Roundguard review - "Bouncing into roguelike randomness"
The main appeal of rogue-type games is the randomness which helps keeps things exciting and varied so each run feels different. An extra element of this comes into play with Roundguard by Wonderbelly Games. After playing it for a while, I have yet to master the mechanics but I want to keep trying. It's a 2D puzzle roguelike about perfectly round heroes fighting perfectly round enemies in vertical chambers. You launch them in arcs and at angles to get your hero to bounce around so that you clear out the bad guys and the treasure. It's an adventure where physics and geometry might be your greatest assets.
Putting aside the fact that there's a world where every organism is round and needs to bounce to get about, there's a story at play here. Roundguard has some classic fantasy themes and calls to adventure. In a far-off kingdom, Castle Springbottom is under attack by all manner of evil creatures. They have banded together to kidnap the king and have laid claim to all of his treasures and chambers. As a member of the Roundguard, you need to bounce through the castle and clean out the monsters, defeat the bosses, and gather as much treasure as your round pockets can carry.
Bouncing puzzlers have a good amount of RNG, even if you are a geometry master which is why it pairs well with the roguelike genre. Roundguard is the proof of that. Each chamber you enter presents several key challenges: Eliminate all the enemies, collect treasure, and do so in as few launches as possible. From the earliest rooms to the last, the layouts always give you pause for thought. You're looking at angles, traps, items, enemies, and their stats. All the pertinent numbers are neatly tracked so you always have the most important info to hand. How things go is up to you and the will of the math, which can be quite exciting.
Then there is how each of the heroes changes up the gameplay. You aren't some omniscient force with a supply of orbs to launch into the room, you're guiding a single hero. This hero is all you've got to carry you through the castle, so you need to make the most of their skills. In addition to their own stats, they also have access to unique abilities which change how they interact with the environment after launching. Some of them are about dealing additional damage or cutting through obstacles while others prioritise staying in the air for as long as possible. Each one invites a whole batch of different strategies and solutions so take your time to find the right hero for you and have a ball.
Since circles are perfectly round, you don't associate them with strength or sharpness; two things you need if you're diving into a dungeon. Roundguard plunges you into a world of hurt and all you've got is roundness. The result of this is a very intimidating level of difficulty. You're literally throwing yourself at enemies meaning that on average, your hero is guaranteed to take some damage in battle. As monsters get tougher, the health boosts aren't able to keep up. There's also the additional damage that you'll take if by chance your hero doesn't land on the moving cushion platform at the bottom.
Taking all this into account, some heroes are objectively more appealing than others. Once the Druid is unlocked, you get access to a generous mobility ability and a substantial mana pool. The Druid may not have the highest attack power, but easily makes up for it by being able to get around, launch attacks from sprouts, and gain passing boosts to health and defense. This makes the character roster feel lop-sided.
Roundguard is a 2D roguelike with bouncing puzzle mechanics about launching heroes at enemies and treasure throughout a castle. It combines these elements in fun, interesting, and challenging ways that generate a lot of variety and excitement from all the randomness. It can be very difficult and unforgiving at times, especially if you're not using the Druid. Still, there's always a hole to fill in the roundguard.