Ravenous Games is a developer I’ve always wanted to like more than I perhaps do; League of Evil ($2.99) still holds a place of greatness as one of the original trial platformers on mobile and a damn fine example of pixel art. Later games have always felt like they’ve had that missing spark that has prevented the great art and ideas behind the games to be something great. But Tiny Rogue ($2.99) appealed to me for two particular reasons: one, I dig the pixel art and the pocket-sized, turn-based roguelike concept. But the other reason was that Ravenous was now doing something completely different from what they had before, and I think moving into a different genre is a good thing for them.
Tiny Rogue doesn’t really break any barriers in the turn-based roguelike genre, but the foundation is solid. You try to advance as far as possible in the dungeon, either moving, attacking, or using an item in a turn, before all other enemies take their turn. The game’s combat is pretty much centered around being able to hit enemies before they hit you, as you can stun enemies for several turns when you hit them. So, the game becomes about finding those advantages. You can’t wait, unless you have that single-use item, so the game becomes about cleverly using your items and attacks to get enemies into the right places. A dagger tossed into nowhere might not hit anything, but the turn skip might put in the right place to solve the level and keep advancing. The whole system of tyring to be in good positioning with enemies is the dominant system here, but a smart one as it constantly keeps you on your toes!
Relentless progress is the modus operandi here, with the ultimate goal being to get as many points as possible. Chests and enemy kills are big ways to get points, but each game has a random objective worth a large amount of points, but these usually come along in natural course, though you certainly can avoid killing the dragon, for example. But you’re just constantly trying to go onward, managing your items wisely so that you’re not left high and dry in a tough situation. Getting kills increases your experience, and you get new perks with each level up. As such, it’s worth actually killing enemies and not just avoiding them to go on to the next level, though I do think a point bonus for killing all enemies would be welcome, too.
What Tiny Rogue does well is to be a fantastic pick-up-and-play, one-handed portrait mode game, You can swipe from anywhere to move, all other actions are achieved through tapping. It’s a simple system, but the game feels perfect for playing in a quick moment or while on a bus, for example. And the sessions are short enough that you can jump back into another one when done. And the whole game is remarkably accessible for players who just want to enjoy the roguelike experience, as the mechanics become clear over a short amount of time.
The drawback over the long term might be that Tiny Rogue doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, but the advantage is that once you learn how the systems work, it’s just about mastering them and constantly performing. It’s a game that rewards smart play, even if the ideas of how to play smartly are easy enough to pick up on. So, it’s a great game for the casual player who doesn’t want a punishing experience. In fact, it might be something that works really well for getting into a deeper game like the fantastic Hoplite ($3.99).
If you go into Tiny Rogue expecting a relatively basic experience that you can enjoy in quick bursts, you’ll have a good time. I’ve had a lot of fun, though I do think the game is limited in scope. But that’s not necessarily bad for what this is. And really, it renews my faith in Ravenous Games to a large degree, as while I still think their game design might not entirely click with me, sometimes they can knock it out of the park. This is their best game since the original League of Evil. If a pick-up-and-play roguelike that’s challenging without being too punishing sounds like a good time, you’ll enjoy Tiny Rogue.