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Humor in gaming is not a common thing. Every once in a while, a game might get a chuckle out of you, but it’s nothing like the hilarity you’ll find in Streets of Rogue. The game’s name itself is a pun, which makes a lot of people think that it’s any other sideways-scrolling feature. That’s hardly the case at all.
Matt Dabrowski, the game’s developer and creator of Burger Joint, seems to let go of all sense in this anarchic game that focuses on freedom and player choice. You’ll find yourself following a storyline that revolves around chicken nuggets while playing as anything from an investment banker to a werewolf. It’s nuts. Whatever character you choose, you’ll be playing in a nostalgic pixelated world with complex layouts and themes.
The game is by no means perfect, but it’s solidly developed. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have made such a ruckus in Steam. It has high replayability, as every time you play the game, you can switch up the gameplay pretty drastically. The overall concept of the game is not complicated. But since this a game that focuses on player choice, a single run-through could result in chaos because of all the available interactions.
In Streets of Rogue, you’ll be playing in a city where a tyrannical mayor has taken complete control. On top of that, he banned all the alcohol. It’s your goal, as part of the resistance, to try and seize the city back from its evil leader. The opposition is the overarching story, but there is nothing to follow beyond the tutorial. It just gives the player the motivation to wreak havoc on the city. There isn’t much dialogue either, with only the occasional quip from a random NPC. However, when there is something to read, it’s usually hysterical. Streets of Rogue’s weirdly compelling comic tone is what makes the game so unique.
The game’s map takes the form of a small city. Once you’re there, you can pretty much break into houses, labs, and bars. You can expect to take some shots and punches from NPCs once you start throwing some as violence isn’t really tolerated.
All in all, there are six levels. In all these levels, you’ll find yourself downtown, uptown, at the park, or the Mayor Village. All these places have unique looks to them. Since Streets of Rogue is in the 8-bit style, you won’t get a lot of details in the settings. But the gameplay sure makes up for it, though.
After the first bit where you’re clued in on the story, you have to select your character. Of course, each one is unique, and you can have wildly varied experiences while playing each one. For example, you could be a slum dweller or a slavemaster. Once you choose the one you like, you’ll immediately find yourself in the city. The layout has four randomly generated areas on each level. In these levels, you’ll find stuff like frozen lakes and banks, all with unique properties that can liven up gameplay. To get to another level, you have to accomplish a random set of goals.
It’s worth noting that every character has its main quests too. For example, if you go for the hacker, it’s your specific goal to install malware on every level. If you’re a slum dweller, your goal is to make as much money as possible. Dying resets your goal, which is pretty standard in this type of game, and you have to do them all over again. Each time you level up, you can add certain traits to your character to make things more interesting. Some of them are advantages, while others are more like handicaps. For example, you could increase your hacking speed, or you could give your stealthiness a boost. You’ll be purchasing these traits with chicken nuggets, by the way.
Choosing different characters every time you play is what makes the game so replayable. No two gameplay experiences are alike. When you play as all of them, you unlock hidden characters, which will keep you interested in the game for much longer than you’d expect. Streets of Rogue is not the type of game where you want to kill everything in sight. You’ll get much more out of it if you plan out your moves and use items wisely. Some might say that the characters are a bit unbalanced, but it’s nice to have options for more advanced players and for those who want to coast through and blow stuff up. You can even play the game without killing anybody, which is honestly a bit more of a challenge. This is way more than your standard dungeon-crawler.
As mentioned above, there is a bunch of playable characters in Streets of Rogue, 26, to be exact. Some of them need to be unlocked before you can play them. Here’s a run-through of all the characters in the game so you can see how varied they are:
Assassin – This is what you should choose if you lean towards stealth play.
Bartender – serves alcohol (duh)
Cannibal – Funnily enough, the cannibal thinks it’s immoral to feast on animal meat. The alternative? Humans, of course.
Comedian – The team-building expert because he wants everybody to have a good time.
Cop – If you’re into abiding by the law even in the virtual world, and you get a kick out of arresting folks, this is your character.
Doctor – How does a doctor knock people out with healing hands? With her trusty chloroform hankie.
Firefighter – User of heavy water cannons and has fireproof skin. Handy in a lot of situations, since the city is mostly on fire anyway.
Gangster (Crepe and Blahd) – Your all-around hoodrat armed with a lot of street smarts.
Gorilla – A crowd favorite. This hyper-intelligent tank-like gorilla uses bananas to tip everybody up. They’re also insanely strong.
Hacker – Resident tech expert and can use items like the teleporter and Hologram Bigfoot.
Investment Banker – A greedy heavy smoker who is all about the green, the investment banker also has a bit of a sweet tooth.
Jock – Experts at beating up nerds and not so much in computer literacy.
Scientist – An innovator and inventor, so you get sweet items like shrink and freeze rays.
Shapeshifter – Wields the possession stone, which allows it to take over anybody it wants.
Shopkeeper – This is the character that exploits the chaotic situation of the city. You get the art of the deal.
Slavemaster – The game’s slavemaster is painted as the gentlest one you could ever have, which deserves more than a chortle.
Slum Dweller – With nothing but Whiskey by your side, you have the potential to be the jack of all trades.
Soldier – If modern warfare is more up your alley, pick a character that is adept at setting up landmines, and launching grenades.
Supercop – If being a regular cop won’t cut it, abide unflinchingly by the law by being a supercop. You can arrest anyone you want – even innocent folks.
Thief – A kleptomaniac with all the right gadgetry like safe busters and lockpicks
Upper-cruster – Get money through any means, even if that means beating random people up. It’s all that matters.
Vampire – Seduce people with your cologne to get your fangs on all you care about: blood.
Werewolf – A supernatural wrestler with a penchant for ham sandwiches
Wrestler – All that beef went to the body and none to the brain. Still, it’s better to be able-bodied in a city where chaos reigns.
Zombie – Vocally challenged undead that can spew phlegm.
You won’t get bored with this game right away, judging by the number of characters you can play. On top of all the playable characters, you get to see some interesting NPCs like aliens, killer robots, drug dealers, goons, and bouncers. All these characters make the city come alive.
Visuals and Music
Visually, this game isn’t that striking. The pixel art style has made a resurgence as of late, and this one isn’t particularly distinct. By all means, if you find it nostalgic to delve into the magical world of 8-bit again, this art style is right up your alley.
And while you might think the music is catchy, it will start to grind on you after a while. Dying is a pretty common occurrence in the game, and when the level restarts, the same track starts over. It can be a little grating, and you might want to turn it down once you’ve logged in a bunch of hours to this game.
What the developer spent a lot of time on were the items. It’s fun to see how they affect the world and all the characters in it. Here are some of the things you can use in the game:
- Baseball bat
- Police Baton
- Banana peel
- Bear Trap
- Dizzy Grenade
- EMP Grenade
- Land Mine
- Molotov Cocktail
- Paralyzer Trap
- Warp Grenade
- Fire Extinguisher
- Freeze Ray
- Ghost Gibber
- Oil Container
- Rocket Launcher
- Shrink Ray
- Tranquilizer Gun
- Water Pistol
- Research Gun
- Gas Mask
- Hard Hat
- Slave Helmet
- Combat Helmet
- Accuracy Mod
- Ammo Stock
- Rate of Fire Mod
- Bracelet of Strength
- Bulletproof Vest
- Fireproof Suit
- Mayor’s Visitor’s Badge
- Critter Upper
- Cyanide Pill
- Electro Pill
- Killer Thrower
- Rage Poison
- Resurrection Shampoo
- Bacon Cheeseburger
- Blood Bag
- First Aid Kit
- Hot Fud
- Ham Sandwich
That’s not even half of the items you can use in Streets of Rogue. Plus, the ones listed here are far from quirky. As you can see, there is no shortage of stuff to use, and there are endless ways you can shake up the gameplay.
Here’s where the game gets exciting. You can play Streets of Rogue with three other friends online in cooperative play. Plan out your attacks and mostly work as a gang to accomplish your goals even quicker. Multiplayer works well in this game in particular because of its layout. All four of you could be exploring different areas of the map at the same time, and it’s always fun to be in cahoots with your online buddies. If you want, your team could turn into vampires or drink beer without accomplishing anything. It’s all up to you.
Multiplayer mode is fantastic if you want to feel like you’re playing with other people, but you know how the saying goes: too many cooks can spoil the broth. Unless you coordinate, you may feel like you’re rushing through levels or staying in them a bit too long because of other players. It pays to have other people with similar playstyles as yours. Otherwise, this mode can be frustrating at times.
All characters come with special abilities, so each one is worth giving a go. Special abilities can turn into super special abilities once a player completes “the big quest.” Some of these abilities can be more useful than others. For example, being able to enslave people is much more useful than being able to cry profusely.
Even if you’re playing as one character, you get chances to develop their personality through pickups. You can find these items anywhere from shops to chests that are scattered throughout the levels. In the game, you can play with some custom rules enforced. These are called mutators. If you don’t feel like doing this, you can simply toggle it off.
Health and dying
You’re going to die in this game A LOT. Some players appreciate how challenging the gameplay can be, but for some, it can be a little frustrating. Health is scarce in the game, and you’ll have to scavenge through trash bins and refrigerators for useful pickups. You could also always buy health, but that is if you have enough money. But even if you’re careful, merely walking around could be perilous. Some floors come outfitted with traps, and it’s not usual to encounter deadly floor switches. In addition to all that, everything is pretty much out to get you. You’ll have to survive the occasional bombs and zombie invasions.
What’s so irritating about this is that there are no added checkpoints. When you die, you have to restart the entire stage, and there’s no way you can revive yourself. In multiplayer mode, there is a chance of being revived if you friend sacrifices a certain amount of money or some of their own life. You have to consider if it’s better to spend those resources than starting all over again.
What could be better?
There are some standout criticisms, which is to be expected because no game is perfect. Many players complain about the main plotline, saying it’s not engaging enough. While others might argue that the fun is in the details, it would have been nice to have a better sense of progression throughout the game. The game also welcomes many possibilities of rage quitting, which explains why some prefer to play it in shorter bursts.
Having to go through stages all over again when you die doesn’t feel too good, especially when it happens too often. There is also the issue of not being able to mod maps. There are hardcore fans of this game who would love to create custom levels and mutations, but that stuff is not allowed in the game just yet. The controls also get a bit trickier when you get companions in the game, which makes it harder to navigate around the space. If you don’t micromanage your followers, they will end up getting killed.
Yes, the environments are random every time they’re loaded, but they do get predictable after a while. You’ll get used to seeing the same rooms that you have to explore. The developer could have gone for a more stylized approach like Ruiner.
Is this game worth buying?
You probably clicked on this review to try and get an answer to this question. The short answer is yes, it is worth checking out. This game is highly impressive, considering that it was developed by just one person. It’s also a lot more complex than your average beat ’em up feature, and you’ll see a lot of those on Steam. Streets of Rogue stands out because of the freedom that it allows its players. It gets even more fun when you get your friends on board.
When you watch a stream of this game, or you play it yourself, you’ll see how its quirkiness sucks you in. There are so many players who have logged in more than 500 hours in this game, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s challenging, you won’t run out of things to do, and it has an interactive element (which compensates for you not leaving the house).
In singleplayer mode, the combat mechanics can be too simplistic for some. But the game’s complex systems more than makes up for it. With elements like problem-solving and strategizing, it can be a surprisingly in-depth gaming experience. Plus, the gory aesthetic and humor that is more often a hit than a miss create a unique tone that is exclusive to Streets of Rogue. A game as ambitious as this deserves to take a few bucks out of your pocket.
Is Streets of Rogue available on console?
Yes, you can play this game on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. It’s also available for Linux and Mac users.
Is there a mobile version of Streets of Rogue?
Not at the moment, no, so don’t be fooled by games of the same name on the app store.
Is it possible to transfer save files to another console?
No, that kind of functionality is hard to pull off by indie developers.
Where can I buy the game?
You can get it from Steam or Humble Bundle.
If you decide to give this game a go, there are a few tips worth sharing to up your survival. First, since this is a roguelike, dying has major consequences. As you move forward, it’s best to plan your attacks and strategize your moves. Sometimes, you will need restraint. Sometimes, you will have to channel your brute force. It’s also prudent to stock up on health-restoring consumables in your inventory.
If you feel like you can pull off a mission by yourself, save enough money to hire gang members. They’ll come in handy if you need backup. And remember to read character stats and capabilities before you choose one. Some are easier to start with, and some are intended for more experienced players.
Autonomy is the name of the game. Being restricted is hardly something you’ll feel when playing Streets of Rogue. You may find one or two quibbles about it, but overall, you get a rewarding session every time you fire up the game. You also get a nice mix of silly and deep moments that puts the game a tier above your run of the mill crawler. It is, after all, classified as a hybrid.
In essence, it’s very much like a choose-your-own-adventure type deal, where most of the player’s enjoyment comes from making their own choices. It’s easy to be overwhelmed the amount of freedom you’re allowed in Streets of Rogue, but in the beginning, it’s very easy to pick up.
Just take it from the thousands of players who have left it overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam. If you’re looking for a game with tons of replay value, this is it. Once you start, it’s difficult to stop. It’s nice to see a game of this scale with the amount of ambition that it clearly has. Even though it’s not one of the cheaper roguelikes, it’s definitely worth more than its modest asking price.