It’s been a while since I’ve been duped (in a good way!) this hard by a game. Atomicrops is the latest release to be put out by the folks over at Raw Fury, we were supposed to see it during last year’s E3, but it never panned out. Developed by a small group of devs under the banner of Bird Bath Games, it’s an extremely colorful farming game that just happens to take place in the post-apocalypse.
What does that entail, you might ask? Well, you’re still growing crops and selling them for profit, but you now have to fight off hordes of monsters who have nothing better to do than try to eat your hard work as the night drops on your small patch of land in the middle of the wasteland. You defend yourself and your crops by playing the game as a twin-stick shooter, making Atomicrops a really neat mix of genres in one: farming, shooting, and of course, it couldn’t be left out otherwise it’d cry its eyes out, roguelike.
That last one is perhaps my least favorite out of Atomicrops ingredients, but it’s not completely unbearable. Maybe it’s just me being tired of having roguelike elements thrown into games way too often, so take that with a grain of salt, mind. Every time you load into the game, you’re playing a run that ends when your farmer dies, resetting all of our plantation progress as well as your cash and equipment down to zero. Then again, it’s relatively quick to get back in and start over, surely, and every bit of gameplay experience you earn along the way is valuable in avoiding mistakes in later runs.
Getting a nice crop of different vegetables is easy to do, and the game does a good job in teaching you the basics through a really funny tutorial, introducing you to how Atomicrops handles seed placement and management in the grid, which works a lot like what you’d see in a Harvest Moon game. Once planted, you have to water them and keep them fertilized, something that the further you get in the game, the easier it becomes thanks to a variety of helpers you can recruit — in the form of farm animals like chickens, cows, and even pigs, who tend to your crops automatically — helping you keep your attention on the annoying invading munchers.
For each day which lasts for a few minutes, you’re able to freely explore the map as you see fit and find new equipment and seeds, and as the sun goes down, the big waves of enemies converge on your crops if you haven’t harvested them yet. For the initial character that you get to play in the game, growing plants is somewhat quicker due to her perk of keeping bees that speed up the development process of your crops, but other unlockable characters bring in unique abilities, making them worth the effort of getting further into the game.
As cute and saturated as Atomicrops is at all times, thanks to its pixel art aesthetic that’s extremely well made, it can be a really tough game at the outset. I got my butt handed to me during my first few runs as I learned the logic of keeping a running farm and upgrading it simultaneously, which isn’t apparently obvious as days passed and I never found any new plants to make use of in my farm. On the other hand, it’s extremely fun to poke around and discover stuff that the game is purposefully vague about, like having to go and rescue trapped animals in order to upgrade your list of seeds and obtaining new equipment or even currencies. And then there are bosses who aren’t shy about pounding you out of nowhere if you’re not equipped.
Then again, the days in the game run by fast and you’re automatically dropped into town no matter what you’re doing in the field, so if you’re good at dodging, you can make use of that in order to get out of jams, but if you don’t invest on harvesting and actually playing into the game’s economy, there’s only so much of that that you can do. At first, you surely won’t have enough cash to afford anything worthwhile, so there’s room to experiment, but at later points in your run, it’s imperative that you upgrade at almost every visit to town since the difficulty ramps up somewhat quickly as the seasons pass and things get increasingly more complicated.
Stopping by the town isn’t only for selling crops and buying new stuff, but it’s also where you look for a spouse, and that’s an aspect to the game I’m still exploring. The early word on Atomicrops dropped hints that it would borrow elements from other farming games that aren’t just tied to growing plants, but also relationships, so I’m looking forward to finding out just how much there is to sink into here. So far, though, I’ve gotten to woo a few of the denizens in town without quite carrying through with any lasting commitment thanks to my continuous deaths, so there’s that.
The game’s been out on PC early access for a while now and it’s finally getting an official release on consoles as this review lands. Performance on Switch — which is the one I got code for — is pretty smooth in both docked and portable modes, with somewhat hefty load times when booting up from the system menu, as well as when a run begins or from getting back to the farm and into town and vice-versa. It’s not nearly as bad as Dread Nautical’s, but it’s enough to get a bit annoying when trying to quickly back into a run after dying.
The game pops on the Switch’s portable screen, too. I was happy with not absolutely hating the JoyCon controls as I usually do with shooters, but taking into account the isometric movement and the reliance on trigger shooting instead of face buttons, it’s really playable whichever mode you end up going with.
Like I said at the opening, it’s really cool getting swept by a game like I did with Atomicrops. I came in with no previous knowledge about it and came out surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. While I’m certainly getting up there with games that make use of roguelike elements, I think that Atomicrops does work, if not only because of how it relies on you learning by repetition and using that to learn its ins and outs little by little. And that I will do after this review, because even though it’s the post-apocalypse people still need their veggies!