Putting your children in mortal danger has never been so much fun.
Humans interested in reproducing can list several good reasons to rear children, but the best reason usually goes unspoken: you will need your offspring to avenge you when you inevitably wind up impaled on a spike trap in the basement of a demonic castle. Rogue Legacy by Cellar Door Games is a 2D platforming game that reminds us (without much sentiment) that our children are the future. It’s also a terrifically fun romp.
Rogue Legacy‘s story centers on a king’s assassination and a line of heroes that’s destined to get to the bottom of it all. At the heart of the mystery is a castle that shifts its layout every time a new generation enters its walls.
Indeed, Rogue Legacy has many roguelike elements, hence the first half of its name. The second half, “Legacy,” speaks to how many heroes you’ll inevitably send to their deaths. Rogue Legacy is not a game that’s supposed to be cleared in one sitting. You explore the treacherous castle slowly, gather gold for stat upgrades, unlock new warrior classes, and collect blueprints for better armor and weapons. Gradually, each subsequent generation should find it easier to delve further into the stronghold, especially when you gain the ability to freeze the castle’s restless walls (for a steep price).
You command a fecund bloodline, but despite its ceaseless flow of heirs, it has its flaws. You’re allowed to choose a randomly-generated child whenever your previous warrior dies, but there’s not always a balance between the characters’ good and bad traits. You might wind up with a hardy paladin who can fling powerful daggers, but also suffers from colorblindness and near-sightedness, forcing you to stumble through an already-tough game with the added handicap of blurry black-and-white visuals. And then there are some traits that are truly bizarre, such as vertigo (wherein your character walks on the ceiling) and alektorophobia (fear of chickens).
These genetic pitfalls are amusing most of the time (like IBS; even the mightiest heroes get chronically sore tummies and need to let one go in public sometimes), and they add an original dimension of challenge to the game. But bad genes or not, challenge is not in short supply in Rogue Legacy: your woefully under-equipped early generations of fighters are going to get creamed, but those whuppings make your gradual progress all the more satisfying.
Moreover, Rogue Legacy‘s intense platforming and sprite-based graphics bring to mind the celebrated Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, especially when you factor in the sprawling, shape-shifting castle (didn’t Alucard suggest that Dracula’s castle is “a creature of chaos?” sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). There are certainly worse games to draw inspiration from.
Rogue Legacy doesn’t have many problems, but there is one biggie: the controls. They’re perfectly fine most of the time, but executing a downward jump or stab can be problematic with an eight-direction d-pad. Your character won’t respond half the time, which means your heir can accumulate a lot of unfair damage in a world where hit points are precious and not easily restored. Alternatively, you can use keyboard controls. Good luck.
Otherwise, Rogue Legacy will have you saying “one more time” over and over again as you throw generation after generation into the castle and the grounds surrounding it. Sure, they’re your children, but you can always make more.