Review: ROGUS – Kingdom of the Lost Souls

ROGUS – Kingdom of Lost Souls describes itself as the very first Run‘Em‘Up, a minimalist beat’em’up of sorts. Within moments of getting into the game, however, ROGUS feels familiar to any gaming veteran who grew up with coin-up classics during the ‘80s. There’s brawling elements to it, it’s a running platformer that is constantly on rails and the game starts to feel a little bit like a SHMUP as you unlock more content. ROGUS starts off in a peculiar manner, but in the end it’s a simple score attack game that reveals the full extent of its content and design within moments of getting started. The main appeal of the title is its intense difficulty and racking up a high score.

The game introduces the most bizarre yet awe-inspiring story sequence you’ll probably ever see, and it does this unreal meta-thing that leaves you with more questions than answers regarding the game’s premise and story. It’s an unusual touch to the package that reveals itself very early on, only thrust you back into primary the score-chasing gameplay. Still, it’s a decent enough attempt to give the game some personality, even if the story elements are brief and cleared up at the very start. Beyond the story introduction you’re left with a pretty bare-bones run and gun platformer.

Visually ROGUS is a nice looking 8-bit style title with some quirky character designs and decent-enough sprite effects, although there isn’t enough visual variety to make it particularly memorable. What sticks out about the presentation is the soundtrack, which is pretty much done in epic Lord of the Rings-style fashion.

When you get right to it there isn’t much to write home about. You control a wizard who’s armed with a sword to slice through foes, and a staff to cast spells with. Considering it’s a platformer, this old man can also perform a fairly high double jump. A shield can be generated too, with its usage limited by a gauge. Spells are a major component of the gameplay, and these spells allow for things like animal transformations, fire/ice attacks, and even growing wings to help you gracefully fly over platforms.

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At any given time you can equip four spells and so there’s also an element of experimenting with different combination spells to find what works best. You rack up a score based on the distance you cover and how many enemies you defeat in your run, and that’s pretty much all you have to do: keep outdoing your past performance and clear up those Steam achievements in the process.

At it’s core ROGUS is an extremely challenging, twitch-heavy action game that is all about training your motor skills to react instantaneously to platforming, enemy projectiles and persistent waves of enemies. The core gameplay aspect has enough appeal to challenge you to get better at it, but the package itself is lacking any variety to keep you engaged for more than a couple of hours in an afternoon. It may be intentionally old school, but there isn’t enough substance, both in terms of presentation and gameplay, to keep you coming back over and over.

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Closing Comments:

ROGUS – Kingdom of Lost Souls teases with grandeur promise, but devolves into a barebones running action platformer as lacking in gameplay variety as it is in visual and presentation variety. The twitch heavy gameplay is technically sound and will put reflexes to the test, and the added emphasis on chasing a high score does complement the game design, but there simply isn’t enough substance to make players stay for long periods or keep coming back for more.