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Shoulders Of Giants smashes together frogs, mechs and 00s weirdness

This roguelike is way better than it has any right to be

Shoulders Of Giants is out today on the Epic Games Store. When we first saw the trailer for Shoulders Of Giants, a few people on team responded with murmurings of "What the hell is this?", which increased in frequency and volume as more bizarre things appeared on screen. I sort of did what the Goonies do when they first find the map to One Eyed Willie's treasure, or what anyone in Pulp Fiction does when they open the briefcase: "Wooooaaaah."

Consider the progress of information. It's a sci-fi roguelike best played, I think, in 4-player online co-op. You play a sword-wielding combat mech. You also control a small frog standing on the mech. You drop onto proc-gen planets overrun by a kind of magical accelerated entropy, that turns everything black and pink and grey. By destroying totemic altars orbited by floating eyeball robots, you start to re-energise the planet, so areas have grass and butterflies. Eventually you will destroy enough totems to get to a planetary boss fight, which might be against, for example, a giant ghost samurai or a floating purple hand with an eyeball in it. It's mad, but I sure do wish more games were like this.

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Is it a bit janky? Sure is! But is it fun and imaginative and wacky and reasonably priced in a landscape of extremely expensive samey big games? You bet your sweet frog ass it is. I only played it in single-player, but it's kid-friendly fun, too; I haven't even mentioned that you're the combat agent for a team of sort-of-Avengers-but-animals who live on a tiny space island and are led by an owl (it's always an owl, isn't it?).

Your goal is to get enough Heat - power, kinda - to be strong enough to take on a really big bad. Clearing a planet will give you a certain amount of Heat, determined by how hard it is, which is largely how many stages you have to clear before the boss fight, and how many totems are in each stage. If you bonk a planet and clear the entropy then you get, I dunno, +107 Heat. But if you die during that stage, then you lose 107 Heat. This is how you measure progress, because you don't level up in a traditional way. You can get different skins, essentially, for your mech, which you can customise a bit as well, and these change what base abilities you have equipped when you sploot onto a planet. The frog has a gun, too. But every time you land on a planet you get a sort of clean slate.

A frog rides a mech through a forest scene in Shoulders Of Giants
Four colourful mechs rush through an alien planet in Shoulders Of Giants
A frog's eye view of battle from the back of a mech in 3d roguelike Shoulders Of Giants

It's hard to explain, but when you're bumbling about moving and swinging your sword, you control the mech. And when you zoom in as you do when you're playing an FPS and aiming down sights, you control the frog, and can shoot at stuff. Both frog and mech can equip three different special abilities as well, which you pick up on the planet itself. The frog has a lot of support stuff - heals and AOE attacks - while the mech has a mix of DPS and tank stuff. Every planet develops a different strategy, and the range of stuff you can do, and ways you can be sneaky, is surprising. On one level I got a teleport ability, so I stuck one end on a revitalised grassy bit I'd cleared, and then stuck the other end near the boss fight. Then I kited the ghost samurai through the portal and he ended up taking damage over time from the healed area. I ran around in a circle until he died.

What I'm saying is that Shoulders Of Giants is weird and full of strange stuff it refuses to fully explain, which is something I deeply appreciate and gives me good, early 00s vibes - much in the same way Blacktail did at the end of last year. It's unapolagetically creative, even if sometimes its ideas crash into each other, and sure, the jump is a bit floaty, but mostly it's just fun and cool and refreshingly different! Everyone loves frogs. Everyone loves big mechs. Why not put them together?

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Alice Bell avatar

Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

Small person powered by tea and books; RPS's dep ed since 2018. Send her etymological facts and cool horror or puzzle games.
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