Since almost all of my (not insignificant) playtime in Atomicrops has been on the Steam Deck, and I still haven’t mastered (a) remembering to take screenshots on that platform and (b) figuring out how to get them to my PC, all screenshots in this post are from the Atomicrops Press Kit.
I’ve never been much of a console gamer, and as such, have had very limited experience with using controllers. Sure, I own an inexpensive XBox style controller which I can connect to my PC, and there were even a handful of games I played on our XBox 360 back when it was current hardware. I had never owned (or even used) a handheld prior to getting a Nintendo Switch last winter, and despite my excitement about the Steam Deck, I knew that there was going to be a learning curve for me, and it was going to be a steep one.
But one of the things I really wanted to make a concerted effort to do with the Deck is to see if I could play some genres of games I tend to avoid on PC due to feeling clumsy with mouse and keyboard controls. Obviously, platforming games are part of this, but I’ve always been intrigued by (but very very bad at) games that involve twin-stick shooting mechanics. It always felt strange to me to be moving in one direction, and pointing my weapon in another with keyboard and mouse controls, and I never really got invested enough in any of these games to push past that awkwardness.
Since my library is pretty well stocked with games of all genres, and since I wasn’t sure that I would be committed enough to this project to actually buy something, I went poking through my unactivated game keys, and found that I had Atomicrops from the September 2021 Humble Choice, and decided to give that a whirl on the deck to see if I could figure it out. Over forty hours of gameplay later, I can safely say while I’m still not fantastic at this game, I am at least really enjoying it.
Atomicrops is a twin-stick shooter farming roguelite. I think that the strange genre mashup is what really drew me to the game, and it’s also what keeps me playing. Each day, you head out from your farm to gather seeds, equipment and buffs from one of the 4 adjacent biomes. At night, your farm comes under attack, and you need to defend your crops. Each season lasts three days and nights, with the third night bringing one of two randomly chosen bosses for you to deal with. Once you get through each night, you’re given an opportunity to go to town to buy upgrades with the cashews you earned from your harvest, and gift the townsfolk with roses in return for helpful items.
At the end of each season, you go see the mayor, who rates you based on how many crops you were able to successfully harvest over the season. The more crops (and more valuable crops) you’re able to produce, the more grateful the mayor is and the greater your rewards. After four full seasons, you enter nuclear winter, one last epic boss fight, and if you manage to defeat the boss and make it through the night, you’re rewarded by unlocking a new year, with each year being more difficult.
All of the biome camps and available upgrades are random each run, and with each run you complete (or complete at least one season of), you get Cornucopias, which you may be able to use to buy small permanent upgrades in between runs. The further you get and more efficiently you proceed through the year, the more things you may stumble across to unlock new ways to play or benefit your meta-progression. It’s an addictive loop that has led to me failing to play much of anything else when I pick up my Steam Deck every time.
I don’t know if I have enough experience with this genre to definitively say that this is a good intro to the genre, but despite having some hilariously dismal early runs, I’ve gotten steadily better with the control scheme, and have started being a more efficient planter even while dodging bullets and killing bad guys. There are still plenty of things for me to unlock (and 8 more difficulty levels I haven’t even managed to unlock yet), so replayability on this one is pretty excellent if you enjoy the core loop. There is one paid DLC for Atomicrops – Reap What You Crow – which adds a new playable character and a couple of new weapon types, but I haven’t felt like I’m missing out by not having it.
But I do feel like I’m better prepared for other twin-stick shooters now, if I can ever get myself to stop playing this one.