How do we feel about landlords, folks? Terrible, huh? Well, what if I told you that there’s a landlord that only lets you pay rent with… slot machine winnings? Hm? Yeah, I suppose that’s worse, actually.
Luck Be a Landlord by TrampolineTales is one of the latest roguelikes on the block, currently on Steam Early Access. The RNG nature of roguelikes have been distilled into its purest form: a slot machine. Make pulls, make bank, and hope you make enough money for rent.
You start out the game with five symbols on the slot machine. Thankfully, you don’t have to line them up, as you’re just paid for each symbol that you roll – though there are plenty of symbols that pay more if they’re adjacent to certain ones. After a pull, you can add a new symbol to the machine, which is where the depth of Luck Be a Landlord comes in.
Most of the symbols have some kind of gimmick or synergy with other ones to be mindful of. For example, the Snail symbol does not pay out for the first 3 times you get it in a pull, but it will pay 5 coins the fourth time it shows up. But, you can make it better by getting the Checkered Flag passive item, which reduces the timer effect for some symbols by one turn. And from there, you may as well pick up other things that could vibe with the flag. Like the Owl, who normally pays an extra coin every three spins, whose normal pay also increases with a passive that benefits bird symbols or by being adjacent to a Moon symbol in a pull.
Fundamentally, Luck Be a Landlord is a deck builder roguelike. You could stuff the number of symbols in the machine with higher paying ones in the early game, but because only a limited number of symbols can show up on a pull, this will come back to bite you because it could prevent synergies from being pulled off. As the rent gets higher, you’re going to have to rely on synergies more to rake in the big winnings instead of plain high paying symbols, so you have to be mindful of what symbols you take and whether or not you actually want one. Like, getting an Oyster that produces Pearls in the early game seems enticing, but it will stuff your deck… unless you have a Diver or Archaeologist symbol, who will clear out those excess pearls and make money on top of it; but do you want to risk filling up your deck in the hopes of getting one of them in the long run?
While it’s difficult to plan ahead because of the randomized reward pools, there’s a lot of synergies in the game that you can easily pivot to. The Flower symbol you always start with provides a good building block. If a Flower is adjacent to a Rain, Lightbulb or Bee symbol, it pays out more. The Rain and Lightbulb in turn synergizes with the Seed symbol, increasing its chances of growing into a number of different things. It can create more flowers, or it could turn into various fruits. A Chef symbol can make the fruit more valuable, or you can have a Monkey symbol that can eat away the Banana and Coconut symbols; the Banana doesn’t disappear, but it transforms into a Banana Peel symbol which can kill the Thief symbol in a cartoonish way, which also pays you four times the amount the thief steals and rids you of the peel – or more if you have a certain item. So on and so forth.
My main criticism of the game as it is so far is that the only challenge lies in making effective symbol pools for the slot machine to pull on. While the rent continues to rise, there are no curveballs thrown your way. There isn’t anything that could counter your own strategies or demand that you switch things up. As soon as you settle into a groove, it’s smooth sailing, with the only challenge being how far you can get through endless mode it you successfully pay off your rent.
Personally? I think the landlord should fuck around with you, because that’s how it be sometimes. Like maybe they can force certain symbols into your inventory or arbitrarily remove some as part of renovations. Maybe open the way for challenge runs where you’re forced to use a limited pool of symbols to conform to housing codes or personal whims. I think the landlord screwing with you would be a good thing because not only could it provide more variety to the game, but it’d also add more character to the experience.
I actually think that the background music is nice, though it’s one of those games that I like to play while having something else on in the background. As for the visuals, well, it’s a slot machine. What the hell do you want? Do you want intense graphics? Do you want something like one of those Konami pachinko machines?
Luck Be a Landlord is personally one of those games I can easily get into. It’s a low maintenance game in terms of attention and mousing over symbols and items helpfully explains their functions, so you don’t have to look up outside information. It’s a perfect “play while you’re watching something in the background” kinda game. I already enjoy the game as it stands, though as I’ve said, I wish that there are things to mess around with you. Though, the game is of course still in Early Access, so it still has plenty of room to grow.
The title screen acknowledges the game’s growing nature with a confident count-down to when the next update will be. While I think the developer’s transparency is cool, I wish he didn’t put it for his own sake, because I feel that putting a deadline creates expectations that may not be met in the case of emergency – such as his recent issue of accessing his important ADHD medication. The game is already nice as it is and I want my guy to take his time with it if possible.