|July 2, 2015
|ESRB – Everyone
So, you play a video game. You finish said video game. You slay the dragon and save the princess. Very well done! One question remains: Have you ever thought about what happens after the credits? Doesn’t the hero have to walk all the way back from where they came? As a 2D platformer, Roving Rogue answers these questions in spades. The real question is, does the sojourn backwards from Chapter 6 to Chapter 1 deliver in a fruitful experience while you find out the answer to these questions?
In Roving Rogue, you play as Kurt the Righteous. He can’t remember a darn thing except for the fact that he just beat a final boss, was told “A Winner Is You” and the credits scrolled past him. Meta-humor is just awesome. I can’t get enough of it. Now he has to return to the beginning of the game and collect memories in statuettes along the way through levels to restore his memory. You collect three per level and, if you collect all three in a level, you get a full page of dialog in your journal. Of course, the story in the journal is told backwards! This is great stuff!
Then the game continues from here and nothing happens. Roving Rogue just flat out pulls punches on this backwards traveling idea. The levels don’t really incline or decline in difficulty, and it’s rather static. At the beginning of each level, you are tortured by horribly corny tweets and futile attempts at being “cool” and “with the times” with tweets and hashtags.
The creativity is just not there in the level design or its meta-concept. With the meta-concept of this game, I have a question: How come you still progress through levels Left to Right? I can understand up to down and down to up can be debated, but why not do levels from Right to Left? It would actually be a challenge to play differently from how you’re used to playing, holding left on the D-pad instead right. Why doesn’t the level of difficulty decline instead of incline (although it does neither) if we’re playing through a game backwards? It makes absolutely no sense.
The gameplay is not much different from other platformers. One button jumps and the other button teleports (as a double jump). Get used to doing that a lot, the level design is very attached to this mechanic. I think that’s silly design to map it to a second button, but in its defense, Roving Rogue automatically makes you hit vulnerable enemies with your sword on contact. It took me a bit to figure out that it’s actually more intuitive that way. The physics feel very ho-hum and reserved, and it feels sluggish. The level design is uninspired and unoriginal. Every single level is a forced moving level. When progressing horizontally, you are chased by generic falling boulders if you move too slow. When progressing vertically, you are chased by generic rising lava, even in the ice levels!
You have infinite lives and you have checkpoints. The checkpoints get very unevenly placed and can end up being placed literally one or two screens away from each other. Roving Rogue seems very negligible to level design psychology and can became tedious. If you can access opposite of the intended direction at the beginning of the level or go farther than the level’s exit door, there’s going to be a statuette there. In the off-chance that there isn’t, it can go on for a minute more worth of level, only to find nothing. Did they misplace the door when developing the levels? Did they forget to move the door further along when adding more of a level? The only thing that increases in difficulty is the enemies and, even then, it seems like they’ll just throw in a barely-varying gimmick. I even tried to add in the statuettes and it still just felt not stimulating. If statuettes ever make anything remotely challenging, it’s because it is put in a completely unfair location where it seems like there’s no logical reasoning. Any actual difficulty in progression just becomes trial and error (looking at you, generic teleporters). In just a four-hour campaign with just over 40 brief levels, it’s quite a wonder that it feels so long.
There is a multiplayer mode in Roving Rogue if you’re feeling up to it. It’s really just the same levels just with co-op. It might make things a bit more social with a bunch of pals around, with up to four players allowed. While I am pointing this out, Roving Rogue commits a very frustrating trend that many Wii U titles are guilty of. You support the Wii U GamePad, claim support for the Wii U Pro Controller and Wii Remotes, only to find out that you can only use them in multiplayer. I would have been dying to play this with a Wii Remote on its side (like an NES controller), it only makes sense being that it’s a retro-inspired title. I despise this trend, and it needs to go. I also despise the trend of not using the Wii U GamePad functionality at all. It’s a static second screen with no tapable features. This is the eighth generation, I expect a game made for this platform to actually try to use these new features. Off-TV play just doesn’t cut it. Not being able to select the level on the bottom screen is a terribly missed opportunity — a simple thing like that would have helped.
The graphics are cute and serve the purpose of being retro feeling. They’re very repetitive in the levels, though, and it feels like a lot of cut-and-paste work is done. The screen transitions between completing levels and entering levels are tacky — no fade-ins or fade-outs; it just jerks from a loading animation to where you’re supposed to be. The sounds do their job, nothing to really complain about here. The music is a complete bore, and I would rather listen to paint dry than to listen to the music. The music is dryer than the paint I had mentioned. It’s as memorable as a trip to the DMV.
Roving Rogue is a very fresh idea with a poor execution, muddled with mediocre levels and a lot of punches being pulled in a disappointing fashion. Players will be thrilled at the idea of playing through a game backwards only to find that it feels the exact same as playing through a game forwards. It’s a shame because the game actually sinks deep hooks into you and pulls you in. Those hooks instead decide to pull you into a boring focus group meeting with a bunch of suits who think that hashtags and in-jokes are hip. The $8 price tag seems questionable and would be more suitable for $5 at best. The idea of Roving Rogue was to make a game that you play through backwards, but the experience you get is pretty straightforward.
Review copy provided by publisher