Category Archives: Reviews

Lone Spelunker by Barking Dog Interactive

Are you sick of hacking thru endless dungeons looking for ancient artifacts to save the world? take a look at Barking Dog Interactive’s in-dev game: Lone Spelunker.

A great adventure awaits for you

A great adventure awaits for you

In Lone Spelunker, you explore dark caverns in a turn-based, puzzle fashion, hoping not to die by falling from a cliff into a horrible dead. And you do all this just for a reason, to take cool selfies of yourself, deep under the ground.

The entrance to a cave, right into an underground puddle

The entrance to a cave, right into an underground puddle

In these caverns, you’ll find no goblins to smash, no magic loot nor evil balrons… it’s only yourself and your curiosity, hoping to discover as much as possible of the cave, while using your tools at hand carefully and patiently.

This shaft was about 230 mt deep. That a long rope!

This shaft was about 230 mt deep. That a long rope!

The movement commands may seem overwhelming at first, but they are rather easy to get accustomed to after a while; you’ll be mostly moving around, jumping and griping into walls, hammering pitons into the walls and shooting ropes from them, ziplining and rapeling  to move quickly between the vast, beautifully rendered underground locations and lakes.

For your first sessions, I think it’s a good idea to keep the instructions on a separate screen all the time, so you can refer to them when needed.

To prevent getting lost in the caverns, you can use the map (though some players may consider it cheating) or a gyrotheodolite / baromether to find your latitude and depth.

To prevent getting lost in the caverns, you can use the map (though some players may consider it cheating) or a gyro-theodolite / barometer to find your latitude and depth.

This game is beautiful, it’s completely rendered on colored ASCII, and you will find it lacks a “look” command because most of the things in the screen are just aesthetic. With the exception of the solid rock, mud, water, your ropes and the hammer-able walls, the rest is just beautiful and colorful underworld.

Careful! any misstep could lead to horrible death!

Careful! any misstep could lead to horrible death!

You can play the game on any computer since it’s web accessible, just create an account and start playing. Have in mind however, that the game is currently in open beta, so some things may not work perfectly.

There's a website where you can share your selfies and discuss the caverns with other players

There’s a website where you can share your selfies and discuss the caverns with other players

The games comes with a set of both randomly generated and fixed cavern complexes; for the fixed caverns you will find they have a list of challenges you may want to complete. They consist basically on finding something special and shooting yourself a selfie with it. The randomly generated caverns, on the other hand, allow yourself to take selfies just for fun, in the cool locations you’ll find underground.

You'll have to plan your moves carefully to get into some locations

You’ll have to plan your moves carefully to get into some locations

As the game is still on beta, you’ll find some small details (for example, I was unable to change facing since Alt + Left caused my Chrome browser to go back, thus deleting my adventure :/). These are however small details since otherwise the game is very enjoyable right now.

The caverns seem to be based on real world locations, you will also learn a bit about spelunking, with the game taking you to wikipedia from time to time for reference.

The caverns seem to be based on real world locations, you will also learn a bit about spelunking, with the game taking you to wikipedia from time to time for reference.

I felt the game could have better lighting effects for both aesthetics and gameplay, I guess the developers choose to leave it this way for practical reasons. Also, providing ambient sound and sound effects (with lots of echo?) would add a lot to the atmosphere.

Now here comes the mandatory question: would you consider this game a roguelike? certainly there’s no hack and slash here, but its turn based (almost completely, with some things like oxygen drop happening in real time), grid based, single character with permanent failure and procedural environments. There is no conflict/combat nor inventory (and thus no resource management), and there’s little in the way of random action outcomes (although sometimes you could save yourself from death by doing a “miracle grip”). But most of the factors are here, plus it’s got ASCII display :)

Play Lone Spelunker now for a different cavern crawling experience!

Reviewed by Slash, priest of Temple of The Roguelike

Caves Roguelike by 36Dev

Caves (Roguelike) is an Android game developed (apparently) by Russian studio 36devs.

Title Screen

Title Screen

There is not a lot of context around the game, but you’ll find yourself exploring a system of caverns. When you are creating a new character you assign your stat points to Strength, Agility and Luck, and your equipment is then randomly chosen (You always start with a melee and ranged weapon, but those may vary between knifes and pistols).

You may find surprises such as skeletons stuck into the walls

You may find surprises such as skeletons stuck into the walls

Mining is an important feature of the game, you can mine almost all of the level except some unbreakable walls, there you may find treasure or just create pathways to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Levels are huge, mining is important to avoid conflicts and get treasure.

Levels are huge, mining is important to avoid conflicts and get treasure.

The game is a bit too hard and may need some balance; you can easily find yourself in hard to survive situations just against your first enemies (Say an armoured skeleton able to deflect all of your attacks, backed by two skeleton archers tearing you from the distance and a goblin stabbing you quicker than you can react).

You may easily find yourself into this kind of situations just starting the game.

You may easily find yourself into this kind of situations just starting the game.

Survival is hard since health crystals are expensive and potions require quaff-identification in order to know their effects, most of the times you’ll find yourself giving up and just mining gold and crystals, since there’s persistent advancement thru the games and after dying you can then use these to buy equipment for your next character.

This is the area where new characters appear, you can buy equipments and skills using your persistent treasury.

This is the area where new characters appear, you can buy equipments and skills using your persistent treasury.

Your best bet may be staying off open areas and dig thru instead, hoping to find a good treasure (armour, weapons, useful potions) while fighting weak skeletons buried in the mud. You can also use some sort of special power allowing you to double your speed and escape dire situations which is very handy.

Caves is a pretty classic roguelike, when you level up you can assign points to skills.

You can always check your status, and when you level up you can assign points to skills.

“Caves” is a classic roguelike with a great mobile UI, it is currently a bit unbalanced and too luck-based, although some strategies may help you get around it. The game seems to be still in development so be sure to check the updated. It’s also free (supported by ads), get it now!

Reviewed by Slash, priest of Temple of The Roguelike

Microgue by Jason Pickering

Today I’ll be reviewing MicRogue, developed by Jason Pickering and published by Crescent Moon Games. It’s available for Android and iOS.

Title Screen

Title Screen

MicRogue is a puzzle game with roguelike elements, similar to Hoplite, where you have to explore a 10 floor tower to find the treasure and return back with it.

Exploring the dungeon

Exploring the dungeon

Each floor is contained on a single screen about 9 x 5 tiles, where you have to get to the stairs up. You will find traps like spikes, rising floors, sudden flames and more. And of course different enemies preventing you from reaching the stairs.

Unique enemies

Unique enemies

The enemies are the highlight of the game; each one has an unique pattern of attack and special effects. Some enemies for example can only attack and move diagonally, where others are just impossible to defeat by your own, and you’ll have to drive them into traps

It... it was a... Hatori Hanzo

It… it was a… Hatori Hanzo

The game is pretty fun and replayable; the free version is supported by Ads but they are not extremely intrusive; I noticed however they make the game crash in some devices.

The player (no class selection) can move or attack two squares in any direction, and can block up to 3 attack with his shield (which can be replenished in-game). The enemy AI is simple and sometimes easily exploitable, but that actually works well given its puzzle nature.

There is also a nifty feature to show the turn order of the enemies so you can take your best choice.

There be dragon

There be dragon

The User Experience is optimized for mobile devices and is pretty comfortable to play. It also helps that the game is not a traditional roguelike, so there’s no inventory, skills or stats to meddle with.

MicRogue is a simple and fun puzzle game with roguelike elements (permadeath, random generation, grid based, turn based), which works great for short gameplay sessions; you will find yourself wanting to give it just another try just to find yourself dead after a small mistake. If you liked Hoplite, but wanted a simpler and more relaxed set of rules, go ahead and play this game!

Reviewed by Slash, priest of Temple of The Roguelike

What a beautiful day. Let’s kill some ugly monsters!

Fame

Author Piotr Bednaruk
Platform Windows, Linux
Version 8.3 (newest available is 8.4)
Website http://sourceforge.net/projects/untitled-rpg/

City at nightBold adventurer, is it fame you are after? Do you want treasure, fight fierce beasts or just to explore the land? This roguelike game, Fame, does not provide any answers for these questions. An adventurer you are and thats it. A manual bundled with the game also remains quiet about your reasons to wander around the world and whack monsters risking your life many times in the process. I found this lack of introduction incongruent with Fame’s otherwise well done plot. Anyway, who really needs a reason to hunt monsters?

Continue reading

Passive-aggressive plants on the prowl

Author Jabb
Platform Linux, Windows (must compile)
Version 15th December 2011
Website https://github.com/jabb/BileBio/

BileBio is a tiny arcade game with roguelike feel. It started as a 1DRL and had some development later. Every game stage has but one aim which is the same every time: reach the stairs alive. The problem is caused by massive plants growing at astonishing speeds. If something would happen to grow on you – it means death, although BileBio does not explain exactly how you die.

Plants in BileBio are combined of roots, flowers and vines. Each part can spawn more of its kind. Roots are indestructible and can spawn new root in any place at the board. They can also burst producing four flowers around it and lots of vines. Flowers grow new plant parts in chess knight pattern while vines grow into adjacent squares. The last two forms can only grow up two times before decaying and withering. Roots sometimes also wither but it is uncommon event. An active plant segment is highlited in red (beware!); decaying segments are displayed in brown.

An elusive thing hinted at in readme is the nectar. Presumably it is worth many energy points and score but I have to encounter one yet. Having reached up to level 31 with 51440 points of score none were generated. None in all games I played. It might be exceedingly rare or not placed due to some bug. Whatever the reason I never found any nectar.

The game presents player with nine abilities to learn at varying costs. These are organized into three branches in which to acquire the higher ability one must have earlier one as a prerequisite. At any time up to three different skills can be learned. Some abilities center around wall usage. Hiding inside one is possible and grants safety for a time. Jumping over a single wall is very helpful in mazes and also cheap. Dash can be quite boon before the growth becomes dense or in short windows of opportunity right after some parts decay. Attacking a plant can be guarantee of survival in some cases but in other jumping over it may be preferable. Finally one can spawn a wall to hide in. The remaining skills have almost prohibitive cost of attaining them. You need to expend sixty points of energy before you can use any and still need more to benefit or fuel previously learned tricks. These are: extra lives (50 energy each), repellent lasting ten turns (costs 10 energy) and energy tripling from nectar (free, but find any nectar first!).

Obstacle and stair arrangement is chosen from a set of twelve handmade maps. Some have multiple exits and plenty of walls to use wall hop or wall walk. Others are mostly empty relying on growing plant life to create variety. Over longer playthrough lack of procedurally generated levels or at least more prepared maps is weak side of BileBio.

There are two factors that factor into difficulty. How many roots are spawned when the stage begins and how fast the plants of given stage get active. At early stages the plant life may die out if helped a bit but with progressing stages the green infestation gets to expand faster and faster.

A specific weak point of the game is unreliable numeric keypad handling. Orthogonal directions are read fine but diagonals are not recognized on every computer. Vi keys are provided as an alternative. That and requirement to compile the game from sources relegates BileBio into obscurity.

To sum up BileBio is a fun thing to try but it is not going to hold your attention for long.

Dungeons of Dredmor

Dungeons of Dredmor: Laugh in the Face of Death

Dungeons of Dredmor received the second spot on the Ascii Roguelike of the Year list so I wanted to delve in and explore this fantastic title a bit more.

Dungeons of Dredmor comes from Gaslamp Games and is by far their biggest title so far. The indie developer is relatively young, but its leaders have been in the game for sometime and have contributed to titles from TimeGate Studios, Piranha Games and Destineer Studios.

These young developers have clearly spent time doing hands-on research of other popular titles (the main character’s propensity for playing a handheld gaming system when you leave him alone long enough reminds me of Commander Keen and adds a humorous touch to the otherwise sadistic game). One of my favorite things about this game is its ability to start from various save points. When this option is turned on, you don’t have to begin at the start of the map after each inevitable death. This feature will probably appeal to gamers who are not as familiar with or attracted to the roguelike format.

The procedural generation of the game means that each move you make has consequences — often dire — that can be reaped almost immediately or five moves later. Your best bet is to construct a character who has thick enough skin to last longer than a few minutes in the maze of death that lies in front of you.

The level of customization that Dungeons of Dredmor allows is only exceeded by the level of fun the game offers. You have the power to choose from 34 different character traits spread across disciplines like magic, thievery, crafting and combat. It would be nice if new skills could be picked up within the game, but I honestly had too much fun delving into the world Gaslamp created to really care too much that I was locked into my player’s skills.

Once again I have to congratulate the makers of the game on the humor they lodged (and sometimes hid) within the game. For example, one of the character types, the Killer Vegan, comes with the tagline “the power of clean living, moral superiority and gluten-magic.” For a game as fatalistic as this — and death is pretty much inevitable here — the game keeps a pretty good sense of humor about itself.

It is exactly this contrast of fun and fatality that makes Dungeons of Dredmor such a fantastic title and one of the best roguelikes to be released in 2011. It will be fun to see what the wisecracking game wizards at Gaslamp have in store for us next.

Author’s Bio: Ryan is a guest blogger who likes to write about everything from social media to gaming to how to get deals using Dell coupons for gaming computers and other accessories. He also writes for the Blog Content Guild.

Check and mate!

ChessRogue

Author Chris Morris
Platform Linux, Windows; (open source)
Version 0.3.1
Website http://chessrogue.sourceforge.net/

ChessRogue: Hiding in a safe tunnelThe name says it all. A rogue on a chessboard. You are the king of white army. In fact you are sole remaining member of said army. But! You can still win by assassinating the black king after you singlehandedly defeat his soldiers. Not the last starfighter story again … Oh well. Roguelikes save for few exceptions have never been good in the plot department. This can be forgiven.

ChessRogue: Nine in a rowChess requires good strategy to win against a competent player. You need to plan carefully and sometimes sacrifice a piece to gain upper hand. ChessRogue is more about tactics. You will often wonder how to get out of a tight situation, what next piece to capture or ask yourself if getting to that treasure out there is worthwhile. Usually looking merely one or two turns ahead is sufficient but later this number increases. With only a single hit point this game leans heavily into puzzle genre.

ChessRogue: Graphical modeThe board is colored with alternating light and dark colors. Helps quite a bit with fighting bishops and making longer diagonal moves in general. There is also SDL mode but it is compiled only for Windows. Linux users need to some nontrivial dependency resolving to compile it first. The looks pass but controls are bit worse. Those of you with disdain for vi-keys will not be pleased. It is here as default control scheme. Sure, you can get around using number pad quite well at the start but later you must make two or three space moves. To do you that need to use the vi equivalent. Despite constantly displaying keys ChessRogue is not good game learn vi style keys because one mistake often means game over. Luckily there is keymap included. On Linux it can be put in home directory or made hidden and it will still be found. Ingame movement display will change to accommodate edits. Unfortunately good news end here. Said keymap states function keys, number pad, return key and other similar key cannot be remapped. Number pad fans are at a loss. People with non-qwerty keyboard layouts will need to edit crkeymap.txt file before playing.

ChessRogue: Lances and mantrapsChessRogue creates a board and sprinkles opposing pieces on it. The most variation in gameplay comes from randomized levels. Number and types of opposing pieces differ only slightly between playthroughs. Water layout defines how the battle will fare. You should look for best places to exploit skills you have and at the same time efficiently hinder enemy. On difficulty modes below expert first level will feature a water cross where you can trap pawns without much trouble and get them all. On toughest setting you need employ crowding tactics to pick them off. Moreover there might be not enough pawns generated to make diagonal capture ability available. Then on second level you may need to face sergeants with just basic powers. Surviving this requires a bit of luck which is against the spirit of chess. Sometimes ChessRogue will smile at you and place bishops or even knights in a spot where they are unable to make any moves.

ChessRogue: YASDAnother subtle but not without tactical uses rule is order of piece movement. Sometimes while observing enemy movement patterns you might deduce that pawn moves before this bishop does. Such knowledge may allow you to move into seemingly dangerous places because you know that a pawn must move first and only available spot to enter is one cutting off a path of aforementioned bishop thus guaranteeing you safety. This is difficult to pull off but very satisfying if played well. Also if you are in a losing position where every possible escape is covered try to look for places that can be obstructed with lucky piece movement. You might survive more than one ambush.

ChessRogue: Fear effectEarlier I have mentioned treasures. These are represented by white exclamation mark and come in three types. Fear effect makes enemy pieces flee from you unless you stupidly wander into a position where you can be immediately captured. Used well this may be helpful in separating tough pieces, splitting dense or well-covered formations or madly dashing to the exit. The last option does not reward you with additional points or moves but in later levels this might be wise decision. After all not much is left to be learned from all those dangerous pieces and you might get captured. Second effect is haste. Speed enables you to make two moves in a turn. Very useful. Finally, learning makes every capture count triple bringing desired new abilities to you faster. On the other hand you receive bonus score for every unexpired treasure when you enter exit. Do not bother with this much before you get your first win though.

ChessRogue: Secret weapons labCurrently ChessRogue presents two modes to players. Classic Pieces and no special challenge. Do not let yourself be deceived! Playing with classic chess pieces only makes for easier game because there is less possibilities to consider and fewer levels to get caught. Extra pieces are still present sometimes. They appear with special level entrances and inside those but are not counted in score list. They may still contribute to chain captures though. Overall new piece types make for more interesting play but much less balanced. You will note more than one time the aggressiveness of sergeants. They are by far more dangerous than generals because they cannot move back in orthogonal corridors. If two of them team up or one with a pawn in front be prepared to count that way out. If all your ways get generated with teams like this you know Random Number Generator hates you today.

ChessRogue: Shogi pieces includedWeak point of ChessRogue are its first levels. There is barely any challenge offered even the first time. Unfortunately patience requirement is significant. Imagine getting captured somewhere in midgame. You brain got used to solving difficult situations with advanced pieces on board and now you are back to fighting just meager pawns. Boredom has great potential to turn your thinking off at this point resulting in getting owned by that brown ‘P’. Quite frustrating.

ChessRogue: Super power gainedSpecial predesigned areas are another not so great addition. There you will find prearranged pieces and a boss waiting to be conquered. Exit does not appear until the special opposing piece is captured or (at the fortress) zoo wall is smashed. The problem is the special level is the same every time. Once you figure a strategy (or a few) for solving that puzzle it becomes more like a boring chore to overcome. You need just to make no mistake executing the plan. A plan, which is very similar every time. To add insult to injury capturing cannoneer (boss of second predefined area) while in classic piece mode is useless because there will be almost no sergeants available to load the gun.

ChessRogue presents very entertaining challenge. It is worth recommending it especially to masterminds. In late game with plethora of moves to make try to make the longest chain capture possible. My personal best is 27 pieces taken in a row. The joy is overshadowed by low replayability of early game, poor quality user interface and somewhat by game saving possible only between levels.

Lost, apocalyptic, magical, beautiful, dark, absurd world

LambdaRogue

Author Mario Donick
Platform Windows, Linux, MacOS
Version 1.6
Website http://lambdarogue.net/

LambdaRogue: Outer DungeonThere are two races dwelling on Earth. Mankind and Drekh’Nar. Friendly relations last long but finally a “good” reason to start fighting gets found and war erupts. There are many casualties on both sides. However, neither race had significant advantage until Drekh’Nar acquired the enchanted sword of mankind’s general from a traitor and cursed it. This act caused men to suffer a major defeat and soon they were forced to surrender. Price for losing the war was great: banishment to underground forever. LambdaRogue is a game about exploring locations deep within earth but at the same time shaping future of mankind.

LambdaRogue: Destroyed hivePlay style of this roguelike is close to Angband’s. Dungeons are nonpersistent creating unlimited resources for player to scavenge thus inviting you to grind. However, this is not as simple. Difficulty of a given level is not constant. Killing enough monsters of given type will cause a stronger variant to spawn. Lost hit points do not regenerate naturally. You have to use health restoring consumables which cost you some credits. Early game is a race to get powerful enough as fast as possible in order to earn credits for food and medicine. Weaker characters are going to have tough time starting off. At times it will be more beneficial to descend to meet fresh strain of enemies because these new “basic” specimens will actually be weaker than toughened variants of currently fought monsters.

LambdaRogue: Forgotten RealmAn uncommon and controversial feature is ability to have game saved for a gold fee. Permadeath will claim the lot of your early characters but when you finally hit it big and afford life insurance the tension is no more. A streak of mistakes may force you to go back to earlier point in game but the cost is now insignificant. Life insurance cost increases linearly while your earnings do so quicker. Major roguelike defining point is harmed and decrease in challenge reflects this. Most important reason for going this way is LambdaRogue is primarily aiming to tell a story. If a promising character would get sliced by the grim reaper close to final game player may not return to know how all of this ends. Thus greater tolerance for errors.

LambdaRogue: The Lost OutpostMajor driving force of LambdaRogue are quests. Those provide story pieces and items crucial to game completion as rewards. Other ways to know more about the World of NeoTerr are to purchase text books from library or to discover them through mining. Certain professional ranks require a specific quest to be completed to obtain it. Other ranks need a certain skill set to be matched. A quest log is available. It lists all people who asked you for a favor by dungeon level.

LambdaRogue: CatacombsAmong many facilities in town workshop stands out. Here player may drop items to have them disassembled for some resources like wood, metal and stone. Subsequently those may be used to create a powerful unique item. The problem is amounts required to do so. Only a fixed number of slain monsters will drop items on death. To collect needed quantity one effectively has to purchase cheap stuff from shops to disassemble. In effect resources become merely lots of credits. Exception is stone which is easily harvestable from plentiful rubble.

LambdaRogue: MeteorLambdaRogue has gods. You choose one at character creation and may only interact with that deity. Other divine beings will contact you if they desire or … you actually met them. If you are good enough an opportunity for deicide may arise. A potentially grindy prayer mechanic allows one to make contact with patron deity. Every time you press ‘p’ it is counted as a single prayer. Remember to press it at least once or that one guy (or gal) up there will get angry at you. Fortunately sacrificing items on altar increases total prayer number by a considerable amount lessening the problem a bit. Still, expect to lean your finger on ‘p’ a few times.

LambdaRogue: The Book of StarsRecently it is popular among roguelikes to present players with graphical user interface to attract new players and ASCII for veterans. This is good unless those also bring different features impacting gameplay. Unfortunately LambdaRogue commits this sin. ASCII mode displays much larger map area allowing for pleasant exploration. SDL mode feels claustrophobic in comparison even with small tiles option set to true. However, it has minimap which marks NPCs if you have talked to them already and stairs if you have used them before. This greatly speeds up travel through places you have visited in the past. In ASCII you have to wander until you find what you are looking for or juggle interfaces. If you ascend it is worthwhile to watch ending sequence in graphical mode. Text alone just does not do it justice.

All in all LambdaRogue is successful as a medium to tell a compelling story without resorting to linear progress. With two functional interfaces veterans and newcomers alike will find it easy to get in. While not as replayable as most roguelikes it has passed 1.0 version milestone and is a complete game able to stand on its own.

Preview: Traction Edge

Traction Edge

Author Mongrol
Platform OS X, Linux (source only)
Version 0.1
Website http://code.google.com/p/tractionedge/

What would X-COM look if you left out non-battle phases? Have a look at Traction Edge. Version 0.1 is not much beyond technical demo but already gives you several officers to choose for each of three patrol missions. Your objective is to eliminate all opposition. Choose people with at least 10 points of strength. This allows to carry muskets which are much better than pistols.

Traction Edge: Bashing the doorTraction Edge: Hostiles spotted

You can just blaze through levels. Resistance is going to be small because enemy decision making capability is very limited. They act only if your agents remain in their view. Otherwise you are free to jump from behind an obstacle fire two snap shots point blank and hide again. After you kill last one mission is completed. If you explored fully last level but cannot see anything to shoot at destroy some walls. Surely some slither was placed inside stone.

Traction Edge: Patrol membersTraction Edge: Equip officer

Traction Edge was first released for ARRP 2010. Next version was announced to be revealed on ARRP 2011. To check out the game you need either to have OS X or compile from sources.