In the current era of gaming, the phrase "Roguelike" can often be overused. It seems like any game featuring any number of elements from the genre such as permadeath and randomized situations warrant the moniker, but after the rise of major games like The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky, it's just easier to use the phrase to describe any number of elements from the age-old genre and move on. With that in mind, Power Grounds [$0.99] is kind of sort of a roguelike -- kind of.

In short, Power Grounds features the same randomization elements as many other genre staples, in that every round is a completely new experience. Your goal is to get from one end to the other on a small grid, avoiding enemies along the way. If you do this six times, you "win" that particular game -- of course, it's not that easy.

For starters, getting hit three times will instantly kill you, sending you back to the start (there's that permadeath at work). There's very little in the way of exposition, and the only way you'd even know the story (you're trapped in a temple) is by reading the description on the App Store. You also can't attack. Well, conventionally attack anyway. Instead, our hero has to step on a particular power square, then enact the appropriate power. Movement is done by way of "turns," and whenever you decide to roam, so do the enemies on the board. This type of style is perfectly suited to the mobile platform, since twitch accuracy isn't needed by any stretch of the imagination, and a simple flick in any direction will send you on your way.

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The powers themselves are really the core of the tactical nuance of Power Grounds, ranging from simple fireballs that can be shot in any cardinal direction, boots that let you move two spaces instead of one per turn, and so on. Not all of them are offensive based, forcing you to master the spectrum of strategies to really succeed in any given set of levels. For such a simple game it really is a brilliant concept, even if there are only nine powers in all.

The major problem with Power Grounds is that the random number generator can often be too kind, or too unforgiving. Many a time I've stepped into a stage that is nigh impossible unless you made the exact right movements, and vice-versa, I've seen stages that are literally so easy you can just flick through them. Thankfully, there is a significant extra involved after completion -- the arena mode. After besting the core game you'll gain access to another gametype that morphs everything from a exploratory perspective to a combat-centric dash for survival, as you attempt to take down as many enemies as you can. Again, it's amazing how such a simple change can extend your playtime, and a complete lack of IAP makes this package even sweeter.

Power Grounds will only appeal to certain types of gamers, but those of you who enjoy a good puzzler with a touch of action will enjoy it. Just be sure to keep some patience on-hand for when the random number gods are particularly unforgiving.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • JCho133

    Hah! Sweet! Didn't expect this to ever come. Glad it did, and it got a great score!

  • diego

    Thanks for the review! Yes, the game seems a little random when you start playing it, but you can beat it very consistently if you take defensive spells :-)

  • vectorarchitekt

    This game is fantastic. Live the arena mode. Yes, sometimes it is a bit intense die to randomness but, of you take your time and plan it's a perfect balance of chess-like strategy and action. Love the visual style too. Really can't say one bad thing about this one.

  • hakamhakam

    This and Amber Halls are fantastic, love both of them. Diego did tweet a wordpress of the development of Amber Halls that teased his new game. If you enjoy this game or Amber Halls, I think you should check it out.

  • Chq

    It's a boring game. Instead i highly recommend 868-Hack.

    • Glorkbot

      I like 868-HACK a lot, but it's so hardcore and intense. I get more actual pleasure when playing Power Grounds.

    • diego

      I'm a big fan of 868-hack (I'm #3 on the leaderboards). Power Grounds is meant to be a quicker and more accessible game.

      • diego

        (More accessible in terms of gameplay...)

  • mguniverse

    This game is better than drugs.

Power Grounds Reviewed by Chris Carter on . Rating: 4