|Developer||On The Level Game Studios|
|Publisher||On The Level Game Studios|
|Release Date||January 19, 2017|
Review code provided
Rock-N-Rogue: A Boo Bunny Plague Adventure is a top-down dungeon crawler that sends players on a trip through Hell. You play as Bunny or one of his three friends/bandmates Gunny, Faye or Ganny, picking up your instrument of choice and murdering a path through the denizens of Hell on your way to the ultimate battle of the bands, with all the rock and roll humour you’d expect from a game about rock and roll.
Rock-N-Rogue is a game that has a lot of (unfortunately untapped) potential. The game starts out quite strongly, introducing players to the four main protagonists with a healthy dose of rock music and humour. The comedy and characters are fairly on point in this opening sequence, as Bunny and his friends play a show in their garage for two unappreciative kids. A flyer lands in front of the quartet inviting them to a battle of the bands. A literal battle through Hell.
While the humour generally hits and the characters are fairly likeable in a dickish sort of way, this opening sequence isn’t without its problems. It becomes immediately noticeable that the lip syncing is off by a huge margin, making the cutscene so distracting as to make it almost unwatchable. This issue persisted through the game and forced me to look away from the screen to actually be able to pay attention to what was being said.
Once you select a character and jump into the game the real problems begin to emerge. Two of the four playable characters utilise ranged attacks that are rendered next to useless thanks to a complete lack of aiming. My first attempt at Rock-N-Rogue was playing as Gunny, a drummer/heavily armed war machine with massive guns on his back. I quickly realised that I could only aim Gunny’s weapons in whichever direction I was facing, and I could only turn by moving.
The right analogue stick does nothing. I had assumed that I’d be able to move and aim independently, but this isn’t the case. To move and shoot I literally had to charge headfirst towards whatever enemy I wanted to attack, or at least point myself at them and stand still. This is a fairly major oversight for a top-down dungeon crawler, rendering ranged attack characters incredibly awkward to actually play effectively.
This lack of aiming affects the melee characters as well, essentially removing any real tactics or strategies from combat. Moving and attacking with any of the four protagonists is essentially boiled down to Leroy Jenkins style charges. Basically, Rock-N-Rogue’s entire combat revolves around standing still and whacking demons with a musical instrument. It gets boring very, very quickly as there’s no real interaction to fights other than pulling the trigger to swing a guitar.
A lack of enemy variety doesn’t help. There are plenty of different looking demons with varying amounts of health that deal varying amounts of damage, but they all employ the same tactic – run straight at you and start swinging until someone dies. Whether you’re facing one enemy or more than twenty the game feels exactly the same. Stand still. Swing weapon. Profit. Even collecting pickups that power your health and special attacks are found by smashing all the bits of scenery you can find.
Rock-N-Rogue does attempt to mix things up in the form of environmental hazards. As you progress you’ll have to deal with timed spike traps or swinging axe pendulums, which can damage enemies as much as player characters. Turning these traps against enemies is hilariously effective thanks to their lack of tactical thought, though maneuvering them into these hazards isn’t worth the time or effort when hitting them is a much faster way to despatch them.
These traps do come in another way later on. You’ll need to navigate them to collect guitar picks that are used to level up your character. There’s the barebones of a fun little slice of environmental puzzle solving as you figure out the timing of spike traps to safely run across them. But again, the effort required isn’t worth the payoff. It takes far too long to collect enough picks to level up and the result is too inconsequential to make the effort feel worthwhile.
Boss fights are equally as tedious. At the end of a level you’ll be thrown into an almost empty arena to fight a rival band/artist. As with fighting standard enemies, there’s no real strategy to tackling a boss. Thanks to the way the controls are setup your only option is still to stand still and swing. There’s a dodge function that would have probably come in handy, as bosses have other attacks besides swinging for your face, but these usually come in the form of AoE attacks that are impossible to avoid.
Repetition is an absolute killer for Rock-N-Rogue. From the combat right down to the levels, which feel like you’re running through the same corridor over and over again, level after level. I could have been playing the same level on repeat and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed, except that sometimes new demons would occasionally pop out of iron maidens or something. Repetition infects everything and it eventually makes the whole experience forgettable.
Rock-N-Rogue also launched with a myriad of technical issues, from the aforementioned lip syncing problems to a stuttery, inconsistent framerate that made the game unpleasant to play overall. To their credit, developers On The Level have been really quick to take on community feedback regarding the various glitches found in the game, releasing a steady stream of patches designed to squash bugs.
Rock-N-Rogue: A Boo Bunny Adventure is a frustrating game. It starts out strong, introducing a likeable cast of characters and a healthy dose of charm and wit. And while technical issues do play a part in dragging the game down, its ultimate downfall comes from its dull and unengaging core gameplay. There are a couple of nice ideas here – special moves that cause enemies to start dancing, environmental navigation puzzles, but the gameplay loop is just too repetitive. Strange design decisions such as an inability to aim and move independently absolutely kill the game, forcing you to adopt the same strategy against the same enemies using the same attack patterns in the same corridor you’ve walked through a hundred times before.
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