Title: Roving Rogue
Developer: PadaOne Games
Platforms: Wii U
Every once in a while, a game comes along that brings something revolutionary to the table, such as a new gameplay mechanic, an interesting method of storytelling, a new type of control scheme, or any number of other innovations. Sometimes, these experiments change gaming as we know it; other times, they amount to nothing more than a footnote in gaming history. It’s a shame that Roving Rogue is an example of a game that falls into the latter camp. It introduces clever ideas that look good on paper, but ultimately are poorly implemented.
Roving Rogue is an 8-bit platformer with an interesting twist: you start at the end of the story, just after defeating the last boss, and then you must work your way backwards to unravel the mystery of how you got to that point. You play as the titular rogue, Kurt the Righteous, who has just defeated the evil sorcerer, Zorn the Vile, and saved the land of Arpeegya. Unfortunately, Kurt has lost his memory so now he must retrace his steps and uncover the story of his heroic journey.
As Kurt, you navigate your way around an enormous castle by means of a floaty jump and a short-range teleport ability. You mustn't dawdle, though, because every level contains an ever-pursuant danger from which you must flee (rising lava in the vertical levels and falling rocks in the horizontal ones). If you get caught up for too long while trying to traverse through the level, you'll meet an early end. Add to this a variety of enemy types intent on your demise, and you have the recipe for a very challenging adventure. It all sounds good in theory, right? Well, here's where it starts to fall apart. The game's controls are spotty at best. There are times when the teleport ability works great; in an instant, you can transport yourself behind an enemy or through certain walls. But there are other times, often within the same minute, when the teleport just doesn't work. I can't count how many times I tried teleporting Kurt, only to watch as he went too far and fell to his death, or stayed in the same spot and was overtaken by the lava. I had fewer issues with the jumping mechanics, but even in this area there are some frustrations to be found. I noticed that any time Kurt would land on the corner of a platform following a jump, he would freeze for a second and I'd be unable to move. It felt as if the game needed that time to decide if I actually made the jump or not. This led to even more needless deaths during my time with the game.
The concept of starting at the end of the story and working backwards is a novel one, but the story itself is locked behind the collectibles in the game. Every level contains three statues that you must obtain in order to recover Kurt's memories. This means that you will never know the full story unless you collect every one of these statues. At first, I was all in. I wanted to try to collect all of the statues in order to learn Kurt's story. However, it wasn't long before I gave up on that idea entirely. The flawed teleportation mechanic makes it nearly impossible to collect some of the statues, so I quickly lost interest in Roving Rogue's narrative.
That said, the game isn't completely a lost cause; there is some charm and fun to be had within Roving Rogue’s pixelated walls. I enjoyed the assortment of enemies found throughout this 8-bit adventure. There are flame wizards who shoot deadly fireballs your way, and frost wizards who hurl icy blasts at you in the hopes of slowing you down. There are goblins that shoot arrows whenever you enter their line of sight. Red knights won't hurt you, but they'll charge at you and shove you off of platforms. Silence Monks are surrounded by a field that blocks your teleportation ability. All of these baddies working in concert make for some interesting and challenging gameplay moments. The last level was particularly memorable. It was extremely difficult to complete, but very gratifying when I got through each section. I'm thankful that there are plenty of checkpoints throughout each level, so I didn't have to start over at the very beginning every time I died.
Overall, Roving Rogue is a game with some cool ideas that just fall flat. I like the concept of the narrative being told in reverse. However, I'll never know the full story because the poor controls made it too difficult to collect all of the statues. Some of the platforming challenges are well done, but I was ultimately disappointed and frustrated by the flawed teleportation mechanic.
- Unique story concept
- Cool assortment of enemies
- Teleportation is fun when it works...
- ...and MADDENING when it doesn't!
- Poor controls
- Story is locked behind collectibles