So, I see the title of this and assume it’s a budget publisher ripping off a classic game and title to make a quick buck on the Nintendo Switch. Sure you can make a profit on this sort of thing – most of the Nintendo eShop games are ports from Steam, only at a higher premium. Streets of Rogue though isn’t what it appears to be, plus, it is available on all platforms simultaneously.
With a title like that, I’m expecting a pixel art side scroller with some ‘witty’ dialogue and being oh-so-self-aware that it is a parody. But it’s not. It’s not a side scroller, and while one of its biggest strengths is its humour, it’s far from a parody and you definitely should consider it seriously. ‘Seriously’ as in buying the game. As for the game itself, don’t take it seriously at all. Check out the official trailer below, which encouraged me to get this in the first place.
Vive la Résistance
When I look at most games these days, I wonder whether the developers are from the ’80s/’90s or targeting that era as it’s trending again. This has a whiff of the16-bit age and the premise, while totally mad, seems like it would be in a B-Movie. Think Troma Entertainment, pop culture fans.
The mayor is the problem here. He’s come along and thrown his weight about demanding this and that. Notably prohibition on alcohol and chicken nuggets. No love lost on the latter, but the residents don’t share this world view and in some respects, chicken nuggets are worth more than gold. Literally.
The people have built ‘The Resistance’ to challenge the mayor and potentially overthrow him. Thing is, they don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do anything. This is where you sign up. After one of the best tutorials I’ve experienced, you’re let loose on the tower block that contains each level. You see, in the somewhat near future, all dwellings are built this way and stacked upon one another. In Streets of Rogue, we have the Slums, Industrial area, Park, Downtown and the Mayor’s residence, uptown.
Mutators and Class
In the foyer is a variety of options before you get stuck in with the game. Here you can set up a solo play or local co-op for up to four players. Online is an option too, but I seldom play online. I’m sure it’s fun. Interestingly one of the NPCs you can talk to here runs the mutators. Mutators are effectively cheat codes before you start the game. Fancy infinite ammo? Check. Remove the disasters you encounter in later levels? Check. Have the option so that items in the shop cost more? Erm… check. Some people may like that. Whatever you decide on, there will be a list in the bottom right of the screen that stays there so should you try an stream a video showing how easy you’re making it all seem, you’ll be found out.
As a rogue-lite (since writing Bad North, I still hate this term), once you’re dead, you go back to the start and lose all which you have earned. Usually, this would put me off as I’m not the biggest fan of this genre, but Streets of Rogue is surprisingly a joy to play. When you’re dead, you just start again with the same enthusiasm and just need to try a little harder. The standout point here though is your choice of character – or class, to some extent.
There are over 20+ characters to choose from, plus the addition of making your own custom characters. To be honest, you are spoilt for choice and there’s no real need to make your own other than tweaking the appearance of an existing one i.e. changing their hair, facial hair or skin tone. It’s purely aesthetic in that case.
Approaches to a Mission and Big Quests
Some of the classes are standard such as the soldier; armed with a pistol and machine gun, he’s a no-nonsense damage dealer. The real surprise is characters like the doctor who doesn’t possess a weapon but comfortably chloroforms an NPC, or the comedian who will use a banana skin as a tool to neutralize a target. Because there are so many to choose from, all with their own trait, I’d encourage a playthrough with each one to find your favourite.
The gorilla is great for melee but he can’t carry weapons or speak to other characters unless he has a translator. Perhaps a zombie that brings back the dead to create your own horde to carry out your mission – or even the hacker who, obviously, hacks into terminals to open doors, switch off traps and install malware. Not known for brute traits, the hacker comes equipped with a cardboard box to sneak about in. Much more effectively than Solid Snake.
Each character has their own bonus mission, called Big Quests. These are entirely optional but can give you a cash injection or XP to level up your character. To use a few examples: the gorilla’s motivation is to free fellow gorillas (who join your cause and attack enemies on command), the cannibal needs to eat particular people each level and the gang members need to kill off a rival. Again, optional paths but worth it purely for levelling up.
In a backward manner, as I referred to the bonus task first, the main missions are very generic. They will usually revolve around neutralizing a target, escorting someone to the exit point, hitting a series of switches to disable an area full of traps or simply retrieving an item from an NPC. Where it lacks in imagination for the tasks, it makes up with the approach.
Mapping it Out
How you tackle each mission is completely up to you. Some approaches are more fun, while others are more efficient. Take for instance one of the frequent missions where you need to hack a safe. With the solider, you can detonate the door, kill the NPC and take their combination code to open the safe (or you can detonate this as well). Alternatively, you can tap on the window of the building to distract the NPC then hack a terminal, if available, and unlock remotely. Other options include poisoning the air filtration system with syringes or cigarettes to force the inhabitants out.
When you complete your mission, and Big Quest if inclined, you just head to the exit point which is an elevator that takes you up a level. One of the added features in Streets of Rogue is the teleport function. As long as you have explored an area, you can bring up a map and select a point to instantly teleport there. Again, it’s implemented really well as you can’t use if you haven’t been to the location, but you can’t evade enemies if nearby and will have to manually run to the destination or terminate the threat within the vicinity.
The maps aren’t particularly big and while they are procedurally generated, they do have the same elements to each one. At one point no level looks exactly the same, but they are all very familiar with limited assets to each area. I seldom used the teleport option as it didn’t cause an issue walking back and forth. If you are looking to complete a Big Quest however, the maps don’t always show the legend for what you are seeking, so expect some wandering around. At which point, the teleport feature is useful.
Unlockables and Co-op
With each mission complete you have the option of levelling up. There are a variety of criteria to meet. It can be killing innocents, not using any guns, the time it takes to complete a mission or the way in which you completed it. When your level does go up, you choose a new trait – anything from being harder to hit or to be able to knock NPCs through walls. You’ll also receive chicken nuggets as a reward for your efforts, which can unlock new options as well as characters. For example, if you kill 20+ characters in a mission, you unlock the cannibal. Collect over 500 gold on one level and you unlock the investment banker.
So, lots to unlock, lots of ways to tackle each level. Is Streets of Rogue any good though? Yes – it really is. As I said, I’m not one for rogue type games or any permadeath types. With the exception of games like Dark Souls Remastered, I like a reasonable challenge where I don’t lose everything I’ve earned. If I died in Streets of Rogue, I’d just play again. And again. Each time, I would try someone new. Sure, some of the characters are stronger than others, but there’s so much variety and replay value, I expect to be playing this for months to come.
More importantly, this is one of the better co-op games I’ve played on the Switch. When playing with another player (bearing in mind you can have four local), you share the same screen. If one of you wonders off, the screen splits and it very temporarily slows down. At first, I thought this was a glitch but it’s a very good way of getting accustomed to the slight confusion of going from a shared screen to 50%. It gives you a few seconds to readjust and prepare yourself.
My biggest issue was friendly fire though. As all the characters look the same more or less, it’s easy to get confused with who’s who and you end up either shooting a flurry of bullets all over the place killing your partner, or they end up hitting you with a baseball bat or sword up close in error. You can revive the other player by giving them half of your energy or there will be a set fee in gold to fully revive them. Best of all, depending on how you look at it, you can swipe all their loot when they die.
Overall, Streets of Rogue is a great game and perfect on the Switch. I will say that I wouldn’t even attempt to play co-op in handheld as the characters are small as it is and there is a lot of text in the game to read. You may find that simply changing your character or playstyle can completely change the experience.
Yes, there is a backstory about the mayor taking all the chicken nuggets etc, but aside from this setup, there is zero story. Usually, I’m against that as the narrative is important to me in a game – excluding the likes of Toridama: Brave Challenge of course. Here it’s not needed. This is pure pick-up and play action with RPG elements. Simple, but enough to keep you coming back for more and if the humour hooks you like it did with me in the trailer, you won’t be disappointed.