Mystic Gate is a twin-stick shooter from Zoo Corporation that has a rogue-like structure and a dungeon-crawling setting. It’s been around since February on PC but has now made its way over to PSN thanks to the ever-prolific publishers eastasiasoft (their lack of capitalisation, not ours).
The game’s thin plot involves the titular gate as it arrives in the human world after being created by the gods as a portal to the horrors, and treasures, beyond. As the player, your job is to traverse the five areas within while dashing, dodging and destroying your way through the many enemies that lie in wait for you.
You start off with a basic pistol and upon entering the first area, you’ll be placed in a corridor leading to the first room. Each room is randomised with traps and enemies appearing in whatever locations the algorithm throws at you. You’ll control your character with the left stick or d-pad and aim with the right stick. Annoyingly, you still have to fire manually using (or ) which is a shame as auto-shooting should be enforceable by law in twin-stick shooters these days. Still, you can hold that down to fire fairly constantly with just reloads slowing you down.
You’ve also got a dash on (or ) which grants you a few invulnerability frames and pressing will activate your ‘Active Skill’ although you won’t have one of those initially. So, it’s a fairly straightforward control system with the touch pad bringing up a map of the area (which handily allows you to teleport to certain rooms to save time when backtracking).
The combat itself isn’t particularly fluid or precise. The clumsy pixel art style, slightly-obstructive forced perspective and imprecise aiming all conspire to take away the slickness that games like this need. Compare this to Nex Machina or Enter the Gungeon and Mystic Gate comes up short but it’s playable enough and things do improve when you start leveling up and finding weapons.
Weapons are either found in chests or shops. Each stage has a shop which contains a couple of health potions, three skills and three weapons. These weapons range from melee to ranged archetypes with swords, chainsaws, lasers, shotguns, missile launchers and many more being available. Of course, it’s all a bit random in terms of what you’ll find on a run, and this can affect your chances of success, but for the most part it was fun checking them all out.
However, we’ve been playing Brotato on the Switch (which is sensational, by the way) and where that game inundates you with stats for your weapons, Mystic Gate barely tells you anything. If you want to compare things like fire rates, DPS and so on, you basically can’t. There’s a tiny bit of information on each gun but it’s not useful enough to help you strategise. So, a bit of trial and error is required if you want to make proper progress.
Aside from the guns you’ve also got your skills and perks. These are bought outside of the main game in your village area. Here you’ll be awarded gems for finding new weapons or completing tasks (such as killing certain enemies or using different techniques) and these can be spent on permanent upgrades ranging from useful things such as speeding up your reloads and being able to avoid floor traps to damage boosts from fire, freezing and poison. You also get to buy active skills which do useful things such as giving you a bit of healing, shields, the ability to slow enemies and so on. Pretty much the healing skill was the one we ran with for the whole game though.
Mystic Gate’s level of challenge is just about right. It’s a little tough at first and while we nearly killed the final boss on our third go (thanks to having a decent weapon), it took quite a few more to finish the job. There’s a trophy for killing a boss without getting hit and that took some doing also. But this is pretty much a one-dayer in terms of how long you’ll likely be playing it.
The presentation isn’t great. The music changes on each level which is good because level one’s music is absolutely awful and, as we said, the visuals aren’t the best when it comes to trying to read the action and aim successfully. The lack of gun information and the slightly clumsy UI all make the game feel as though it was rushed out rather than perfected. But that might be because we’ve been playing games that do this sort of stuff a lot better recently.
But now having obtained that Platinum, we can’t say we had a bad time with Mystic Gate but neither did we have a memorable one. Twin-stick shooters and rogue-likes are everywhere on PSN and so standing out is always going to be a challenge but you should at least try sometimes.
+ Quite playable and reasonably fun
- Doesn't give you great information
- No auto-firing