By – Brandon Dayton
Rogus: Kingdom of The Lost Souls, developed by Irondrop Studios, presents a different spin on the old classic side scrolling platformer. Instead of being greeted with some geezer in a bathrobe, we are given a nimble double-jumping old man who just happens to summon lightning, throw fireballs and shapeshift at will. What will he do with such immense power? Why, he’ll try to get the highest score in the entire realm, of course! Not that there are many other takers for paving a path of bodies into a goblin-infested dungeon. Watch in awe as he almost tumbles into a pit, but sprouts wings at the last moment and saves himself.
A fireball-launching goblin nearly catches him in midair, but his shield is up in the blink of an eye and he returns fire. What was once a goblin is now a pile of crispy ashes. The old man stomps through what remains of the goblin on his relentless march to prove himself as the guy who deserves to have his name and high score up on the placard in the tavern.
Not so eloquent, but damn accurate. As he thinks of a cool new nickname, bark covers his skin. He becomes a humongous, unstoppable Ent. His score rises higher and higher, but he can’t return like this. Do they make signboards out of Ents? Suddenly, the man realizes that he’s broken his own high score. In the sudden excitement, he casts his shield instead of jumping. In less than an instant, it’s all over. As you look back, you might forget how much fun was had platforming so precisely through a gaggle of goblins, but the high score table never will.
This was a small taste of my first few attempts at an arcade-style roguelike platformer called Rogus. Within the first few minutes one thing will become quite apparent. This game wants you to work for your high score. The environment is rendered nicely, however the only screens are that of the tavern, and of the dungeon.
While in the tavern you will pick your spells loadout, once that’s complete you can head to the dungeon and run to the right until you meet your end. While the one linear level is randomly generated, Rogus is still always fair, never presenting challenges that are impossible to overcome as long as you’re properly equipped. You will never move your character in Rogus apart from casting spells or jumping. The game chugs along at a nice brisk pace, and your character is locked in place on the screen. It does take some getting used to, but I found it quite advantageous. Due to the fast nature of the game, being able to concentrate fully on spellcasting is quite important.
There are two types of enemies in Rogus. They will either fling fireballs, or move toward the left of your screen. If the walking enemies meet a ledge, they will start packing heat too. If you jump too far, you’ll land on the enemy’s head. Presumably, since you’re in a bathrobe, this will kill you. Jump over the enemy and they’ll start flinging fireballs at your back, there are multiple ways to remedy this but almost all of them require a spell.
The sweet spot is right in front of the enemy. Don’t hesitate to clear bad guys with your sword. Pixel perfect platforming is a requirement for this game. Now I hear you shouting at your computer screen, “But Brandon, shouldn’t wizards always use their sweet spells?” Perhaps. Except when usage of your spells detracts from your overall score, and in a game where your real aim is to do nothing except beat your previous high score it becomes quite an internal struggle. Should I turn into a rat to slip by enemies, or kill them to get points so I can massacre some more as an Ent a little bit later? Clearing ledges before you leap is nice, but excessive use of fireball is discouraged if you want to make any real progress on the high score table.
The retro style is something that I actually enjoy about this game. There is plenty of color in the tavern, and it fits well with the lighthearted mood they are trying to set. Rogus is pretty to look at and fairly clear what everything is, but not necessarily what it does. The spells in the game use your score as mana, but to equip these spells you’ll need to go around the tavern and find different items that can be used to channel the spell. The wheel of cheese will turn you into a rat, and the peppers grant the gift of glorious fireballs. In total there are currently two spells to start, and only six once you’ve completed the story.
Overall they are quite fun to mix and match, but I can only want for a bit more. There are four slots on your action bar, so after only two runs you will have seen all the spells the game currently offers. Perfecting the usage of these spells and delving deeper into the dungeon than ever before is the real draw, but a bit more magic never hurt anybody. You will find the music in the game is serious, which is extremely fitting for a game set in Medieval times. When death is around every theoretical corner, the sound of wardrums seems a lot more real.
The story is almost humorously short. I had it completed in about 30 minutes, but I kept going back to get a better score hoping to see more, or unlock another spell. While the story tries to be deeper than it actually is, the message conveyed is thought-provoking. However cool the story might be, I did come away from it feeling the need for more. More story, more spells, more anything. Even without the sense of actual progression, I’ve found myself binging on this game. I will likely continue to do so long after this review is written. There’s just something about seeing your score turn golden and knowing that you’re breaching new territory that is viscerally exciting to my lizard-brain. If we do well enough, the king might even stop by to scrawl a new silly phrase on the tavern placard.
I played Rogus with a mouse and keyboard. There are options available for controller, however I was unable to get mine to function at all with this game. After redownloading drivers, wiggling my controller around in the USB port, and a reset, it was decided for me that I didn’t really need a controller. You can turn the music on and off, and reset the high score here. (Blasphemy!) The game can also be set to windowed or fullscreen, however there are no actual resolution settings. While scaling the window to any size might be pleasing to some, I find it quite frustrating as a YouTuber to ensure that I’m recording at the right resolution. No keybindings, but it doesn’t make too much of a difference since the default layout is perfectly acceptable. There were no bugs or crashes during my many hours of play.
I found Rogus to be a fun experience. It lacks progression aside from the high score table, but apparently that’s all it takes to get me going these days. There are plenty of swell hack’n’slash games, superb wizard games and smashing platforming games. But none of them can quite contend with the blend that Rogus has to offer. I lament that there are not a ton of abilities to pick from, or customization in any form for your little wizard. If the game had a bit more depth, even if it was just in the story the praise would be much higher. Trust me though, it is still a damn fine game. The controls are fantastically tight. The game mechanics are twitchy and brutal to the point that you almost become addicted, always hunting the taste of that next score.
Conclusion- Is it Worth Your Money?
For $8 there is a ton of fun to be had blasting enemies with a variety of spells as an awesomely powerful, yet pixelated battle wizard. If you enjoy a steep difficulty curve, and beating your own high score into the dirt as much as I do, Rogus was made for you.