PC/Mac/Linux
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Game Info:

Rogue Stache
Developed by: WubsGames
Published by: Black Shell Media
Release date: January 6, 2017 (Early Access)
Available on: Windows
Genre: Action Platformer
Rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, and Language
Number of players: 1
Price: $4.99

*Advertising disclosure* Though Black Shell Media is a former advertising partner, this review is not influenced by that relationship.

Thank you, Black Shell Media, for sending us a review key!

Eye-based aliens have attacked a spacecraft to steal the crewmembers' facial hair. Please, please do not make me spend more time on the setting of this roguelike. The main character will jump, shoot, dash, and shoot through four groups of four levels (each group ending in a boss fight) before progressing to the final boss room. This is a short game, and this is not a weakness. Indeed, the longer the levels go on - certainly if one replays them - the more obvious it becomes that there is little meat on Rogue Stache's bones. There were moments when the mechanics of this simple game combined, almost perversely, to give me an exciting experience. Even then, the tension was based on the hope that, maybe this run, I would finally beat the game and be free of my obligation to play it.

Rogue Stache is, as the name implies, fascinated by facial hair of all kinds. Enemies sporting multi-color mustaches have a higher health pool than average. The player character picks one of several mustaches and beards, each of which grant bonuses and debuffs. Hats, crafted randomly with tokens picked up in levels and boss fights, add similar effects. Every five levels of experience, the player is given a choice of random stat upgrades. Any variety Rogue Stache has comes from these various buffs and debuffs. Some raise your speed, health, or fire rate; others grant bonuses to your in-game super mode, Stache Power. Stache Power charges up as you kill enemies, and unleashing it gives your weapons unlimited ammo and increased fire rate for a short duration. Upon level 5, you might be given the chance to upgrade Stache Power to make your character invincible for the duration. This is the kind of upgrade that feels like it really should have been in the base package.

Rogue Stache
Highlights:

Strong Points: Weapons feel powerful; short, gratifying loop of experience and power-ups
Weak Points: Repetitive level design; repetitive enemy design; repetitive weapons; repetitive music; uneven controller support
Moral Warnings: Lots of blood and gore; "hell" as a swear word; killing of humanoid zombies

This is because enemies are cheap in almost every sense. There are not very many of them, so their cheap assets are copied and pasted with almost no variety in all levels. Some enemies are dropped out of the boundaries of the procedurally-generated levels. But several enemies are cheap in the sense that they kill you very quickly with little chance to fight back. These enemies tend to come in swarms, either of piranha-like flying...things or floating, high-health, exploding eyes. As is typical for the genre, death means restarting from the first stage, at level one, with whatever base upgrades you have unlocked. There is something to be said for making a roguelike difficult, but the difficulty should contribute to the game in some way. In Rogue Stache, the cheap enemy swarms primarily give you a reason to use invulnerable Stache Power; without them, you'd be in little danger of death. There'd be little danger, that is, until the final boss that spams its small chamber with beams like it's in Ikaruga without giving the player room to maneuver. Suffice to say that I never enjoyed engaging the enemy while playing Rogue Stache. One boss must have felt similarly indifferent because, despite having "flame" in its name and appearing in promotional material shooting a flamethrower, it never spurt so much as a spark at me.

A surplus of weapons attempts to spice up the game. Different weapons fire in arcs, fire rapidly, pierce enemies, and so on. There are a good number of them, and some are particularly well-suited to certain enemy types. For example, the flamethrower kills the flying piranha things quickly. For another example--uh. ... Hm. No, that's all I've got. Certainly many weapons are more powerful than the starting pistol, but, again, I wouldn't say they are particularly enjoyable to use.

I alluded to fun in the opening paragraph, and a particular combination of mechanics will explain why. Killing enemies raises experience until a level up. Leveling up gives your character back full health. Some enemies are cheap nigh-insta-killers. Stache Power kills enemies quickly, thus giving experience quickly. The most exciting gameplay loop I experienced was getting knocked to almost zero health while just shy of Stache Power. I would then need to carefully snipe enemies until the power fully charged. Once it did, I would trigger it and jump invincibly and gleefully - yes, Rogue Stache made me feel gleeful - into a hoard of cheap insta-killers and paste them against the walls with abandon. My goal was not so much to clear the way as to hit the next level to regain full health. These experiences required a little bit of tactics, which surprised me in a game so determined to go down like stale sugar cookies otherwise.

Rogue Stache
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 52%
Gameplay - 10/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 4/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 74%
Violence - 2/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Keyboard and mouse control rarely gave me problems. In fact, I often accidentally performed dashes and wall jumps that turned out better than whatever I had planned on. The gun follows the mouse cursor anywhere on screen, allowing you to line up shots on enemies as they come around walls. My time with the Steam Controller was more problematic. The aiming reticle was reluctant to follow my thumb, and controller mode locks the reticle in a tight radius around the main character. Perhaps a different controller would have better results; then again, the Steam store page does advertise "full controller support."

If you need a reason not to play, the game is incredibly bloody and gory. Bodies and eyes bleed and blow apart. Fleshy appendages dart across the screen. It's not highly graphic, exactly (it was hours before I realized that the melee weapon is a knife instead of a shovel), but it is very red. The only voice acting comes from the main character shouting, "Oh, yeah," and "h*ll yeah," after a kill or weapon pickup. On occasion, such as in Steam Trading Cards, the word bad*** makes an appearance.

Rogue Stache is in early access. I understand that it feels short and repetitive, and it has the basic mechanics to enable a fun shooter-platformer in the future. Unfortunately, the enemy types and level variety to turn this game into something fun have yet to be created. That may happen, that may not. In the meantime, the highest praise Rogue Stache earns is that, whatever else it is, it is not pretentious.

About the Author

Sam George

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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