by Ewan Wilson
reviewed on PC
The running joke
ROGUS: Kingdom of The Lost Souls bills itself as the first ever “Run'Em'Up”. Whilst I’m all for genre-bending, a more accurate description of the game would be it’s one of an endless amount of “endless runners”. To the back of the queue! You control a pixelated Wizard sprinting through an unending two-dimensional dungeon. The one exception to this rule is the first time you make the run.
The first thirty minutes of ROGUS spins a somewhat coherent tale. After making your first run, you’re sent back to an old tavern where there are a few bits of dialogue, one or two jokes, and an introductory quest. The quest is simple and involves jumping back into the dungeon to collect some coins. You’re rewarded with a glimpse of some quirky multiverse and a trippy time-travelling sequence. This is where the rather simple and straight forward runner gets its “Kingdom of The Lost Souls” subtitle. It’s an extremely short segment, one that doesn’t really have enough content to build towards anything substantial. Still, it’d be a weaker game without it.
Putting one foot in front of the other
Before you know it, the narrative snippet is over and you’re returned to the regular beat and rhythm of running, hoping to beat that high score. The dungeons – which feature a looping background that looks like Smaug’s treasure-filled lair – are made up of random chunks of ground along with pits of varying length. They’re repetitive and completely uninspiring. One strip is much like any other, and there really isn’t enough variety or much of a ramp-up. Running is automatic, but you’re required to double jump depending on the length of the pit. Complicating things slightly are enemies, some of which fire projectiles. One frustrating element is the lack of distinction between foes. Their vibrant colours don’t distinguish them in any way, and so you’re occasionally caught out by one suddenly firing.
On top of running and jumping there are two more primary actions. You can swing your sword to destroy enemies and bring up a shield that blocks projectiles, depletes when hit and recharges when left in peace. An additional layer of complexity comes in the form of spells. You can equip four, out of a total six, at a time. The spell limitation seems needless considering the overall amount, and it annoyingly forces you to return home to re-equip. The spell abilities include throwing fire bolts, transforming into an invulnerable Treant, sprouting a set of wings which temporarily turns the game into "Flappy Bird starring Gandalf", and my favourite spell: “Wheel of Cheese”, which turns you into a rat that can bypass everything.
The endless running in ROGUS can be frustrating, but it’s also enjoyable at times. There’s a nice rhythm to hitting the shield at the perfect moment, nailing a fire bolt or slicing through rows of bad guys to boost your multiplier. Unfortunately, a good runner needs legs, and ROGUS’ simplicity means things wear thin quickly. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the first few minutes of ROGUS: Kingdom of The Lost Souls hints at a project much more interesting and larger in scope. There are – as tiny and short-lived as they may be – flickers of humour and character. It’s just a pity these things didn’t get the time or resources needed to flesh things out.
Some quirky humour and character before things devolve into running, a nice flow
Quickly turns repetitive, lacks variety