Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 12, 2019
Streets of Rogue, the game all about
blowing up an insane madhouse saving a city, recently came out of early access on Steam and ported to the Nintendo Switch as well. It boasts impressive review scores across the board, both from professional critics and casual gamers, and those scores are certainly well-deserved. Designed by Matt “Madguy” Dobrowski and published by tinyBuild, this is a game that nails what this indie publisher tries for as its bread and butter: taking off-kilter humor that comes at you from left field and turning into an enjoyable game.
Before I get into details, it's important to know what you are getting yourself into, so I'm going to attempt to summarize. Streets of Rogue is a top-down twin-stick shooter in the style of Enter the Gungeon or The Binding of Isaac. You fight your way through randomly generated levels of the city on a mission to kill the corrupt Mayor and take his place. Or, maybe you sneak your way through and scare the Mayor away. Or you trick your way into his house, or… well, there are a lot of options. You and up to three friends can work together to try to figure out the best way to save the city.
Or you and your three friends burn it all to the ground while trying to find the mayor. Really, it's all about perspective.
A Game About Making Bad Choices
Streets of Rogue’s greatest strength is undoubtedly its flexibility. While most games in this style are simple killfests, Streets also rewards careful planning and clever tricks. You could just barge into a building and take out your target with a shower of bullets, and some classes like the Soldier specialize in doing just that. On the other hand, if you’re playing as the Cop, you could knock on his door and arrest him the second he answers it. If you’re the Hacker, you could hack his television and make it explode, taking him out without ever setting foot inside the building. If the Gorilla is more your speed, you can punch someone through the wall of his hideout and bypass his defenses - you can’t break the walls directly, but punching innocent people through them is totally kosher.
If you haven’t realized it by now, this game is re-gosh-darn-diculous.
|The Gorilla is a perfect example of a class with both great strengths and glaring weaknesses.|
Roguelikes and roguelites thrive on variety: Ever-changing levels, different characters, and large assortments of items are all there to keep things interesting, and Streets of Rogue certainly has enough variety to keep players coming back again and again. It features 24 playable classes, as well as the ability to create your own. Plus, unlike the old standbys of roguelikes, these classes aren’t just different ways of killing people. In fact, some classes like the Doctor have a hard time killing people at all!
Streets of Rogue also has a level-up system. Every time you gain a level you’ll be able to choose a new trait from a list of three randomly-selected options (five if you’re the Slum Dweller), giving you a chance to improve on your strengths or cover for your weaknesses. Sometimes you’ll just increase one of your stats, sometimes you’ll become so charming that people don’t get mad when you destroy their homes. Each floor will also have an Augmentation Machine where (if you can afford it) you can boost, remove, or swap your traits for further customization.
|When you accidentally get the entire Mafia chasing you.|
Don’t think that all of the variation comes from just character traits; Streets of Rogue also boasts a lot of different items that can open up new ways to play - sometimes literally. With the hacking tool, you can flip turrets over to your side, or hack a security system to unlock doors. With the EarWarp Whistle you can temporarily deafen an entire floor, letting you act with near-impunity for a short time. With a syringe of unknown drugs, you can inject yourself and see what happens, or you can test it on someone else... or put it into an air filtration system to chase people out of a building. Of course, with a rocket launcher you can go the old fashioned route to just blow stuff up.
What’s really interesting about this game is that there are many valid strategies, and sometimes being a pure killing machine is the worst approach possible. So far I’ve only won a single game of Streets of Rogue, and it was as the Cop - not because he’s especially great at combat, but just because his Arrest ability can instantly take any non-hostile NPC out of the action for good. Add in the fact that the Cop would have to really screw up to make other Cops attack him, let me coast through the game pretty easily.
Well, relatively speaking, anyway.
A full playthrough of Streets of Rogue generally takes 1-2 hours.
I'd like to reiterate that I have beaten this game only once.
I will say that sometimes Streets of Rogue can sometimes feel a little unfair or a little unbalanced. Some classes have much harder parameters to unlock their major quest bonuses, and some special events (bizarre scenarios that occur every three levels, including zombies, spreading ooze, or radioactive blasts...) will kill you before you realize what is happening. Fortunately, because games can be so short, it doesn't feel like a deal-breaker. You live, you die, you learn, and you try again. Just be prepared for a few great runs cut short, followed by a very loud "WHAT THE..?!"
Keep Switching Things Up
I’ve said it on every one of these “[game] now on Switch” articles, but the portability and convenience of the Switch is a great addition to just about anything. The sleep function won’t be much use for online play, but aside from that it’s a great port. Streets of Rogue may be an even better fit for the Switch than most games; being a twin-stick shooter, the Switch controller is well-suited for it.
This is one of the few games that I would recommend getting on Switch even if you already have it for another system. There are a few reasons for that: First and most obviously, it's because playing Streets of Rogue is a crazy fun time. It would be great to be able to take that with you while traveling. Secondly, it doesn’t take a whole lot of time to get your progress back, so you won’t be missing out on too much by having to start over. Unlike, say, The Binding of Isaac with its absurd number of unlockables (and even more absurd requirements to get them), you can get most of the character classes in Streets of Rogue in a few hours if you know what you’re doing. Unlocking all of the mission rewards might take a bit longer, but it’s all done with in-game currency; there are no crazy challenges to fight through in order to get what you want.
|None of this! While Streets of Rogue can be tough, it doesn't feel inaccessible.|
Perfect For A Game Night
As Adam and I discussed Streets of Rogue in the Sprites and Dice discord, one by one others gave in and decided to try it out for themselves. It’s quickly become a favorite for an hour or two of silly fun, and it’s perfectly suited for small-group multiplayer. I’m not sure if I’m disappointed or relieved that it caps at four players - maybe in the future they’ll pull a Hat in Time and allow 50-player multiplayer just for laughs?
I’m just saying, I would play that.
Regardless, Streets of Rogue is fun to play alone, even better with friends, and a great addition to the Nintendo Switch library. Accessibility and insanity combine perfectly here to make it a game I highly recommend.