Review: Utopia 9 – A Volatile Vacation

Jan 31, 2019


Thanks to QubicGames for providing GWW with this review build.

  • Easy to follow Rogue-like gameplay loop
  • Affordable price ($9.99)
  • Awkward controls

Utopia 9, developed by Whalegun and published by QubicGames, is a must-play for any Switch owners that love a good Rogue-like game. Getting into the action happens quickly - no lengthy introductory cut-scenes or unnecessary tutorials. Once you’re in the game you may find the controls are difficult to get used to.

What’s Good

In Utopia 9, you play as a traveler who is a guest of a scam resort. The goal is survival and every time you die - and die you shall - the incident is reported to the travel agency. Between starting and dying are some easy to understand mechanics: you can equip melee and ranged weapons, a single piece of armor and a utility item (e.g. grenade). With every kill you collect a small amount of purple gems, which increase your Soylent level. Once you’ve reached the peak you effectively “level up” and have 1 of several random mutations to select from. Each mutation makes you a little more effective in combat, but you lose that mutation upon death. What you don’t lose permanently are your weapons. When you die, the enemy who killed you is transformed into a mini-boss. The game’s map will reflect his location and you can choose to hunt him down and reclaim your gear. Finally, another non-vanishing buff are the skills you can redeem upon rebirth at the very first stage. Every time you progress further down the map, you gain travel points. If you’ve ever owned a timeshare, you know the pain of travel points.

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This loop happens quickly. In my first couple of hours in Utopia 9, I died within 1 to 3 levels. It took accumulating travel points to finally get myself some buffs that gave me the advantage I needed to survive. Along the way you’ll see various themes of vacation and travel. Your starting melee weapon is a suitcase and fallen enemies will drop t-shirts. It’s pretty funny stuff.

The map has several locations/levels to progress through and each one is sort of like building your character in an RPG. Before choosing the next location you’re given a brief preview of the types of items you’ll find there, such as shell weapons or explosive weapons. If you have a hankering for those weapon types or you have mutations that match them, then it makes sense to go there. The map isn’t as intense as Dead Cells, but it’s a similar concept.

What Needs Improvement

Eek…the controls. Ammo isn’t prevalent, so each shot matters. The game’s combat feels like a twin stick shooter. If you’ve ever played Nex Machina or Alienation, the combat is similar, which is a huge compliment to the folks at Whalegun. The one thing I would change, however, is the use of the right analog stick. It’s currently used for aiming your weapon. There is a reticle that displays when you’re moving the nub. But since your bullets travel in a straight line and both your character and the enemies move often, it’s difficult to line up the perfect strike. It was easier on the Pro Controller than the Joy Cons, but it’s still not easy to use. After several hours my accuracy wasn’t much better. What did improve is my sense of timing with regard to avoiding enemy gunfire. What would be a great solution, in my opinion, would be for the character’s aim to adjust with the left analog stick. So if you’re facing due West and move to the right, your aim would change to the right as well. Leaving the right analog stick for fine aim adjustments.

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Who is it For?

Any fan of rogue-like games should pick up Utopia 9. At just $9.99 on Switch and $11.99 on Steam, there is little risk to regret your purchase. Besides, it’s a vacation you’ll never forget.

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