Tag Archives: Roguelike

Ziggurat (PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC)

Developer(s) – Milkstone Studios

Publisher(s) – Milkstone Studios

First released on Steam Early Access back in 2014, and going on to see both digital and physical releases on multiple platforms, Ziggurat is a Roguelike first-person shooting dungeon crawler, somewhat reminiscent of Tower of Guns, with a heavy emphasis on combat, player character development and above all, challenge. After having played Tower of Guns, I had fairly high expectations of how good this game would be, and how it would do the things is does; overall, I was not disappointed.

Graphics – 8/10

The game takes place in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world bearing resemblance to game series’ such as Warcraft or Baldur’s Gate. The graphical quality of the title is stunning, especially for a game developed independently, but more importantly, it also does extremely well to break away from games that were clearly taken as influence by incorporating a massive variety of unique creatures and boss characters, such as Sir Arthur and Lady Audrey. Cutting edge graphics can mean much less if there isn’t variety in conceptual design, but this game has both.

Gameplay – 8/10

The basic premise of gameplay, along with the game’s story, is that an apprentice wizard must take on the challenge of the Ziggurat in order to graduate from his order. Players must undertake increasingly difficult tasks of ascending the floors of the Ziggurat, which are filled with dangerous monsters and challenging obstacles throughout. Players can take advantage of a massive choice of different weapons, spells and perks that can found across the game in order to survive for as long as possible, and to try and eventually graduate from the wizard’s order. Locations, enemies and bosses, in Roguelike tradition, are procedurally generated, an thus does each playthrough provide a new set of challenges every time, keeping the game insanely fresh, and giving it virtually infinite replay value, which can make for hours upon hours of fun.

Controls – 10/10

Belonging to a genre that has dominated the video gaming market since the sixth generation, Ziggurat’s controls are perfect, providing no unnecessary complications, straightforward control mechanics and incorporating all aspects of gameplay seamlessly. The fact that the player character moves faster than in most other first-person shooters also provides quite a lot of fluency for players who have mastered it after a while, as it can become quite satisfying to be able to effectively dodge a wide variety of simultaneous enemy attacks. By the same token, it can also provide an equal amount of challenge to newcomers, since it can be quite easy to rush through unexplored areas, and accidentally fall for a number of given obstacles such as lava pits.

Originality – 7/10

Though Ziggurat is not the first game of it’s kind to incorporate the basic premise of gameplay that it does, it stands out for a massive number of different reasons; the variety in gameplay combat options it provides, as well as it’s conceptual design and artistic direction in terms of visuals. Although it’s clearly not without it’s influences, it provides a marvellous gaming experience that greatly shines throughout the indie developer community, and it’s certainly worth playing again and again.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Ziggurat is a highly enjoyable game, filled with challenge, entertainment and a staggering amount of replayability. It looks great, it plays out wonderfully, and stands out as one of the better gaming experiences on eighth generation hardware.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

The Binding of Isaac (PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS & Xbox One)

Designer(s) – Edmund McMillan & Florian Himsl

Created by Edmund McMillan, the same mind behind the infamously difficult Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac is a Roguelike that can be seen as a love letter to the original Legend of Zelda game, but with its own very unique twists. Regardless of how morbid this game can seem to many people, it’s also a particularly enjoyable one to play. But be warned: it isn’t for those who are easily offended.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals, rendered in the same artistic style as Super Meat Boy, contain a lot of unique, yet taboo elements in things like the various power-ups that can be found in the game, and especially in it’s creature roster, with it being capped off by some of the most compellingly disturbing bosses I’ve ever seen in video games. The only gripe I have with it is that the settings can get a little repetitious at times, but the various DLC packages and re-releases fixed that problem to a certain extent.

Gameplay – 8/10

Playing out with mainly the dungeon crawling aspects of The Legend of Zelda series, it involves simply killing all enemies, and the boss at the end of each stage, then rinse and repeat. But each playthrough is different, as ever section of every stage is randomly generated, presenting players with new power-ups and a new challenge every time. It’s quite testing, but not to the point of being unforgiving, which after playing Super Meat Boy, was like a breath of fresh air to me.

Controls – 10/10

There are also no issues with the controls. There are obstacles present in certain areas of each stage, such as floor spikes and bombs that could detonate unexpectedly, but whether or not the player survives is entirely dependant on their own level of skill, which is how I think games like this should be. At times, players are required to think on their toes in order to accommodate for what abilities and perks they may or may not have; especially during boss fights.

Lifespan – 10/10

As each playthrough presents a new challenge and experience every time, the game quite literally has infinite replay value. I love to see this in any game, but it’s particularly noteworthy when an indie developer manages to accomplish this, since I hear many developers and critics citing that the budget may have been a factor in a game’s development cycle. But especially considering that this started out as a mere Flash game, and would have cost next to nothing to create, it says to me that the limitations stem from the developer’s imaginations.

Storyline – 8/10

The story is extremely reminiscent of the Bible story of the same name. It follows a young boy named Isaac, who once lived peacefully with his mother, until the voice of God called out to her to “cut her son off from the world’s evils”, and lock him in his room. God finally calls out to Isaac’s mother, demanding that she sacrifice her son to him as proof that she loves God above all. But before his mother can burst to kill him, Isaac jumps down a trap door in his bedroom to plunge into the dangerous depths below, and into a world of danger. The story is extremely controversial, containing a number of mature themes and taboos, including, suicide, child neglect, religious hypocrisy, infanticide; the list goes on. But above all, it’s very enjoyable for those willing to take heed to the lessons conveyed within it.

Originality – 7/10

Though there have been many Roguelike games to have come and gone, this is a game that stands out among most others. It goes where other games and developers are generally afraid to go. After Super Meat Boy, I resented the development of such a game. But The Binding of Isaac has made me respect Edmund McMillan a great deal more than I did as a developer; especially since this was also a very personal game for him, as many of the game’s events were in fact based on his own childhood experiences.

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Binding of Isaac, whilst being the most controversial game I’ve ever played, is also one of the more enjoyable. It has everlasting replay value, as well as a story and premise that has rightfully propelled Edmund McMillan into a very special place in gaming history.

Score

50/60

8/20 (Very Good)

Rogue Legacy (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Cellar Door Games

Designer(s) – Kenny & Teddy Lee

Rogue Legacy is a 2D randomly generated semi-open world side scroller RPG, requiring the player to adapt to a wide variety of different dangers throughout, and coming up with as much gold and as many different upgrades with each playthrough. Although it is particularly demanding of it’s players in terms of individual skill, and it does take a bit of time to get the game’s fundamentals right to start, it can turn into a very enjoyable gaming experience within a quick enough time frame, without it being far too inaccessible like the games that it was based on.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals of the game extremely reminiscent of that of some of the earlier years of console gaming, containing finely designed 16-bit pixel art throughout, as well as even some 8-bit music in it’s soundtrack. In many different ways, besides the graphics, the game can be seen as a love letter to a number of early Castlevania games; namely the original trilogy, as well as Symphony of the night, given the fact that the majority of the game takes place within and around a castle filled with tons of different enemies to have to overcome.

Gameplay – 8/10

The game requires the player to traverse the Castle Hampson, and it’s other surrounding areas, to simply kill as many enemies as possible and accumulate as much gold as possible in order to pay for upgrades, which will in turn make each succeeding player character stronger in order to eventually conquer the castle’s four bosses, and open the door to the game’s final boss. Every time a character dies, the player must then select an heir to that character, and return to the castle to simply rinse and repeat. What I like about this game so much is that the player character is almost always different in stature, ability and strength, forcing players to compromise accordingly, and adapt to multiple styles of play. The game demands diversity, exploration of gameplay variety and experimentation; all whilst not being too punishing like many other retro 2D side scrollers.

Controls – 9/10

The only grip I have with the controls is that they can be a little bit unresponsive at time, which in turn can lead to making unforced errors here and there. But by no means does this make the game unplayable. The control scheme, as well as the success of the game heavily relies on players ability to adapt to things such as character variety, enemy patterns and being as prepared as possible for the unexpected.

Lifespan – 10/10

With an intense learning curve, as well as the facility to fight harder variations of the five bosses in the game, with the reward for beating them being an additional unlockable character, this game offers almost unlimited replay value; especially since it offers a different experience every time. It could be argued that one playthrough would take a few hours, but I believe playing through the entire game in one sitting will be a rarity.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

The game is also like an arcade title, in the respect that there is really no fixed plot, but only a basic premise, which is described through the basic premise of gameplay. There is a side quest present in which the player must find a series of journals left behind by the castle’s prince, giving a small element of back story, which to me, acts as nothing more than a bonus, since this game didn’t need a fixed story, and by proxy, it isn’t marred down by any kind of feeble attempt at establishing one.

Originality – 6/10

Let it never be dais that this game clearly has it’s influence in terms of both visual style and the basic premise of it’s gameplay. It even bears some resemblance to the same basic premise of many other video games before story was as much of a focus as it is today. It does however score points in terms of originality for it’s positive modifying of a very popular gaming formula, since no other game of it’s kind (that I’ve played anyway), has been able to offer such a huge amount of replay value.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, I would go so far as to say that Rogue Legacy is the greatest Metroidvania game I have ever played. It may sound like an extremely controversial opinion, but I’ve never played Super Metroid. But as it stands, this definitely tops the list as far as I’m concerned.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Flame Over (PC, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation Vita)

Developer(s) – Laughing Jackal

Released last year to overwhelmingly positive critical response, Flame over is a shoot ‘em up Roguelike centring on fire fighting, playing out like a mixture between Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Luigi’s Mansion and Rogue Legacy. Expecting a more simple and casual experience, I entered Frame Over with a somewhat lethargic mindset, only to be greeted by a wonderfully hectic and satisfyingly challenging experience that kept me on my toes and thinking on my feet.

Graphics – 7/10

The game’s visuals are somewhat dated, looking like it could easily be ran on a PlayStation 2, but due to it being an isometric top-down game, and since the settings and elements appear further away, they also appear in more detail that what they actually are up-close, which was a clever way of making a game that will have been made on a budget look as good as it possibly could have done. The conceptual design isn’t too bad either, since each of the four different kinds of stages stand out from one another in their own unique ways; some of which provides the basis of how each stage comes with it’s own set of challenges. To me, however the game’s soundtrack is the most prominent element of the game’s atmosphere; it’s definitely one of the most stellar soundtracks I’ve heard in an indie game so far.

Gameplay – 8/10

The object of the game is to travel from floor to floor of a business firm called Infernal Industries, and completely extinguish all first on each floor before the time runs out. Additional time and health are made available for rescuing workers and stray cats scattered across the building. Upgrades and additional power-ups are also available to buy and unlock throughout the course of each playthrough to more effectively combat fire, as well as increase things like speed and water capacity. The best thing about this game in my opinion is how challenging it is without it being completely inaccessible which is why it reminds me quite a lot of Rogue Legacy. But as well as it being challenging, it’s also insanely addictive, and kept fresh by the fact that each floor is randomly generated, so each playthrough provides a new challenge every time.

Controls – 10/10

The controls are also perfectly simple to get grips with too, and will present no unnecessary complications to players. Obstacles to slow players down are actually hidden quite subtly throughout in the form of tables and desks, which would also be very true to life, since the more obstruction there is in a building the more difficult it would be for firemen to move around and to evacuate people in the event of a fire. The game’s control scheme is also the main reason why it reminds me of Luigi’s Mansion, since both games seem to play out somewhat similarly.

Originality – 9/10

Not only does this game stand out greatly among the indie gaming community, but it also stands out within gaming in general to a phenomenal extent. Though there have been a few games released since the second generation to centre around the concept of fire fighting, such as towering Inferno for the Atari 2600 and Real Heroes: Firefighter for the Wii and DS, this game is definitely the most challenging and invigorating of it’s kind that I’ve ever had the enjoyment of playing through.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Frame Over is one of the best indie titles I’ve played since the indie community began to take greater prominence in the late 2000s. It’s fast-paced, challenging, addictive and unique; and comes highly from me.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)