Heaven’s Machine is the first in the Super Rare Shorts series from Super Rare Games; brand new indie games only released in physical form on the Switch and only available during a short open pre-order window. It’s an unusual idea for sure, but sadly, this is probably not the start you were hoping for.
Heaven’s Machine is a twin-stick controlled roguelite loaded with weapons aboard a heavenly train – so far, so promising. However, it will kill you very quickly if you try to play it like a twin stick controls roguelite filled with weapons on board a heavenly train. Rush into the blazing guns and you will soon find that your short sprint is just as likely to get you in trouble as it is out due to the spread of bullets around the screen and often in tight spaces. If you get hit there doesn’t seem to be a grace period: if four balls overlap when they hit you, You are hit four times.
So since you will likely get killed if you get close or try to dodge bullets, the only alternative is to play the game like a cover shooter and duck behind any random walls that the newest rectangular room is decorating with became. It’s a boring routine that quickly shows how simple and equal the AI of the game’s little enemies is, and how similar the weapons feel. The large, multi-barreled bullet splinter has no weight and the shotgun has no kickback.
The roguelite aspects of the game are just as flawed, the randomness really feels random as opposed to an unpredictable escalation of ever-changing events. We personally witnessed how the first room of the first stage contained everything from zero to nineteen Enemies, and every room at every stage thereafter, had a similarly random sprinkling of enemies, ranging from literally empty to overwhelming. Even with a roguelite, the level of difficulty should be modeled on a curve, not a staccato-like tumbling between two extremes.
A litany of minor, casual mistakes rounds off a disappointing package. There is no way to pause the game without pressing the home button on your Switch. even if you look at the inventory screen and are completely blind to the rest of the game, enemies will still move in for the kill. The overly long recording animations not only make it possible, but likely, that you will not receive your bonus items at the end of the stage unless you stand still and wait for them to play instead of running through the door in front of you. Upon death, you will be immediately sent back to the beginning of the first level with no end-of-run statistics screen between the two. When you exit the game, the only change is that a short and unsatisfactory end credits sequence will appear before returning to the title screen.
Basic stability cannot be taken for granted either; the game crashed completely once when we were browsing the inventory screen, and another time UI elements couldn’t clean up on their own. Even simply progressing from one cart to the next feels rough, the screen visibly taking a moment to clear and then update the layout as if you caught the game before it was done.
As a little short experience, it’s not entirely without merit, but if you like slightly random action, the Switch already has Enter the Gungeon, Dead Cells, and Hades to play with. Heaven’s Machine is unfortunately best suited for collectors to keep them securely locked.