Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Red Rogue (PC/Mac/Linux)

My first ever contact with a roguelike RPG was in the early 1990's when I turned left down a tunnel and ended up losing almost a whole day to a public domain game on the Amiga, the name of which sadly now escapes me (possibly Moria? - JM). It was a game with that brilliant stupidity that often appears with roguelikes, and was bags of "ah well, I died, who cares" fun.

That's the big secret about roguelikes. They look complex and poindexterish but a lot of them are pure distilled gameplay crammed into a single dimension and covered in ASCII sauce. Or at least, they are how I play them.

Red Rogue throws a Potion of Side Scroller over the standard roguelike setup, flipping the roguelike genre on its side and giving us a lateral look into the dungeon as our heroine Rogue and her minion Minion battle orcs, kobolds and vampires among others and try to get past level four of the dungeon without Minion dying. Or at least, that's how I play it!

The game offers both a "dogmatic RPG" option which retains the roguelike system of action only proceeding with button presses from the player and an Action RPG mode which makes for some ultra fast swashbuckling and messy player deaths. Those goblins can shift when they want to.

A wonderful thing about roguelikes is how they generate stories, despite their barren graphics, and Red Rogue is no exception to this rule. With its perfect mix of grit and silliness an hour of bashing through the Red Rogue dungeon will give any player a bunch of tales of ridiculous violence, shitty luck and nymph-harpooning to throw at their friends ad nauseam. Or at least, that's how I annoy my mates.

Roguelike mechanics like camping to regain health, area search and disarm commands and randomly generated levels and treasure are in full effect in Red Rogue, and edible, throwable, castable runes do a great job of doing the work of potions and scrolls simultaneously. Eating the hearts of enemies regains health (although I was a bit trepidatious the first time I made our heroine eat a vampire heart) and armour and weapons of weird and wonderful kinds are all kicking around ripe for the plundering.

Unlike the average roguelike there's no representation of character statistics other than hit points, level and an activity bar (which sounds more fun than it is) and there doesn't appear to be random characteristic generation. Deal breaker? Hell no. I've played and loved quite a few roguelikes which don't offer the player choice of character classes or races but are still brilliant games. Red Rogue isn't an exercise in sticking to roguelike templates, more like a roguelike which ate the heart of a platformer to take its strength.

Red Rogue's graphics are the kind of stylised, black and white and a bit of red, blocky visuals that I love. The soundtrack wafts between mournful and imposing and the death animations are often hilarious. Watching the decapitated corpse of a kobold running down a tunnel with blood spouting from its neck while Minion kicks its head away never gets old. Ever.

A neat two player mode which makes for crowded company around a laptop adds to the fun, and the option to enter numerical seeds for the random gameplay generator is a nice touch. Red Rogue is brilliant fun, either in dogmatic or action modes. A good old fashioned dungeon crawl. (I can't help but feel that the name 'Rouge' might have been a tad snappier tho' - JM)

Download the game here (from the Red Rogue website).
4 out of 5