Castle Springbottom is under attack, and the king has been captured by the monsters that now lurk inside its treasure-laden rooms. Fortunately, four intrepid heroes have stepped up to save the king while also liberating all the gold they can along the way. Players can step into the shoes of either a warrior, rogue, wizard, or the recently added Druid and show those monsters a thing or two. Don’t get overconfident, though, as each character only has one life, and if they ever run out of health, it’s back to the start for another attempt. All of this should sound fairly familiar to fans of role-playing games in general and roguelike titles in particular, but Roundguard has an interesting twist. Instead of moving your character around like in a traditional dungeon crawler, the action is more akin to Peggle as you shoot your hero at enemies and let the pinball physics do the rest.
Everyone who has played Peggle will know how addictive the game is, and Roundguard expands on this winning formula in many ways. Standing between players and victory is three acts and 45 levels along with three big bosses. The castle is randomized with each run, so you never know what to expect, and there are also several sub-bosses to fight along the way. Since you only get one life and your character’s health carries over from one level to the next, the game requires a little more care and planning than just blindly launching at the nearest enemy.
Each level of Roundguard has pots filled with gold, health, and mana potions, as well as enemies. Your goal is to clear all the enemies while grabbing the other goodies. Unfortunately, enemies are not just going to let you harm them without retaliation, so you have to pay attention to their attack damage in addition to their health. Their attack damage is the amount of health you will lose if you hit them directly, and this can be fatal if you are not careful. The bottom of each level is also filled with hazards like spikes or water, so preferably you’ll want to land on the small cushioned platform that moves back and forth. This is easier said than done, though, as you don’t have that much control over your character after launching them. Once you clear a level, you are rewarded with a random upgrade to your character’s weapon, armor, or spells, and then it is on to the next level. Reaching the halfway point for each act presents you with an opportunity to spin the “wheel of wonder,” which rewards you with a trinket that can be useful moving forward. The prizes on offer are based on how much gold you have accumulated, so if you want the really good stuff, you’ll have to grab as much loot as possible along the way.
Roundguard is not just addictive, but each of the four characters is unique enough that you’ll want to clear the game with all of them. For example, the warrior is tough and can handle direct damage, so playing with him is like playing with a wrecking ball. On the other hand, the rogue is a lot more fragile but can use sneaky moves like shooting arrows at enemies or stealthing through them to do damage without getting hurt herself. The Druid is a new addition to the game, but her ability to make use of all kinds of nature spells makes her formidable in the right hands, and she quickly became one of our favorite characters. Characters can equip up to two attacks simultaneously and have enough different ones at their disposal that even replaying the game with the same character can be a very different experience. In addition, completing the game unlocks relics that players can equip for future runs to shake things up and make things a bit harder if that’s what you prefer. You also unlock a random trinket after each run that could help you get a little further next time if you didn’t quite make it.
Roundguard also features daily and weekly challenges to keep you coming back for more, along with the primary campaign mode. In addition, the game has leaderboards for things like the most gold collected, quickest completion time, and amount of moves used to complete the game. However, with over 200 items and trinkets, it will take repeated playthroughs to see everything the game has to offer. In fact, after close to ten hours playing the game and completing it with every character, there are still a few sub-bosses that we haven’t encountered yet and trinkets to unlock. Not bad, considering the reasonable asking price for the game.
Visually, Roundguard features a simple but charming style for the characters and enemies. Their spherical designs fit with the theme of the game but also make everything look extra cute. Players have to face off against everything from skeletons and rats to orcs and spiders, as well as a few unique bosses. The backgrounds for each level are relatively simple and consist mostly of brick walls and a few decorations, which helps to keep the focus on the foreground where the action takes place. Some of the spell effects are pretty neat, and we also loved how new weapons and armor can change the appearance of the characters. The game actually uses a square layout for the levels, but the space on the sides is dedicated to information about your character and enemies. Here you can see at a glance how much health or attack power your enemies have or keep an eye on your own stats. The audio in Roundguard is cheerful and catchy, but we must admit to missing the strains of “Ode to Joy” bursting out of our speakers when completing a level. Roundguard can be played with either a mouse or controller, and we had no issues using either.
Roundguard could simply have copied Peggle and still be a great game, but thankfully the developers have made plenty of improvements and additions of their own to make the game unique. It really does feel like a dungeon crawler as you earn experience points, level up, and discover new equipment as well as spells. Due to the nature of the game, there’s obviously some luck involved as well, but it never felt like the odds were unfairly stacked against us. After a few tries, we found it pretty easy to complete the game with each run, but the use of relics prevented it from feeling like a walk in the park. Roundguard is a no-brainer for anyone who enjoyed Peggle but would like to play something with a bit more depth and replay value. It is every bit as addictive as Popcap’s offering, but the addition of RPG elements shakes things up a bit.