There was a time when Housemarque’s future looked uncertain. Having designed some of PlayStation’s most memorable games, disappointing Nex Machina sales prompted the studio to declare #ArcadeIsDead. You may recall, the Finnish team turned its attention to Battle Royale title Stormdivers, but it was quietly pitching Returnal to publishers behind-the-scenes.
Co-founder Ilari Kuittinen has explained in a blog post that the developer never gave up on its “deep commitment to fast-twitch action gameplay”, but needed to figure out a way to translate its trademark “arcade 2D gameplay expertise into a third-person action game”. It’s taken several years of iteration, but the end-result is its sci-fi PlayStation 5 exclusive, which we just awarded a 9/10.
And Sony, a company that’s been criticised in the media recently for its purported disinterest in publishing left-field projects, had a big hand in Returnal’s release: “In the age when game publishers are taking less and less creative risks, we are truly thankful to our publishing partner Sony, who has given us an opportunity to work on something very risky and has given fantastic support during the whole project,” Kuittinen beamed. “We are forever grateful for having this opportunity.”
We’re thankful Sony took the chance, too, as the roguelike is one of the best games available on PS5 right now, with our review concluding: “The game is a force to be reckoned with; the breathless combat, super slick gameplay, and the subtle but unsettling story combine for an experience of surprising scale.”