Streets of Rogue is another pixel art rogue-lite game available on a wealth of platforms, and if you have a palate for these type of games, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not interested in a permadeath game, still give this a try as it is a lot of fun. Developed by Matt Dabrowski – a dream venture (he quit his 9-5 to make this, so the achievement in getting it finished is fantastic in itself) and published by quality publisher tinyBuild, we have ourselves a potentially great game.
The newly elected mayor in this game is a bit of a rogue himself. I’ll cut to the chase: The mayor has done a lot of wrongs and imposed some ridiculous rules on his townsfolk. However, the most ludicrous of all is an outright ban on chicken nuggets. He has an allergy. As you would expect, the citizens won’t take this and decide to keep the contraband in circulation. As missions progress, you receive these glorious nuggets as a reward.
Your character decides that he wants in on The Resistance. They’re quite blase about everything anyway but decide to let you into their world. A tutorial follows that helps you come to grips with the controls and the game’s many features – all told with funny dialogue. Streets of Rogue doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest, but the humour doesn’t abuse that. With “rogue” in the title, one would assume that this is a rogue-lite game and yes, it is. Permadeath. Game over. Unlike some of the game’s peers, Streets of Rogue isn’t as frustrating as you would expect. There is a plethora of options and approaches to each level. Yes, the game is straightforward, and the procedurally generated levels are very much the same. But, your play style changes it up big time.
Go in gung-ho, sneak around stealth-like or encourage others to do your dirty work for you. There are 24 character classes you can choose from, and each one has their perk or trait to apply. The game design is a dungeon crawler with elements of Deus Ex. Though don’t expect amazing graphics as this is a stripped-down pixel art game. In fear of not doing it any justice, the characters and projectiles in the game look good, and it’s just right for the speed and the type of game.
The play space is a tower block. In the future time in which this game takes place, the communities build on top of each other, starting with the slums, industrial district, then a few others until you reach the top, Uptown. It’s a little like Gauntlet, though each map size changes considerably, so no two consecutive levels look the same. For each area, you have your main missions. Sometimes this is to neutralize a target, escort someone to an exit or to hack a safe and retrieve the contents. Each character also has a ‘big skill’, and this is an optional side quest for the class you choose. Examples are killing rival gang members, eating a particular NPC or destroying a series of generators.
As mentioned, these are optional, and it is up to you if you want to do them, but if you choose to do so, you can improve your XP to level up and then get more perks. Some of these include being able to hit an NPC through a wall, having a scary face so enemies don’t attack, or just being quick at whatever you do. It’s rare to play a game with so many classes to choose from, and they’re all quirky enough for you to try out each character as you unlock them. Not satisfied with that? Make your own.
Some classes are ridiculously better than their counterparts that when you have rotated through them all, you’re likely to go for a select few only. That said, if you’re playing co-op with someone relatively good, you can experiment with a weaker character who has some potentially devastating traits. The gorilla is your tank class and obliterates anything in site. It can’t use weapons, and it doesn’t communicate with NPCs or has any need for money. Its sole purpose is to free other gorillas who can join your party and can be directed to attack everything. Awesome.
For my first run, I used the soldier as he’s hard as nails, and aside from his guns that he can use to take out NPCs from range, he can blow up doors and regenerate health – albeit not that much. Third to these two would be the cannibal. I loved this character as he’s primarily a melee fighter (though he can also use ranged weapons) who eats the deceased to regenerate health. Amusingly, if you try eating a bacon cheeseburger item to get back some health, the cannibal will refuse to eat it.
I do like a game that allows me to develop my character in my style. RPGs apply here, but with a rogue-lite game, there’s always that fear of losing everything again. Of course, that’s the point, but I’ve played my fair share of challenging games from the ’80s up. Streets of Rogue is the exception here though as I could happily play this for hours on end. Should I die and go back to the start, so be it. It’s that much fun, and I anticipate it to be like this for many months to come.
If you’re like me, meaning you don’t have the time to play as much as you’d like, are only interested in a good story or simply are not very good, then you might be upset to learn there are no options to choose difficulty levels. You will have an option to use mutators though from the very start. These are mainly cheats from yesteryear and do not spoil the game in the slightest. You can opt for continues, infinite ammo or infinite melee durability, but you can also choose for less health, for items in shops to be extortionate or have all NPCs hostile towards you. The controls are smooth and make it so that navigating your tools is no sweat. The left stick is for movement, the D-pad for hotkeys to items and the right analogue is for aiming and also peering into rooms to define any characters or objects that may be inside.
A rarity for doing a review, but I played more of this in a co-op than on my own. It was incredibly fun, but there is friendly fire, and depending on who you’re playing with, the other person can swipe your loot (me). You can revive the player by giving them half of your health or fully restore it using money (if you have it). Otherwise, the other player follows you as a ghost.
Streets of Rogue is perfect for both solo and multiplayer (you can have a total of three extra local players). That said, on two occasions we did have the game crash on us. The first crash had my partner die, and when I tried to revive him, there was no option to do so. I eventually killed him a few times, then when he respawned, the revive selection was there again. Limbo was a little annoying for the other player but not so much me. The worse crash resulted in getting a black screen mid-game with only the hub showing. The music was playing, and I could exit out of the game via the home menu, but I couldn’t get back into the game. I haven’t replicated this since, thankfully, but as frustrating as that issue was, I came back to the game immediately. That’s the readiness of this game.
Developer: Matt Dabrowski
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 12th July 2019