Game: Void* tRrLM2(); //Void Terrarium 2
Genre: RPG, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PS4)
Developers | Publishers: Nippon Ichi Software | NIS America
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: USD $39.99 | UK £35.99 | EU € 39,99
Release Date: March 3rd, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to NIS America.
A Dungeon Crawling Cuddle
Void* tRrLM2(); //Void Terrarium 2 wins the award for the most unusually titled game of 2023 thus far. So for simplicity for the rest of the review, we’ll just go with Void Terrarium 2. As the first game successfully blended old-school dungeon crawling with crafting and management sim, it was no surprise that a sequel would surface.
I will be honest, I have not had a lot of experience with the first game, so I’m rating this based on the sequel only. Roguelite dungeon-crawling games tend to always have a flair for difficulty and a high barrier to entry unless you’re a hardened fan. But if you want a gentler route into the genre, then Void Terrarium 2 will stroke your head and cuddle you metaphorically until you might just be ready to try something more tricky.
The Sad State of the World
Continuing directly from the events of the first game you again take control of Robbie the robot. You are tasked with the tough job of taking care of Toriko, the last human left alive. A cute little girl with suspicious fungus growing out of her head and eyeball. The world is practically uninhabitable thanks to world-ending events. Robbie is immune to the poisonous environment, but Toriko is highly susceptible, often coming down with the typical post-apocalyptic diseases like face-melting or limbs falling off.
This all sounds gross but even the diseases are pretty cute and not gory. But don’t fret, Robbie has a heart of gold and is willing to risk the wastelands looking for a cure. Your AI companion is also at hand to walk you through the steps to keep Toriko alive, even if the universe appears to really want her dead. As you progress through the game, you will learn about the world that once was via these VR segments, which are presented in a retro 8-bit-like style, where you wander about talking to NPCs.
I’m not sure how I felt about the plot. I really liked the concept of this little robot doing its utmost to care for Toriko. However, the plot surrounding this often felt like padding, carrying out a lot of tedious missions to eventually find out something interesting. If you’re coming into this from the first game, it feels like more of the same which likely won’t be a problem if the formula clicks. If you’re new here, it does a good job of getting you up to speed with the premise without needing to go backwards. For me it was really the gameplay that hooked me more than the plot.
As Robbie the robot, your main goal is to take care of Toriko, catering to her needs such as feeding her, keeping her environment fun and interesting and, if you feel like it, give her the odd cuddle. As you progress through the game you will unlock more items to craft which can be placed in the terrarium or Toriko’s home.
There’s something rather zen about dressing the fish tank-like structure with plants, rocks, furniture and toys for Toriko to play with. Leave Toriko alone; you’ll observe her happily play with the items you leave for her. It reminds me a lot of the old Tamagotchi toys from my youth only in more entertaining video game form. Though you do get a digital screen during dungeon crawling segments called a pet nanny. This nanny allows you to check up on Toriko and to play with her from a distance and clean her tank. But you can only heal her directly so you can’t dilly dally too long in the wasteland.
If you’re interested you can play a mini game based of this on the games website here. The management side of things continues with gardening, where you can grow various plants which need to be maintained by tweaking the temperature and humidity in the terrarium. And, of course, don’t forget to clean the tank with your broom; Toriko causes a surprising amount of mess for a little one. It’s all very relaxing, and you can spend significant time getting lost in this, but other duties will soon call.
With the toxic world surrounding you, the odds feel quite against you. Toriko needs to be kept fed and often gets sick. But there’s no need to stress too much. Your helpful buddy AI guides you through the initial process of looking after Toriko.
This is presented with bite-sized missions, which are easily tracked on the bottom right of the screen. If you forget any of the game’s mechanics you can recall any of the tutorials in the options which are nicely bitesize. Most missions require you to gather resources or specific items found in the toxic wild, then return to base to craft them. This brings us onto the dungeon crawling element of the game.
When venturing out to the wasteland you get to pick the destination which has a unique appearance and enemies. The level structure, enemy placement and items will randomly generate, making each run different. A fitting design since you’ll likely revisit similar levels over and over. The map is gradually revealed as you explore the floor, so you’re never quite sure what to expect around each corner. If you encounter traps or items they are clearly marked on the map for reference. But once you reach another floor you can’t backtrack.
Controls are easy to use. You view Robbie from a top-down perspective. As you move about you encounter many enemies which you can directly attack or attempt to flee if health is a bit sparse. It’s advised to engage as defeating enemies will level Robbie up, allowing you to choose one of two perks to increase your skills. You can pick up various items that can be equipped like shields and weapons, some of which will grant special abilities to use in combat. Other items can rejuvenate health and energy or provide temporary buffs. There are also grenades to fling at enemies and traps you can activate to alter the status of enemies like sleep or confusion.
Limited Inventory Space
You’ll soon discover you only have limited inventory space so you need to be careful what you choose to stock. It’s a bit of a pain sorting ideal weapons and shields when this happens, as you often need to clear some space to compare stats instead of swapping on the fly. Since you can only drop one item in one space, it can take some time to sort things out. Opting to pick up items manually rather than auto picking up would have probably helped.
When a run concludes, whether you succeed or fail, items left in your inventory get converted into various resource types to craft items back at base, this can be tracked in the menu as to what resources each item will award. When you craft a new item, you are awarded a stat buff to Robbie, so you are constantly growing, such as increased attack power or inventory space. The difficulty in general is very welcoming to casual players.
Runs can be tough, sure, but the fact you’re always making some form of progress and there’s no penalty on death makes this a kinder entry in the genre. As a fan of the roguelike genre, these segments were easily my favourite. The random generation made each run engaging and sometimes exciting with the random appearance, special items or secret rooms, some filled with riches and others with swarms of enemies.
Management Sim and Dungeon Crawling
The mix of management sim and dungeon crawling doesn’t always balance well, which is where I found a few niggles with the design. Sometimes I was having a really good run only for Toriko to suddenly have her come down with yet another dreaded disease. When this happens, you have to drop everything, return to base and get her fixed up, halting your overall quest progress. If the process to heal Toriko was short, it wouldn’t be so bad.
But, sometimes you have to venture out to the wastelands for multiple rounds to get Toriko into a healing state, which just makes the whole process pretty tedious and puts an unnecessary pause on the overall progress of the game. If crafting and management sims are not your thing, this may not be the rogue-lite for you either, as it does play a significant part in the gameplay experience.
The Light In the Wasteland
Void Terrarium 2 may be set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but there is something rather beautiful about its design. During the dungeon crawling segments, the graphic design shifts to a 3D perspective with a variety of biomes to explore and unique enemies, both organic and machine.
When you head back to base, the perspective shifts to 2D with the graphics having a somewhat stop motion feel to them. In here you can sense the toxic outside environment with green glows attempting to creep their way into your safe haven. But through your own creation you’re able to bring an air of beauty to your home with decorations and planting flowers.
Pixelated VR World
This world seems like a hopeless place but it’s through your efforts that provide a shining ray of hope that oozes out of the game’s presentation. Playing as humanity’s last hope brought a smile to my face. Lastly there’s the pixelated VR world which acts as a sort of ghost of the past. This doesn’t stand out as much as the other graphics, but something about this artificial design seemed to really fit with the world that once was.
The soundtrack is quite striking, back at base the music has a serene and relaxing vibe to it as you tend to Toriko and your garden. When you head out into dungeons, it morphs into something more techno and dance themed to accompany the action gameplay. It blends together nicely and will change as you explore different floors to keep it interesting. I was impressed by the game’s performance. Even with multiple enemies on screen at once the game held things together smoothly in TV and handheld modes.
Conclusion – A Happy Home
Overall, I walked away appreciating Void Terrarium 2. The mixture of management sim and rogue-lite dungeon crawling proved quite an addictive mix which kept me hooked to the experience. I may not be able to speak much on the original game but this sequel feels bigger and more refined than the first. So if you liked the first, it’s likely you’ll love this.
The gameplay loop often felt repetitive with similar mission structure and management and Torikos’ needs sometimes felt over the top at times. But it didn’t stop me coming back to tend to my garden and doing my very best to keep the fragile girl alive.
Void Terrarium 2 feels like a great entry point for anyone ever deterred from the steep barrier to entry for roguelite games. With a more causal approach to difficulty, it provides plenty of incremental progress even if a run doesn’t go to plan. Once you get your head around the general mechanics, this is an ideal game to dip in and out of at your own pace and will likely find a happy home on your Nintendo Switch if you choose to pick it up.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot