If Peggle and a rogue-lite decided to shack up for a dirty one night stand, Roundguard would be born about nine months later. It’s a little of Mom, a little of Dad, while still keeping a style all its own. Like the temporary relationship that created it, Roundguard works well, if you’re not looking for a long-term commitment.
You start by picking one of three character types – a hardened warrior, a magical wizard, or a stealthy rogue. They each have different stats for mana and health and different skills. Those skills change the feel of each playthrough substantially.
Once you pick your on-screen representative, you’ll load them into a catapult at the top of the screen, aim carefully, and watch them bounce into enemies, health and mana potions, and containers of gold. Striking potions and gold let you gather them, while hitting an enemy attacks them. Some will require multiple hits, and hitting them gives them a chance to hit back. This lowers your health, and losing all your health forces you to start from the beginning with one random item to make your trip a little easier.
Skills can be the difference between finishing a level or restarting the game. Each character can use two unique skills that vary the playstyle. The warrior has a spin attack that’s more powerful than a normal attack. The wizard can use lightning to cause shock damage. The rogue can slow down, aim, and launch in a specific direction. If you master your skills, you can clear a whole room without hitting the spikes at the bottom and taking damage. There isn’t a lot of variety, but you can find new skills or more powerful versions of the same skill as you play.
Skills aren’t the only upgrades offered. You have weapon and armor upgrades that give you more protection or attack. Rare versions of each give you an added effect or status ailment under certain conditions. Your enemies can inflict the same statuses on you too, so finding an armor that makes you immune is the perfect way to not become vulnerable.
At the end of the room, you often have a choice of which room to go to next. Pulling up the map will show you the entire Act, and all paths lead to the boss. The journey is about how you get there, and you can choose a route that will guarantee you a new random weapon or skill upgrade or fighting a mini-boss. Experience is important too, and a higher level character has more mana for skills and more attack power. Roundguard presents you with equipment choices and route choices giving you a sense of control despite some of it being random as you bounce around the room.
The whole game is colorful, and the art is cartoony with a nice presentation. The music matches the look and doesn’t interfere with sound effect cues. The writing is sparse, but it gives certain characters a little personality and shines brightest with a few lines of dialogue before facing the bosses.
On the technical side, the game froze once and crashed a couple of times in a few hours. The save system ensured I didn’t lose any real progress, but it’s annoying.
The biggest problem with the game is that it’s just very short. Successive runs after beating the game the first time went much faster, because I wasn’t learning anything new. By the second time you beat the game, there aren’t many secrets left.
Roundguard tries to thwart that by making itself very replayable. The levels are randomly generated, so you won’t be seeing the same board again and again. It also gives you Relics to spice up your next run. These change the game in different ways from giving you only random rare gear as drops or making your skills use health instead of mana and converting all mana potions to health potions in the levels. There are around fifteen of these, and you can unlock a new one by beating the game with another locked relic equipped. Will that be enough to keep you coming back? I don’t know.
Roundguard successfully melds two game genres into one, and it’s fun. I even think I hear a few notes in Ode to Joy when I beat a level. You can tell the developers appreciate the games that inspired them, and it’s mostly a polished experience. I just wish it lasted a little longer and had more to show me.
Roundguard PS4 Review
- Overall - Good - 6.5/106.5/10
Roundguard's mix of Peggle and rogue-lite gameplay manages to create a fun gameplay loop in a colorful world. There were some light technical issues, but the game's biggest drawback is it's over in no time. It's made for replayability, but there may not be enough variety to keep you coming back.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.