‘Fight, gear up, level up, repeat’ – those are the words that echo through the empty aisles of the Nintendo Eshop. A chant designed to instil you with delusions of grandeur. A call to arms, to all those who dare face insurmountable odds and claim victory over the impossible. Drageus Games are the ones who lit the beacons; who conjured Skull Rogue. A game that promises infinite power, but only delivers unimaginable boredom.
Skull Rogue is yet another attempt to capitalise on the endless appeal of the Rogue-like formula. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it is a bland husk of a game, that fails to hold you attention for more than a few minutes. Gameplay, graphics, sound and mechanics succeed in creating a thoroughly unenjoyable title, not worth pennies it goes for at launch.
You play as a skeleton who has been cursed to exist not only in this game, but in an endless cycle of death and mediocrity. You are born into this barren world of pain, with nothing but a sword and helmet. After a few seconds of mindless wandering, enemies will begin attacking from all directions; forcing you to action. You have two forms of attack: swinging your sword aimlessly, and expending mana to drop a bomb. The horde will grow in numbers, and you are far from a mighty, or durable warrior, so death will be swift.
Upon death you will be granted experience in which to take to the ‘Hero’ menu. Here you can enhance a number of stats, ranging from health recovery, attack range and mana. Once you have pumped your stats full of points, you can jump back into the fray and try again. Chances are, your incredibly minor boost in power will have little effect on your overall survivability. Be prepared to bounce between dying, and levelling up, on a fairly regular basis.
The problem is however, the combat just sucks. Being more powerful does not solve that. Your piddly sword deals minimal damage, can only hurt one enemy at a time, and enemies will swarm you like locusts. This results in you running in circles, swinging your sword mindlessly. Eventually someone will die, with that someone inevitably being you. Should you survive the initial room of enemies, you can move onto the next room, where by you will do the exact same thing. Mindless running, swinging, bombing and dying. There is no skill involved, no finesse to the mechanics. Just incredibly basic hacking and slashing with a tacked on, uninteresting, levelling system.
Upon the successful vanquishing of your enemies, you will find that they leave behind weapons and armour. These can, in theory, increase your attack and defence, however there is no system in place informing you of your current equipment’s attributes. This causes the equipment system to quickly devolve into a game of randomly slapping things on and off, in an attempt to figure out if that sword is better than your current sword. This is made worse, when the actual stats of each piece of equipment is random, so attempting to memorise the power of a specific item design, is ultimately futile.
Skull Rogue boasts of ‘refined pixel graphics’. I would argue the refined part is quite an overstatement. Character models look incredibly basic, with equally bland equipment shoddily hanging from their skeletal frames. Environments consist almost entirely of large, square rooms, although they do sport different colours and layouts. Animations are practically non-existent, consisting entirely of one attack jiggle, and a fairly poor walk cycle.
Rounding out the squalid list of flaws Skull Rogue comes packaged with, is the sound design. The game rocks less than a handful of tracks, each one an endless, repetitive loop. The actual sound quality itself is pretty good. The numbing repetition is at least clear. The same cannot be said for the sound effects, which give the impression they were recorded with several layers of concrete between the equipment and source. It gives Skull Rogue a distinctly cheap feeling, as opposed to the nostalgia I assume they were going for.
The biggest flaw in Skull Rogue’s design, is the complete lack of incentive to play for more than a few seconds. It becomes immediately apparent that this game has very little going for it. After sinking a few hours into exploring its mechanics, I can assure you, your initial impression was right on the money. This game is tediously irrelevant. A lifeless, bare-bones (pun intended) experience that will sooner bore you to death, than provide any modicum of enjoyment.
Have you played Skull Rogue? Do you intend on giving it a go, out of morbid curiosity? Let me know in the comment section below!
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