Skull Rogue

The roguelike genre is one that’s full of charm despite — and probably because of — its punishing nature. There’s an old school appeal to these games that makes them enticing and addictive. Of course, they need to be done right. Titles like Dead Cells, Neon Abyss, and Rogue Legacy, just to name a few, truly have an excellent grasp of what makes roguelikes work so well. Then you get a game like Skull Rogue, which is typically priced at $3 on Nintendo Switch and Steam, and it makes you wonder: Is this game worth it?

Full disclosure: I purchased Skull Rogue on the Nintendo Switch eShop for the ludicrously low price of five cents. At the time of writing, it’s on sale for $2, which is still pretty low. I mean, the game’s standard $3 price tag is already cheap. But the question of whether or not Skull Rogue is worthwhile remains.

What Exactly Is Skull Rogue?

Skull Rogue is an endless roguelike with very simple hack-‘n-slash and RPG mechanics. You play as a skeleton that looks a lot like a generic enemy you’d see in an early era RPG.

Skull Rogue Hack-and-Slash Gameplay

Quite funnily, your skeleton hero looks like the enemy skeletons you face throughout the game. Maybe he was a villainous grunt who had a change of heart. Now he’s tasked with battling his undead skeletal homies in a never-ending quest for redemption. Since the game doesn’t really have a plot, we’ll just go with that.

Honestly, Skull Rogue is kind of a dumb game, but it can be fun — it just takes a while for it to get there. You start each game with a sword and protective headgear. The first wave of enemies always consists of two skeletons. Once you dispose of these, more waves with more skeletons appear. After defeating a set number of waves with your sword and bombs (which use up a mana meter), you can move on to the next room. If you take damage or use up your mana, you can find refill pick-ups in barrels and jars.

That’s pretty much the game loop of Skull Rogue. You go from room to room, battling hordes of skeletons until you die. It’s a simple formula — almost too simple — but there is a hook. As you kill enemies, you level up and earn skill points. When you die, you return to the main menu, where you’ll find a “Hero” option. This is where you use your earned skill points to improve different stats like your skeleton’s health, melee range (not damage), and health item effectiveness.

Due to the fact that Skull Rogue is essentially an endless game, the main goal is to see how far you can go versus trying to reach an endgame screen. That’s where leveling up your skeleton plays a pivotal role. At first, you’re lucky if you even make it past the first room. But after killing a few enemies, dying, leveling up, retrying, and then doing it all again over the course of multiple rounds, you’ll be able to get further and further.

Skull Rogue Roguelite Game

There are three things worth noting that should help keep you alive longer while playing Skull Rogue. First, if you take on multiple enemies at once, you’re done. If you’re just facing off against a single enemy, you should be fine. But the moment you take on two or more baddies at once, you’ll be overwhelmed. It’s super easy to get cornered and defeated in quick fashion if you’re careless. Instead, you have to employ the Serious Sam strategy of constantly moving backward while attacking.

The second thing to keep in mind — and this makes killing enemies much more doable — is your attack range. You know how some Legend of Zelda games let Link shoot energy from his sword when he’s at full health? Skull Rogue has a similar mechanic, except it’s always active regardless of your character’s health. That’s why it’s important to level up your attack range early on, as it’ll let you fight effectively from afar. Long-range attacks could very well save you from being bombarded by enemies.

Last, keep in mind that Skull Rogue functions like a twin-stick shooter. You’ll want to use your controller’s right stick to blast enemies in all directions. Bad guys have a hard time moving through the game’s architecture, so when you notice that they’re moving back-and-forth like idiots, you can pick them off one-by-one. Otherwise, always use the right stick to blast your sword energy in whatever direction the closest enemy is. But again, just keep moving throughout it all.

So Is Skull Rogue Worth It?

Skull Rogue - Roguelike

If you can score Skull Rogue for five cents like I did, there’s no reason not to get it. Of course, the game’s standard asking price of $3 isn’t too shabby, either. That said, there are countless superior roguelikes like Slay the Spire and Hades, though these will run you a little more. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the cost is very much reflective of the quality and value you’ll get out of these particular games.

Ultimately, Skull Rogue is more of a time-waster than anything. Like arcade first-person shooter Writhe, it’s a fun little thing to spend a few minutes at a time with, maybe in the meantime while you download something else to play or while you sit through a commercial break when you’re watching TV. It’s probably not worth it, but if you love roguelikes, you might get some mild enjoyment from it.

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