- Developer: ZOO Corporation
- Publisher: Eastasiasoft
- Release Date: 08/18/2021
- Price: £6.99 / $7.99
- Review code provided by Eastasiasoft
Rogue Explorer Video Review
Introducing: Rogue Explorer Review
In a world of Metroidvania and Roguelite/like mixes of genres in the desperate ploy to find the perfect concoction, ZOO Corporation comes out swinging with a mix of BOTH Roguelite/like and Metroidvania! You’ll explore areas with a map that fills in as you explore to help guide you, to fulfill your Metroidvania wants. In addition, the map will change often, and you’ll (frustratingly) start at the beginning of each group of areas if you fail, in case you wanted some (annoying) roguelite/like gameplay in the mix. Unfortunately, in focusing on what makes both types of games the bare minimum of what they are, Rogue Explorer may have completely forgotten other parts of what makes these types of games interesting, versatile, and memorable.
If you’re expecting any context relating to where these dungeons came from, where this hub-town is and why it’s just outside this evil-looking tower, or even your name; you can put those worries to rest. Rogue Explorer does away with all the frills of a ‘story’ or ‘context’ or ‘explanations’ relating to your position in the world or why you’re doing what you’re doing. The only hint this reviewer could glean from the promotional material is that the Tower is named the Abyss Tower, and you must traverse the dungeons in it…because. Why?
Most video games will explain some part of the point of why characters do what they do to the player, but this one does not. You don’t know why you’re here, or for what purpose the tower, or traversing it, serves. You simply go through the 10+ dungeons, then the ‘depths’ of those very same dungeon with extremely similar layouts, tilesets, movement patterns, and enmies, and then the game ends. You’re left with many deep questions as you finish off the final boss, and watch the ending, and are immediately teleported to the hub town as if you’re about to charge back in for more punishment. The only thing this teaches the player is: the adventure was fruitless, the ending is pointless, and they were meant to grind for no ultimate goal or prize.
Major Updates Required Part 1: Things That Work
Before going into the parts of Rogue Explorer that absolutely require some updating, I would like to take time to talk about the things it did right.
First: Permanent Upgrades
As you go through each dungeon area in this game, you’ll amass the one and only currency used as money in this game: gold. Gold is used for 2 things: upgrading weapons and purchasing upgrades. After you conquer the extremely confusing menu navigation, you come to a screen on which you can purchase about 4-5 different upgrades ranging from In-Dungeon Level-Up Upgrades to increases to your HP and attack. You’ll also get a permanent double jump and Rolling Attack….And that’s it. There are only 4-5 things to buy that increase in price as you fill in the screen, but this works. This system, requiring only one currency and no materials, is fine. It works, it’s clear, and you know what you’re getting with each upgrade.
Second: Level-Up Upgrades
Each enemy you defeat in each area gives you experience points that fill this green bar. Every time you fill it, you level up and get to pick one of 3 random upgrades in the upgrade pile. Level-ups reset after dying or completing each set of areas, but this system is interesting. This feeds into the Roguelite/like gameplay that many seem to like and add up to a new run depending on the powers you get. There are a great many useless ones, and there don’t seem to be any specific circumstances that would make one appear more than any others, but they’ll definitely help you in a pinch specifically around the eighth or ninth level up.
Finally: Character design
While you don’t know who you are, what you are, or why your weapons float, you can alter the player character’s colors of their skin, their eyes, and their hair. Not only that, new armor, helmets, and accessories that are found or crafted and equipped appear on the player. It’s a nice touch that adds a little individuality to your nameless, pointless, player character.
Major Updates Required Part 2: Things That Do Not Work
Rogue Explorer is a game that attempted to be both major genres of adventure and (frustrating) gameplay at once and in doing that, definitely had to focus on making specific parts work while others fell to the wayside. Let us go through some of the parts of this game that need some SERIOUS updating.
First: The Controls
Beyond your B to Jump and your Left stick to move, you have a Y button to attack and L and R to roll. Why do you need 2 Dodge buttons? Most games simply have one and the character rolls in the direction they’re facing, the only reason to include 2 is to complicate combat and stress the player out. You’ll also notice your attack button is confusing as well. Weapons the player controls can only attack in 1 direction, and only a specific distance away, with Spears having the furthest reach and Axes having the shortest. You can also equip a sub weapon, but this is not one the player controls, and one that can attack in any direction as long as it is within range of an enemy. Your attack is basically halved because of an in-game RNG that determines when your second weapon does its job and attacks enemies. This becomes even more confusing when one of the level up upgrades is a second equipped weapon, which allows you a second main weapon that the player controls! Why not just let the player control all weapons?
There are several more buttons on the Switch that are not utilized that could have been attributed to a second attack, or, better yet, because your camera is stapled to the player’s position, why not make the Right Control Stick your attack button? Send weapons to attack in any direction while your other hand controls the player character and avoids danger. It’s a confusing system that limits the player, requires a reliance on RNG for a basic control, and limits movement options in tight spaces with tough enemies. You’re left to stand there while the game decides if it wants to attack that Armor Knight below you so you can move on without facing it. It’s a strangely limiting system.
This is alarming thing to have to note in an adventure game that only requires online interactivity to see leaderboards for Point Values gotten in each dungeon area, but here we are. The only points in this game where Lag isn’t noticeable are during your adventures in each dungeon. Menu scrolling is laggy. Crafting has lag. Navigation has lag. Upgrading has lag. Not slow startup, actual, literal lag as everything stops and takes a moment to load up. It was one of the most surprising issues I ran into with this game and is extremely noticeable.
Finally: Eating Inputs
As unfortunate as it sounds, Rogue Explorer will eat about 30% of your button inputs while playing, which will make fighting bosses, attempting to avoid traps, and even basic things like wall jumping, more difficult than they need to be. Finding yourself pressing a button 4-5 because it failed after the first input, only to have your character actively jump into a trap or attack like they meant to do it, is absolutely ridiculous. This is a very frustrating problem with this game specifically during the last two dungeons where enemies with projectiles can detect you and lob fire even without you being able to see them on screen. It’s ridiculous.
Rogue Explorer feels as though it was rushed out the door without the main components that would make it interesting or memorable among the ocean of other Roguelites/likes and metroidvanias. While the art style and animation were somewhat unique, they’re not very memorable due to the palette-swapped enemies and animations, the sized-up enemies as bosses, and the several updates this game needs. Without significant change, Rogue Explorer is a boring, uninteresting, and pointless adventure that takes advantage of Roguelite/like gameplay elements and grinding to cushion the runtime and add undue frustration to a very bare bones game.
- The double-equipped-weapon power up
- Menu often lags in hub-area
- Sub weapon is not controlled by you
- Music is very repetitive
- No story or plot
- Mindless rogue-lite/like-like gameplay
- Main weapon can only attack in front of you
- Incremental permanent upgrades that never seem to matter to stronger enemies
- Needs significant updates to performance
- Constantly eats button in puts
- Bosses are sized up enemies, require no new knowledge to defeat
- Nothing else to spend money on
- Awkward weapon animations