Sonic Boom Doom Looms

Nah, just kidding. It looks fun! I just wanted to type that out.

The most-discussed Sonic Boom news would be the redesigned characters, obviously. I might try to play down the importance of a cosmetic change in other circumstances, but I can understand why so many gamers have been taken aback here. Sonic is a mascot character — the design -is- the character. The Blue Blur’s design has been consistent for nearly Continue reading Sonic Boom Doom Looms

Rogue Legacy is the Best Castlevania Game I’ve Played in a Decade

There are differences.  Rogue Legacy takes itself much less seriously, to be sure.  Any time I pick up the controller I might see a silhouette of Santa Claus and his reindeer flying by in a haunted forest or find myself in control of a warrior with a bad case of forever farts.  But the first tell came the second I witnessed the heroes’ ridiculously gallant stride: this one’s being played for laughs.  All the better.

An odd air of foreboding lurks in spite of this madness.  It’s a strange sensation mirrored in the soundtrack, which I swear is almost peppy behind all of the creepy guitar squeals.  Light chiptune elements gave me flashbacks toHarmony of Dissonance.  Death can come from any of the randomly-generated rooms, and it brings real consequences.  Billed as a “rogue-lite,”  Legacy intends finality for any character who fails within the castle walls.  Kind enough to allow the fallen one’s offspring to empower themselves with any collected gold and eventually enter the re-arranged fortress themselves, but not kind enough to let the player keep their hands on any preferred hero.  If Sir Guy the Fifth is the best generated character of the game so far, too bad, he’s dead!  Try again.

These offspring seeking to avenge a death in the family are more than names.  They’re the games big selling point, really.  Each descendant will represent a different character class — Knight, Mage, Shinobi… — and be host to one or more genetic traits.  They might be nearly blind, fully colorblind, a dwarf small enough to take advantage of hidden passages, or so inept they can only shoot spells out of their butt.  Only a few of the possibilities.

The family tree ends up as a better marketing hook than game mechanic.  I like how each assault on the castle can feel fresh by the combinations of traits and character class I end up with, but too many are disadvantageous.  Dealing with vertigo and having the screen flipped upside-down is funny the first time, but does cause a genuinely sickening physical reaction and should never appear again.  Being faced with a choice between three debilitated siblings kills motivation.  Why put extra effort into a less enjoyable playthrough when I can re-roll a new batch of potential heroes by setting down the controller and letting baddies defeat the current one?  Wasting my time like that should not be the more appealing alternative, so I can only peg it as flawed design.

The smooth controls and attractive handdrawn-meets-pixels art style are the real draw for Rogue Legacy.  Heroes glide across the screen with ease, attacks have a meaty sense of impact, and optional upgrades allow double-jumping or even temporary flight.  Mobility is the ultimate joy of the game, the key that makes the level-upping and boss-hunting worthwhile. Pacing is quick all around, and my average lifespan for a single hero was between 10-15 minutes.  Maybe less.  I’m not very good!

image credit: gameskinny

Character building allows enough freedom to gain health or magic back with each kill, receive more gold, or reap benefits from facing more difficult enemies.  The benefits of that last one also happen to be gold, so maybe variety wouldn’t have hurt.  Certain combinations can make a big difference during the five boss fights, however.

A minor story is at work, and journal entries strewn throughout the castle tell most of it.  I enjoyed these snippets of monologue more than expected since they host some of the most comical and haunting moments of the game.  Otherwise, it’s an afterthought and ended sooner than I would have liked.  More intriguing exposition comes from rooms displaying a large portrait, each one dedicated to a different title Cellar Door Games have worked on in the past.  Breaking the fourth wall somehow feels totally natural for Rogue Legacy, so of course interacting with these portraits gives you snippets of insight about the designers’ experience during creation of whichever game is shown.  Each is warm, down-to-earth, and uplifting.  Those short stories will stick with me at least as well as the rest of the game.

I might have enjoyed Rogue Legacy more without the dominating recurrence of random offspring, but this speaks to a strong core of the game.  I’d have explored the castle time and time again without gimmicks to guide me.  $15 is a small price to ask for a charming and addictive love letter to the action-platformer classics we don’t see much of anymore.