when you push into them, with a dash sufficing to leave them behind, and this allows you to pretty comfortably move things around and figure out the puzzles. I also stumbled on a hidden room with an NPC and a bunch of upgrades in it. Of course, I have no idea what these upgrades do yet. They don’t seem to increase the number of bullets you have, so that’s a question mark.
Something that becomes obvious when you go up against the combined forces of Joy and Misery (all of these “essences” have specific names in addition to the quality they’re a manifestation of, but it’s easier to refer to them as their quality) is that different characters have different sound effects that play as their typewriter text moves across the screen. That’s one of those little things that not enough games do, and it adds a lot of personality to everyone. Speaking of the writing, they specifically bring up the fact that Luck was murdered by the main character, which is a nice touch. The boss fight against them was definitely harder than the fight against Luck, though a large part of that difficulty came from the disorienting screen shake.
Oh, hey, I’m getting new powers
The switch puzzles also get a little trickier, though I was seriously overthinking one or two of them and forgetting that I could personally step on switches and then dash through the open door. There are also some more quirky NPCs (and I’m really enjoying the writing) to be found. Before long, however, I came across the physical manifestation of fear/anxiety, and his first attack is ridiculous. It eventually dawned on me that killing the other essences earned me new bullet attacks that could be selected, though, including a reflect shield earned from Joy. That meant that Fear’s first attack could be largely reflected back at him, eating away a huge chunk of his health. This fight’s going to be a serious pain when I try to do a pacifist run.
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