Here’s another product from GameBoy Jam 3, of which I previously covered Meowgical Tower. In fact, this one, this aptly named Roguelight by Daniel Linsson, with audio from Jonathon Tree, is the jam’s big blindin’ star, ranked #1 by those that did all the actual voting. Not me, I only come around after all that’s done, like a hungry dog sniffing at trashcans, searching for the half-nibbled filet mignon that someone was too full to finish. To keep with that odd metaphor, this is a tasty meal, like a big, endless bowl of black pepper potato chips–you can’t just have one.
As far as I can tell, Roguelight is all mechanics, no story. Which is fine, because the mechanics are tied together in an extremely addicting way that you will quickly not care why this young woman is venturing deeper down into the darkness. You will only grow greedier, pushing her forward and downward and further from the surface. See, the deeper you travel, the darker it gets, and you only have a limited number of arrows to light the way. You can use your arrows to light lanterns, but you might also need them to defeat enemies; the choices ultimately mean life or death, stopping or going.
Your first few runs in Roguelight will be pitiful. Mine were. It’s planned that way. As you go further down, you can collect coins, which are used to purchase upgrades for the protagonist’s health, quiver of arrows, jumping abilities, and so on. Here’s the trick; you can only access this shop screen after you die, meaning you can’t upgrade to the good stuff for a while, but each individual upgrade will help you on the next run, allowing you to go further and gather more money. I highly recommend going for the perks that grant you extra coins from lighting lanterns and killing enemies, since those are tasks you’ll be doing anyway. It seems like each new run is randomly generated, though it is hard to tell in spots since, one, it is covered in darkness and, two, many tile sets are re-used. The furthest I ventured was around level 4, so who knows.
That said, I found the game’s single song soundtrack tiring, as it is mostly a drum beat with some electronic beats surrounding it. Toss in the tinny jump sound effect that our leading lady does with every leap, and…well, it’s not a joy to listen to. Thankfully, the clink of an arrow piercing an enemy and producing coins is joyful.
Roguelight obediently sticks to the jam’s rules, meaning it looks like a GameBoy-era title. If only, right? Sure, this is probably illusions of grandeur, but that system needs to come back to power; that, or all these amazing little gems need to be noticed by Nintendo and put on the 3DS eShop for a buck or two each. With Roguelight, it’s the kind of game that encourages replaying and marathoning for a good while, returning to it after your batteries are recharged. Perhaps a stronger story or goal could help push players further below, but really, this is solid, addicting fun as is.
See the light by downloading a free copy of Roguelight right over this a-way.