Developer: ZOO Corporation
Platform: Nintendo Switch – also available on PS4, PS5, Steam, and Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 18/08/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
I am always down to review any game that needs playing. I rarely do any sort of preparation for my reviews. If the game’s title sounds interesting, I’ll give it a try. Obviously, there are games I keep my eyes open for and certain studios whose titles I know I always enjoy, but on the whole, I find something fun about the unknown. Rogue Explorer was one of these titles.
I have played (and reviewed) some cracking games that I picked up on a whim. So, where does Rogue Explorer rank on that list? Well, you’re just going to have to keep reading this rapid review to find out.
A Relatively Short Game But One That Has So Much to Offer
Before we delve into the individual component of the game, here is a little overview of the title. Developed by ZOO Corporation and published by EastAsiaSoft, Rogue Explorer is different from ZOO’s previous offerings.
The game is a roguelike title with a twist, throwing you into a world where fighting really is the answer and loot collection matters. The formulation of the levels and the quickfire nature of the gameplay will have you weighing up decisions such as speed and health preservation versus combat and loot collection.
Just like the headline says, it is a relatively short game if you just sit down and play from start to finish, but when you start to break it apart, it has a depth that cannot be denied.
No Story, But Who Cares About That
Other than the fact you are a weapon-wielding bad-ass living in a bizarre and oddly terrifying world, there is no discernable storyline within Rogue Explorer.
The game starts up at your home ‘base’. Here you can move to the different areas such as the armoury, upgrade point, and of course, the levels themselves. The game consists of ten dungeon-like biomes. Each one consists of various levels and a range of enemies for you to take apart.
These levels are short, sharp, and action-packed. The early ones are often over in a matter of seconds. However, exploration is encouraged. The objective of each level is simple. Reach the exit point and move on to the next. Along the way, you can either kill or avoid the enemies you encounter. Waiting at the end of each Biome is a relatively short boss fight. These fights were often rather simplistic, with the patterns being easily discernable. However, the difficulty increased as you got further through the game.
In-Game Time Affects the Levels and Offers Replayability
An in-game day and night cycle is cleverly used to alter the levels, giving you a familiarity yet also an entertaining degree of replayability.
Once a new day starts in the game, the layout of the dungeons change. This keeps things fresh, especially when combined with the impressive array of character upgrades and customizations. I found an extra challenge with this mechanic, especially when combined with the game’s life system.
You have a single life and a single health bar. That bar does not – unless you find certain treasures – restore between levels in a single biome. Death at any level sends you back to your camp, and you need to go through it all again. Learning the layout of a level can help you quickly find your way through again, but dally too long, and everything changes. It’s a simple way of thinking, but it really works to the game’s advantage.
Level Design Was Fun But Combat Presented No Challenge
I enjoyed the exploratory nature of the biomes. You didn’t just start at a random point and move forwards until you found the exit. Both you and said doorway are placed on the map, and you needed to find your way there.
There was a hand indicator showing you the vague direction, which helped if you used it. Along the way, you must climb, jump, and of course, hack ‘n’ slash your way to victory. While I did enjoy the level design, I felt the combat lacked much of anything. Yes, you needed some tactics to escape damage-free, but most of the time, this was just common sense and presented no genuine challenge.
I played around with a few different customizations, and the only difference really was the amount of damage I did and thus the time it took for me to gain victory. While this was fun, it did grow a little tiresome in a relatively short space of time.
Combine, Craft, and Customize
As I have already mentioned, there is no end to the customization options in this game. You start with rudimentary clothing and weaponry. Then, as you play through the levels, you pick up various items of loot and coins. Keep an eye out for treasure chests, as these can yield big rewards.
These items can then be either equipped in the camp area and upgraded by spending your coins. You also have the option to combine items to craft various items. For example, all items can be combined numerous times to create more powerful weapons. These can again be upgraded with coins. The same applies to articles of clothing.
I admit that I enjoyed this element and maybe spent longer exploring the camp options than I did playing the game. I ran through it fairly swiftly, and while there is replayability in the game, I was not sold enough to keep going back for more.
A Skill Tree was a Nice Discovery Also
The game doesn’t introduce you to anything. There is no tutorial or explanation of the options. It took me a few levels before I found the skill tree back at my camp.
This was a nice feature that allowed you to unlock different bonuses and character upgrades. My only real gripe with it was that it was a little too easy to open the different levels.
If anything, that would be my core problem with the game as a whole. The difficulty just wasn’t there, and as a result, it was not engaging enough to warrant continued playthroughs or revisits.
A Genuinely Good Effort
There are many good points about Rogue Explorer, sadly, however, they just don’t happen enough and are not impactful enough for this game to get a rave review. Instead, it is a very par-for-the-course title. It kept me busy for a while but ultimately won’t be long remembered.
That’s not saying it is bad, far from it. The game is average but shows great promise. Hopefully, the team at ZOO will be able to build from this and make their next title of this type that little bit bigger and better.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of Rogue Explorer from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.