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There may be a banana in it for you!, July 13, 2013
by Jim Kaplan (Jim Kaplan has a room called the location. The location of Jim Kaplan is variable.)Related reviews: C. E. J. Pacian
Play it if: as with Gun Mute, you want a game short and easy enough to breeze through but quirky and different enough to be memorable.
Don't play it if: you get turned off by dodgy pacing or an absence of any strong sense of story, because while this game has a number of great set-pieces it doesn't really feel like a streamlined, complete narrative.
Elements of Rogue of the Multiverse reminded me of Gun Mute. Non-human NPCs with human-like behaviors. A stoic protagonist of few words. The eschewment of compass directions. Gameplay consisting of repeatedly achieving the same goal, but with subtly differing details. And an environment whose nature is revealed more through small, evocative details than verbal exposition.
While I do prefer Gun Mute to this game, Rogue of the Multiverse still carried a couple of elements that delighted me and made it absolutely worth playing.
First is the main character, the antagonist Dr. Sliss, who subjects the PC to scientific experimentation. Sliss does superficially resemble GLaDOS in that she is a pleasant-speaking female taskmaster, but I find her a good deal funnier and more likable because while GLaDos is pretty obviously malevolent, Sliss is well-meaning but rather ignorant. Her patronizing comments to the PC, such as offers of banana rewards (she has trouble distinguishing between you and a rather hairless chimp), are perfectly balanced to get you liking her against your better nature. And in spite of the potentially lethal conditions to which she subjects you, I was very happy to see the game give the player the option to develop their relationship with her.
Second is what is arguably the central element of gameplay, the resource-gathering exercise. Normally I should find this sort of thing to be tedious: fewer things turn me off to modern RPGs faster than being asked to perform dull, repetitious resource-gathering tasks. But it works a lot better here than it has any right to, partly because it's quite easy and fast-moving (turn-based time will do that for you), and partly because each procedurally-generated world is given just environmental detail to make it a little memorable. You can encounter security robots in industrial complexes and rock-hurling apes in mountain ranges. The description is sparse, as it would have to be, but it a Zork-like way the concise description allows the imagination to fill the gaps.
Third is the vehicle sequence. I loved this scene. It pulled off the kind of urgency and excitement I so enjoyed in Gun Mute - again, we're not talking about real-time events here! (Spoiler - click to show)Sliss's shooting and dialogue during this sequence do a lot both to keep the scene fun and varied and to increase my adoration of her character. It's difficult to describe what made it work for me on a visceral level, but that's just another reason you should check out Rogue for yourself.
I did say that I preferred Gun Mute, of course. This game is a lot less streamlined than Gun Mute: structurally speaking, it's more like two or three games stuck onto one another than a complete experience in and of itself. Finishing Gun Mute gave me the satisfaction of a completed story; in the case of Rogue of the Multiverse, though, it's difficult to know when the story is supposed to end - I identified about two or three different points at which it could plausibly have ended, only for the game to continue so as to depict events which, frankly, didn't really need depicting. This is a short game, but it's not exactly concise; the endgame is dragged out a little unnecessarily. I also can't help but feel that the resource-gathering game offers a lot of room for expansion into a fuller game. Yes, the procedurally-generated environments are part of the point and yes, repeating the missions as they're written here for a long game would get tiresome fairly quickly, but there's definitely more that can be done with the basic idea.
Ultimately, though, none of these issues will by any means preventing you from enjoying yourself here. It's a light, humorous, not-too-long romp in an imaginative sci-fi setting and deserving of a look.