Roving Rogue on Wii U
I always love a game that has a unique twist to make it stand out. Padaone Games’ Roving Rogue, an indie platformer for the Wii U, brings this to the table by playing out in reverse. Our story opens right after the defeat of the final boss by an amnesiac rogue named Kurt. Players will have to work their way from the villain’s castle, moving back chapter by chapter and collecting statuettes to restore Kurt’s memories in order to unravel the story. It’s an interesting take on the adventure genre, and it works out pretty well.
Roving Rogue revolves around pretty simple, straightforward play. Our hero, Kurt, can walk, jump, and teleport short distances in order to overcome enemies and obstacles on his quest to uncover what he’s accomplished. Unfortunately, the controls are a bit stiff and unresponsive, so getting around can feel like a bit of a chore. This comes up mostly in the teleportation mechanic, which is a shame for two reasons. First, because it’s the one unique mechanic that the game has two offer, and second, because it’s a crucial component to making your way through the game’s 40-plus levels.
In addition to the backwards chapter numbering, Roving Rogue makes use of a clever story mechanic. Kurt begins with a diary that’s filled with complete gibberish, and only by collecting the statues — three in each level — can the nonsense be sorted out to meaningful plot. While collecting items to fill in the story isn’t a new idea, I particularly enjoyed the way that Roving Rogue accomplishes it. Rather than simply filling in as you collect enough of the statues, each individual statue unlocks a certain portion of the text. This means that any you’ve missed along the way will stay scrambled, unless you journey back (forward?) to go pick up the ones you weren’t able to grab on the first go.
Where Roving Rogue fails to produce originality is in the level design itself. Players are faced with two kinds of similar levels: either vertical climbs with an ever-ascending sea of lava, or side-scrolling ones with an approaching collapse destroying everything behind them. While this is, perhaps, a bit better than a simple timer, it still serves the same function, and makes exploring your surroundings both dangerous and ill-advised. Any time spent looking for statues or taking alternate routes is effectively wasted, and is almost certain to result in a grisly death.
Roving Rogue makes an effort to include some semblance of personality and humor in the form of Tweet-like statements, complete with hashtags, from various characters. These appear at the beginning of each new level, and generally consist of some half-cocked pun or comment on the nature of the game. While they’re fun and light-hearted, they don’t do much to inject life into the otherwise dull “cast” that the game includes, especially since most of them come from characters that you won’t know anything about if you haven’t been diligently collecting statues and reading the unscrambled journal. Since you’ll have to collect every single statue if you want coherent exposition, it’s tough to really get any connection to the characters or the world they inhabit.
In the end, Roving Rogue makes a bit of a splash with its interesting means of storytelling, but that’s about it. From the frustrating controls to the uninspired level design, the rest of the game falls pretty flat. It’s not necessarily awful, mind you, just uninspired and a bit frustrating. Even so, $7.99 on the Nintendo eShop isn’t a lot to ask if you’re intrigued enough by the gimmick and willing to endure some poor execution. There’s also an option for local multiplayer, so it might make for some good times with friends that you don’t particularly like very much.