Review: Synthetik (Switch)

Saving the world one magazine at a time.

By Nick Dollar. Posted 01/07/2021 17:01 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gunplay feels great and satisfying; classes offer enough variety to feel different; music and sounds draw you in
Poison Mushroom for...
UI is unwieldy sometimes; some features are never introduced to the player

The year is 1980 and supercomputers have become the norm around the world. Supercomputers have also become so powerful that they need to be restricted, but even that still doesn’t stop them. The AI has taken over the planet and humanity’s only hope comes in the form of an android that can take on the supercomputers. This is what the player is met with when booting up Synthetik: Ultimate, a common tale of what can go wrong with AI in a Terminator-esque apocalypse. The story doesn’t have much impact on this twin stick top down shooter roguelike, and if that felt like a mouthful just wait till you see the number of guns and items in Synthetik.

Synthetik plops you right into the game with a selection of eight classes to choose from which are broken down from four main classes with two variations within those main classes. The overarching main class determines the passive skills you can use and the subclasses dictate what is called the core skill and core starting item. For instance, a sniper (from the rogue main class) is granted a laser sight that helps with accuracy and is also accompanied by a drone, while a demolisher of the specialist class is given the tools to make explosions much more plentiful and dangerous to enemies. There is a lot to see with the class system as each main class has a set of passive skills that you can select before starting a new run, which you can in turn unlock by increasing in level. The classes exist just to enhance the main focus of the game: the massive amounts of guns, bullet types, and satisfying combat.

The combat in Synthetik is incredibly gratifying as numbers representing your score accumulation grace your screen each time you get a hit on an enemy, and the bigger the hit the larger the number appears. This clever feedback system is great in that you don’t even need to read the numbers to know that you’ve hit for a lot of damage, and the color coding helps with that as well. For example, the numbers show up yellow for headshots and orange for critical hits. The game even slows down when you score these larger hits to help reinforce the impact and it just feels great. By default Synthetik has a manual reload system and a jamming mechanic, which can help enhance the intense combat but could also be seen as a hassle for some—luckily both of these options are easily turned off if desired.

On top of the satisfying combat system, Synthetik also features a vast array of guns and items to help keep the combat varied from run to run. Getting to understand all of these different guns and items can be a daunting task, however. Guns, Items, Ammo, and Meds are all stashed away in crates that are easily identified both by color and text on the crate, but what exactly is inside is a mystery until opened. When a new gun is found it is generated from a list of nearly forty to fifty guns and some random modifiers are slapped onto it, which includes bullet types. It’s hard to say how much variation the random modifier offers when merely finding the same gun twice can take a long time. Getting these cool guns during each run is fun, but if you really want to inspect a weapon and compare stats, you have to stop the fast paced gameplay and look at it in the slightly clumsy UI. Doing so requires ZL to be held to free look, which is not intuitive. This UI is also the only place to view gun stats and ammo types even though you can see the full list of weapons on the main menu. The only things offered there are the chance to view weapon appearance and its name, and when you are out on a new run it can be difficult to recall if the gun you just picked up is the one you loved from a previous run or if it is just another assault rifle that looks very similar. A positive here is that each gun can be augmented over the course of a run when using an upgrade kit. You are then offered up to four choices to modify the gun varying from doing more damage to bosses or extra reload speed along with a small boost to damage.

The items and equipment that you collect are more easily viewable, however it can be somewhat redundant as it’s possible to see the full list of each on the main menu along with their functionality. This doesn’t help for items you’ve never collected before, though, as they are hidden silhouettes and only show info once obtained. This can be a problem as the little window that pops up when you collect an item is somewhat small and isn’t on the screen for long enough to get an idea of what it does. The state of the items in Synthetik pose an interesting dilemma because they are often quite powerful and can regularly make or break a run when used well, as opposed to the guns that you collect, which are pretty straightforward nine times out of ten; point and shoot, bullets do damage. Not too hard to figure out.

The sound design in Synthetik fits the theme of the world with how the robot enemies respond to the explosions and gunshots filling the air that’s all emanating from the player. Some great detail can be found in the audio with the shotgun shells clattering to the ground when reloading your shotgun after an explosive firefight, or the ping when emptying your magazine on a swarm of enemies. The clang of a high powered shot ripping through a powerful enemy is quite rewarding and satisfying. All of that combined with an intense synthwave soundtrack brings the experience up a notch or two. Boom boxes can be found during a run and, when interacted with, a heart pumping beat begins to play and pushes you to step up your game to match the pace.

Digging through the overwhelming amount of information of guns and items and skills can be daunting, but once you get through that Synthetik: Ultimate can be quite an enjoyable game to have. Particularly as a twin stick top down roguelike experience on the go thanks to the portability of Switch.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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