CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There was a moment during my time with “Rogue Legacy” that I considered turning off my PlayStation 4 and never turning it on again. OK, that’s not entirely true. There were several of those moments.
But every time I contemplated giving up and abandoning my quest to master the game’s procedurally generated castle and the mysterious lands that lay beyond, I was lured back by a near-sighted dwarf knight. Or a color-blind mage with a bad case of OCD. Or a ... well, you get the idea.
Every time you die in “Rogue Legacy,” the brutally difficult roguelike 2D platformer from Cellar Door Games, you choose one of your offspring to pick up your sword and continue the adventure. These newly spawned characters can be completely normal, but more often than not they come with some genealogical baggage in the form of traits passed down from one generation to the next. It’s seemingly a total crapshoot as to which of these traits you’ll get, and while some can be beneficial, others range from mildly amusing (a fear of chickens) to downright impossible to deal with (such as vertigo, which flips the screen upside down. Good luck with that).
Early on, it really doesn’t matter what character you select or what traits they’ve been endowed with — you’re going to die. Quickly. And often.
But as you slowly begin to level up, earn new equipment and upgrade your character’s stats, the enemies that killed you with a single blow soon become little more than cannon fodder. Granted, it took me several grueling hours to reach that point, but I digress.
The fact remains that, despite its unrelenting nature, I never felt cheated while playing “Rogue Legacy.” Helping to level the playing field is the architect, a character that can purchased from your home base who is capable of locking down the ever-changing castle for subsequent runs, thus eliminating a small part of the randomness. Of course, you still have to survive what’s inside the castle, but I found knowing the layout helped me select the offspring best suited for the challenge ahead. Locking down the castle isn’t free, however, as the architect takes a percentage of your loot, thus making it more difficult to purchase upgrades and better gear. Oh, and you can’t save your money for that sweet upgrade because you have to pay a steep toll each time you enter the castle. As in the real world, death and taxes are unavoidable in “Rogue Legacy.”
Despite its difficulty and the grind that it can become, I found myself compelled to keep playing “Rogue Legacy.” Yes, having a great run halted because of a stupid mistake or an unexpected enemy made me want to toss my controller across the room, but it also gave me the confidence to try again, knowing that I had done better than the time before. The colorful pixelated art design and 8-bit soundtrack didn’t hurt, either, as they served as a reminder of the games of my youth. Of course, I don’t remember those games being quite so hard.
“Rogue Legacy” is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played this year. The trait system is a brilliant idea that’s executed to perfection, the old-school presentation helps soften the blow of countless deaths and the core platforming gameplay is rock-solid. If you have the patience to tackle a real challenge, or are just curious to see what it’s like to play an entire game with half the screen blurred because your character suffers from near-sightedness, “Rogue Legacy” is the game for you.
Developer: Cellar Door Games
Publisher: Cellar Door Games
Available for: PlayStation Network, PC ($15)
Rating: T for teen
Reach Jeff Rider at email@example.com, 304-348-5122 or follow @gazette_gamer on Twitter.