To be totally honest, my Nintendo Switch exists, in my own point of interest, far less for Nintendo exclusive titles and far more for PC titles that I’ve never gotten around to. Things like the announcement about Witcher 3 was a big event for me, not because I love the game so much, but because my PC sucks and I’ve never had the capability to play it anywhere else. Plus, I’m a somewhat reclusive and private person by nature, so being able to take my Switch with me and not playing it in front of my family is ideal. So every time something that has been out for a while hits the Switch, I have to at least take a bit of notice. And when something newish comes to the Switch that I’ve been looking at AVIDLY online, I perk right the hell up, because it’s like a Christmas announcement. My adoration of TinyBuild games cannot be overstated, my infatuation with roguelites is bordering on obsessive, and the combination of the two means that I’ll be returning to Streets of Rogue again and again for the next, oh, let’s say two years or so.
The story template of Streets of Rogue is simple and familiar, but it’s got a bit of a humorous twist to it. In a certain city, a Mayor has seized control of the freedoms of everyone by confiscating all the alcohol, running a literal police state, and inexplicably making chicken nuggets illegal. There’s a resistance movement (called The Resistance, naturally) that needs to take down this crooked Mayor, and it looks like you’re the new recruit to do it. But the city is structured vertically, like Wayside School: you gotta start at the bottom and work your way to the top in order to face the Mayor and his cronies head on. The journey is far from easy, as there are those benefiting from the corruption, plenty of people who’ve already gone feral/gangland in no time whatsoever, and tons of distracting missions and ideas to keep you from a smooth ascension. Still, the promise of freedom and the return of liberties should be enough to keep a hero like yourself focused, and the chicken nuggets part doesn’t hurt at all.
From the title, Streets of Rogue is, for lack of anything else, a roguelike game, moreso than other games that I’ve played recently, and the way that you play things out is totally up to you. Starting with a base of about six different character classes to choose from, you can successfully unlock about twenty four different approaches, and the hat you wear is only skin deep. For example, you can start as a soldier, who’ll have the guns and the explosives to make life easier at first, or you can be a thief and attempt the stealth approach to getting to where you want to go. Seems straightforward, but let’s get a bit wilder. You can eventually become a firefighter and both put out and SET fires, a Slavemaster who has his purchased helpers to do his bidding, or a literal gorilla, who just wants to free other gorillas and can’t use weapons but can punch like a mother. Once you’ve decided who you’re going to be, you have five stages of gameplay with three levels each to get through, with the Mayor sitting in his sixth and final stage, Mayor Village (which has only one level). Each level can only be cleared by attempting the missions that are randomly chosen for you, be they to retrieve an item, set a prisoner free, “neutralize” a target or just toggle a bunch of switches. Once these missions are accomplished, you can move on, but they’re not the only targets you have for each level. There’s also the ongoing “Big Mission” that each character has (like invest money each level for your future, or have fifteen alcoholic drinks in the whole run), plus you can pick up additional missions from questmasters on each level (usually bartenders).
Right out the gate, Streets of Rogue does a great job of running a funny but informative tutorial to help you understand just how complex the game can be without overwhelming you. There’s the matter of combat and interaction, fair enough, but there’s also quick button items that you assign to the D-pad buttons, plus whatever just ends up in your inventory. There’s the matter of cycling through items, restoring health from being damaged, and, most importantly, teleporting, which is available from the very, very beginning of the game. Teleporting is important for players who’ve gotten their bearings and want to fully explore a level before moving on, and it doesn’t gimp the exploration experience: you cannot teleport when you’re in danger (e.g. someone shooting at you), and you can’t just teleport into buildings that you’ve never seen before. All of these controls have been carefully mapped out to fit on the Switch’s button configuration without it being confusing, and it functions very well with the pacing of the game. Unlike My Friend Pedro, there were never instances where I meant to do one thing and hit another, which made me much happier. Also, the way the game slows down to a crawl (but doesn’t stop) when you’re cycling items or trying to find something in your inventory really adds to the atmosphere and the style of the game. I mean, I don’t want to get lazy and just think I can hide in my inventory to decide what to use next, but I appreciate a little breathing room when I’m swapping from a baseball bat to a rocket launcher.
The real joy of Streets of Rogue comes from all the hysterical, randomly generated carnage that comes with each and every play through. With fifteen levels full of unexpected layout, NPCS and items, there is never a great way to plan for what’ll happen next (though you can share seeds if you come across a particularly fun setup). Sometimes you’ll walk into two gang members fighting each other and you can give them the slip. Sometimes you’ll pay a hacker to follow you around and do the dirty work for you while trying to keep him safe from gunfire, sometimes, and I can’t stress this enough, you’re a gorilla and you punch a man through a wall. Like, a few times. The world of Streets of Rogue plays out how YOU want it to play out, and not the other way around. Sure, you decided to be an assassin as your character class, but does that mean you HAVE to kill everyone? Maybe you just focus on rooting through trash cans, knocking people out with tranquilizer darts and loading up on double cheeseburgers. Maybe you prefer to throw your money around and have just a posse of trigger happy criminals do everything for you while you sweep in and collect the profits. Maybe you’re a cannibal and you eat everyone because you’re a cannibal and oh my God that’s a lot of blood. There isn’t a certain way to play or not to play, because the game is open ended, destructible and madcap enough that, who cares what you do down below, you just need to get to the Mayor and any path is valid.
Streets of Rogue only continues to expand the longer you play it, not even requiring you to be successful in the run in order to open up further. You get chicken nuggets upon leveling up, doing some missions and finishing stages, and these can be used to buy additional traits, bonuses and loadout presents. You can make sure that, when you hit that XP sweet spot from doing a bunch of missions (or murdering a ton of innocents), you have plenty to choose from, which, in turn, help shape the way you want the game to play. Get bigger punches and a weaker set of walls to really become a brutal bruiser. Increase your speed and make floor traps ignore you to up your stealth game. Have a scary face to prevent fights from escalating, make followers loyal and stay with you between floors…the sky’s the limit! There’s also a set of mutators that are available from the very beginning, and these can be used to make the game easier or more challenging, depending on your play style. If you really just want to be a GTA beast, set up unlimited ammo, add continues, lower everyone’s life and then start as the soldier. The only thing you have to be careful of is blowing yourself up, but who cares? You have continues!
Some people will balk at the increase of Streets of Rogue’s price upon the Switch launch, but I think that twenty dollars is wildly worth it for a game that has all the elements of a good Rogue title while incorporating plenty of original approach and interesting elements. The graphics are purposely simpler to provide better performance and faster level generation, and the soundtrack is gritty and bumping, shifting as you slowly ascend towards daylight and your final quest of murdering the dude who has oppressed the people in such a terrible way. This is a game that I’ve watched grow through Early Access and plenty of genuine feedback over the course of two years, and it’s astounding to think that a simple, silly sandbox has exploded into this multi-headed hydra of a chaotic symphony. There’s so much to find, so much to do…the number of items that I couldn’t even touch upon or the sheer amount of crazy encounters would take an additional couple of pages to write up, and I’ve gone on far long enough. If you love the idea of a game that allows you nearly any approach in order to get to where you’re going, then you’ll be totally enamoured with Streets of Rogue. It’s like if a Shadowrun campaign was being run by a competent DM who had a dark sense of humor but also a good amount of common sense. Come get sucked in: it’s co-op, and we can fight for chicken nuggets together.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Streets of Rogue Review
Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 10/10
User Review( votes)
Take to the Streets and fight for freedom & chicken nuggets in this madcap, engaging, addicting & hilarious roguelite the likes of which I’ve never seen before.