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Real talk about Returnal - a diary of panicked thoughts

by: Eric -
More On: Returnal

Returnal, the new AAA bullet-hell roguelike from Housemarque has been in my hot little hands for about 48 hours. So far, it has raised my blood pressure, caused me to stomp on the floor so hard I think I chipped a bone in my heel, and given me very strange dreams.

The preview embargo on Returnal lifted last night, and I've noticed a lot of folks writing very fancy preview articles about the first two biomes in the game. But - real talk - I've gotta review this thing in a week. I need to save up all of those descriptive paragraphs and fancy turns of phrase for the actual review. Here, instead, is a collection of thoughts that went through my head during the four-or-so hours I've spent with Returnal, arranged in some sort of chronological order.

  • This is a pretty nice spaceship. I wish I could stay in this spaceship. I'm afraid of bullet-hell games, and I hate dying.
  • Wait. Are her eyes two different colors?
  • Her eyes are two different colors! I'm like space-Bowie, which I've always wanted to be!
  • Nice crash segment.
  • Whoa. This PlayStation 5 game looks better than all the other PlayStation 5 games. Like, a lot.
  • Wait, why don't I have a gun?
  • Oh, here is my gun, on my own dead body. Fine, I see how it is.
  • Hey, for a starter gun, this thing is pretty cool. 
  • Is that the rain I'm feeling through the controller? Neat.
  • Oh my God, there are some doggies. They are burping lightballs at me. I'm going to shoot them with my sweet gun.
  • Hey! I killed the burp dogs! There has to be some serious aim assist going on here, because I can't shoot for shit.
  • Wait, now there are SIX burp dogs! Lightballs are everywhere! Charlie's up in the trees! Jump! Jump! Jump!
  • And, I'm dead.

  • Nice crash sequence.
  • Oh hey, I have the gun now. I don't have to go find it. Nice.
  • Okay, I can handle these burp dogs now. No problem.
  • Another room, more burp dogs. And wait. Are those things flying? Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!
  • Is that a chest?
  • I found a new gun. But I like the old gun. I like both guns. Can I take both guns? Nope. Okay, guess I'll take the new gun.
  • This new gun is awesome!
  • Wait, does this thing shoot lightning? Eat it, stupid dogs!
  • Hey, if I shoot these purple 'splody flower things, I can get the golden moneys! Sweet!
  • Is that tree moving? 
  • Ahhhhh! The tree stuck me to the ground! It spits tree-glue! What the hell?
  • And, I'm dead.

  • Who is that weirdo in the space suit injecting himself into my sweet crash sequence?
  • My character is telling me I have to do better. Great. Like I didn't know.
  • Okay, shoot the burpy dogs, shoot the flying things, shoot the moving trees.
  • Oh, if I shoot a bunch of stuff in a row without getting hit, I get some perks. Nice. Don't see that happening too often, but nice.
  • Oh, its a parasite. I get it. It's like a Wasteland trait, it helps me and screws me at the same time.
  • Look, some of the golden moneys on the ground. I'll go pick it up.
  • Why is the floor collapsing? Why is this game so mean?
  • Oh wait, there's actually cool stuff down here. Okay then.
  • Oh hey, its one of my old dead bodies! If I scan it, it shows me a death scene. 
  • AHHH! It's because that dead me was fighting this horrible thing! Why is it shooting so many light balls at me? RUN! RUN!
  • And, I'm dead.

  • The weirdo in the spacesuit is back again.
  • I can't believe the guy from IGN said he got through this in his first run. Some sort of video game god.
  • Run through rooms. These dogs are trash mobs. Can't believe I was ever afraid of them. Shoot the trees. Dodge the glue. Shoot the flying things. Hide behind a pillar.
  • Wait? Is that the house? I found the house! I actually found the house!
  • Why the hell can't I get into the house? Everyone says they can get into the house, but the house isn't letting me in.
  • Screw this stupid house. I'm leaving.
  • What is this mountain with the spotlights? If I climb the mountain and stay out of the spotlights, will I get to the boss fight? Is this the end of the first biome? Did I actually make it?
  • Nope, the damn door is locked.
  • Wait, this next room looks promising. Is that the boss? That looks like the boss. But what is all this other stuff? WHY ARE THERE TREES HERE? AHHH! FLYING THINGS! I have to dodge all this crap and fight the boss at the same time? DODGE! JUMP! SHOOT! SHOOT!
  • And, I'm dead.

Returnal releases on PlayStation 5 on April 30. So far, it is pretty sweet, but it likes punching you in the face. You can kind of hear it drooling and laughing every time you die. Look for our full review on April 29.