Rog & Roll is another game that I’ve had my eye on for some time now. Who wouldn’t with how bright and vivacious the overall product looks? When news came that it was offering a demo in the (now past) Steam Next Fest, it was high on my priority list. Now, after about 45 minutes of playtime, there are numerous new things I’ve come to appreciate about it… and a few things that concern me.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Rog & Roll is a fast-paced, fluid 2.5D platformer from a new perspective. Control a tiny enemy monster named Rog on a quest to save his fellow minions! Rocket through levels using Rog’s roll ability, or hunt for secrets and unlock hidden paths!“
My eyes are on fire. In a good way! Exquisitely detailed and bright, full of impact and easy-to-register communication of what can be interacted with. It borrows a few things from classics, such as Super Mario Bros. (hitting blocks, hidden blocks, etc.), though the output is more akin to an evolution of the concept than outright stealing. Environmentally alive and flourishing, with different set pieces to establish location and boundaries. One could almost call it a diorama.
Oh, the writing! What I was no expecting to be so fond of going in was just how cheeky the storytelling is. Rog is a puny, low-level enemy that doesn’t get a whole lot of respect. Compared to the dark lords and higher-ranked combatants, he is little more than the Rog & Roll equivalent of a goomba. Yet it is he who must shove off and save his friends from ruin. Finally, someone asks the question: What if you could play a full-fledged 2(.5)D platformer as a goomba?
Awareness makes it work as well as it does. So many jokes at Rog’s expense, as well as smirk-worthy references to the absurdity of the typical baddie’s activities. (One enemy talks of being on duty by walking back and forth on a platform without end.) Effortlessly endearing in all facets from how much logic is injected in these seemingly bizarre circumstances. How fun to actually look forward to dialogue.
Gameplay, admittedly, doesn’t quite reach the same levels of magnanimous praise, but is still pleasantly satisfactory. An emphasis on speed and maneuverability is at the forefront, with an in-depth tutorial teaching one the ropes without hassle. Each new level tests the abilities present in the game’s title: rolling around (at the speed of sound). Tests of speed are a challenge present in each stage for those willing to indulge.
There isn’t much about Rog that makes him stand out, which is likely the point. He can jump and roll, making him about as exemplary as a personified tomato. Yet this only adds to a certain level of challenge to the game, imploring one to take advantage of a small subset of abilities to tumble the way from beginning to end. Take heart, however, that there may be more than what meets the eye.
Personal frustration is a matter of accepting one’s ineptitude, in many cases. Rog & Roll had me falling to my death an embarrassing number of times, mostly due to my insistence of speeding things through. Such is the cause of emphasizing speed, especially through end-level trinkets: I want to go fast, but going fast is risky business.
Controlling Rog on his own can also be a little uncoordinated. Rolling continuously makes for momentum taking over, and without knowing what is to come, this can result in disaster. Though I doubt this hasn’t been thought over, there’s some sense that the game occasionally punishes you for taking advantage of Rog’s signature ability. Level design, in general, doesn’t feature much in long, smooth corridors. It’s far more platform-focused, with jumping and terrain changes aplenty.
The design of each course, at least present in the demo, are suitably varied, though reside more on the simple side. Especially when charging through, they don’t take up a considerable amount of time—most can be done within two minutes. I wonder if this would be appealing past the initial joy caused by starting the game. Will it evolve? What more is in store? Not so much criticism of the demo as it is a hesitant gaze towards the future. Otherwise, not much to complain about!
What it doesn’t amaze in gameplay finesse, it more than makes up for in gorgeous spritework and witty writing. Rog & Roll, the mere name an example of how animated the game can be, exemplifies a great blend of new and old that is fun in many facets. An all-encompassing package of care that gives all types of players something to look forward to, whether an intriguing cast of characters, new fields to zoom through, or simply a collection of visual glamor. This demo proved my anticipation correct.
Rog & Roll has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.