Rogue Explorer Review (PS4/5): To The Best Of Your Abilities…

Available across multiple platforms, Rogue Explorer is a little more approachable than most rogue-likes, but still packs a punch when it comes to difficulty.

Rogue Explorer was recently released on consoles, and though I had the game a couple of days before, I needed to knuckle down a little more before giving a firm assessment. Good job: the review was going down a dirty ‘meh’ path.

From Zoo Corporation and Eastasiasoft, we’re looking at an old school rogue-like platformer that says on the back of the label ‘a bit more forgiving than most rogue-likes’, but first impressions were ‘no, this is pretty hard graft and a bit of a chore.

As a big Dark Souls fan, I have the patience to persevere, but it wasn’t until grinding it a bit to add a buffer to health before it was possible to make a dent. Do enemies hit hard, or is your character made of polystyrene? The abundance of hearts gives the false impression that Rogue Explorer will go easy on you. It doesn’t. 

Rogue Explorer Review (PS4/5)

Rogue Explorer Review - Hawkings Memoirs
Hawking’s Memoirs. Source: PR

It takes approximately two or three hits until death, or one-hit kills depending on your level when you face each boss. Upon death, you’ll lose all of your in-game boosts, but that also applies when you finish a stage: it resets. You’ll keep your stats (unlocked from the hub) and, for the most part, keep your custom-designed avatar and gear. You keep your money too but expect a rinse and repeat of the same level if you’re of average ability.

At its heart, Rogue Explorer is an action platformer. Like Apple Slash, your sword(s) hovers in front of you but rather than this being a twin-stick shooter, pressing square will attack anything in front of you. Gradually you’ll equip another weapon to your rear, which acts as a heat-seeker and automatically attacks enemies within range, and this was the defining moment of “ah, I actually quite like this”.

Before getting to this level of automated slashing, the game was a mish-mash. Other than a tutorial, there’s no weighted story here, but you don’t need it. Visuals are a simple pixel art style in a 2D environment, and the controls are intuitive enough – attack, jump, an evasive roll and associated upgrades. You can’t jump through platforms like other games, though, so you’ll often have to wall jump to reach a new area, but this mechanic works well, if a little clumsy at times.

Float Like A Butterfly

Rogue Explorer Review - Demon Slayer reference
Demon Slayer reference. Source: PR

The jumping isn’t precision-based and a little floaty. You need abilities, and that comes through killing everything on each stage. Alas, these abilities reset each time you exit – whether that’s through death or completion. Your character will level up for every enemy slain, awarding you with one of three random abilities. This can be anything from one-hit kills, to adding an attack to your rolls or the indispensable double jump variation. At the end of every world, you’ll fight a boss, so it’s recommended to rinse every area not just for these abilities but for the gold that comes with it.

Gold provides permanent upgrades to your character, but it takes a while until it kicks in. +life always sounds beneficial in my book, but after investing so much energy into health, you’ll still get one-hit by some bosses. The key here is to unlock the tiers and invest in attacks and passives like dodging and evasion. Like Dark Souls before it, a boss that is causing you grief can soon be a walkover and destroyed in two or three hits if you’re willing to invest.

A Grinding Halt

It was this ‘investment’ that got me through Rogue Explorer and opened the game. Without this feature, I may well have given up as I found it a little too repetitive with minimal rewards. The enemies are mostly the same for each level, just cosmetically altered for variety. There’s no real problem with this, but enemies would take off a massive amount of health for silly errors like landing a fraction to the side of them instead of on top, resulting in damage. Other times were those that fired projectiles through walls or flying enemies that could move through anything to reach you, yet you still can’t jump up through a platform. 

Rogue Explorer Review - Brittany Spear(s)
Brittany Spear(s). Source: PR

Far from a deciding factor, the music sometimes feels out of place – as if it was lifted from some anime saga as it’s pretty… dramatic. That’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t reflect the gameplay as Rogue Explorer is very much the same thing throughout – even the bosses are very slight alterations of the those that preceded it. But, if you’re here to play a rogue-like/Souls-like, then repetition is part of your repertoire. Whether that is something you look for is a personal thing. For me, the grinding element made it much more enjoyable as, through a good deal of patience, I was able to overpower my enemies as opposed to defeating them with sheer skill, which I lack but make up for in an abundance of persistence.