Roguelike is a sub genre of games that has blown up in popularity in recent years. Success stories like FTL and Rogue Legacy brought a lot of attention to the style and the bandwagon is filling up. I wonder if it’s easier for a small studio to develop a Roguelike, the procedurally generated nature of the games would cut down on time that would otherwise be spent designing levels. But in reality the ease of development wouldn’t be worth a damn if people didn’t want to play those kinds of game. I myself own and continually play plenty of Roguelikes (my personal favourite being Desktop Dungeons) and the reason I keep coming back to play more is because it’s so easy to waste time on. Whether it be five minutes or five hours, the best Roguelikes keep their gameplay loop simple enough on a micro level to be immediately satisfying and deep enough on a macro level to keep you playing over and over again. Good Robot is a new time waster I’ve been wasting time with over the last week and while its not yet making it to the upper echelons of the genre, this preview build shows off a game with a lot of promise.
Another hallmark of Roguelikes is the way it slots into any other genre with ease. All you need is a game with procedurally generated levels and permadeath and BAM you’ve made a Roguelike. In this game the Roguelike traits have been slotted into a Shoot em Up/ Twin Stick shooter. You play as the titular Good Robot as it floats around silhouetted mazes shooting neon projectiles at silhouetted enemies that shoot neon projectiles back at you. The visual style is quite striking and really pleasant to look at, it reminds me a lot of the animated short Tar-Boy if you’ve seen that. The choice to use simple colours in the background is great because it means that the projectiles you need to dodge stand out and are immediately visible. Unfortunately because the enemy robots and the maze walls are both black the things you fight have a nasty habit of hiding in the foreground and shooting you just when you think you’ve cleared out the area. Asides from that little annoyance the game plays like a dream. It works perfectly on both Keyboard & Mouse and Controller. Moving around the stage and shooting feels just as gratifying as it should and the variety of weapons you receive all feel great to use.
Like I said at the beginning of the article, a good Roguelike needs to work in the moment to moment gameplay and in the long term. For example, in Rogue Legacy the castle regenerates every time and you always start with a new character, but any gold you earn in any given run can be used to earn permanent upgrades to new characters. Good Robot is great fun on the micro level as I just said, but as of right now there’s nothing to make me want to keep coming back. I don’t know if there are any plans to add any long term gameplay features, but I feel as though something like that would help the game keep players invested.
The only thing in the game that kept me playing (asides from a sense of professionalism) was the flavour text you find throughout the game world on upgrade and weapon shops. The writing isn’t what I’d call laugh out loud funny, but I had a few sensible chuckles during my play. And much like in Dark Souls there is a little bit of story to be gleamed by those paying attention. Without going in to too much detail, its a lot like if the world of Portal suddenly went post-apocalyptic.
The game is set to release next month (April) and I’ll have to see what happens in the final build, but as of right now Good Robot looks to be an excellent time sink. If you like twitch action gaming and Roguelike punishment then it could well be worth you time in the near future.