Sproggiwood is the latest (and one of the greatest) roguelikes to appear on the App Store. For those unfamiliar with the term, a roguelike is a turn-based game, usually a dungeon crawler, that features procedurally generated levels, random loot/equipment, and permadeath (no support for restoring from a saved game when you die). These types of games are also generally punishingly difficult, although not always. While Sproggiwood clearly falls into this category in spirit, it gleefully eschews the idea of conforming to its letter. Set in the world of Finnish mythology, this story-driven roguelike seeks to turn the genre on its head, and entirely succeeds.
You begin the game as a simple farmer who is lured into a magical forest realm by the mischievous forest spirit, Sproggi. Dungeon-delve, build up your village, unlock new character classes and equipment, rinse, repeat. One major departure from standard roguelikes is the fact that each dungeon is bite-sized, with a fully beatable boss at the bottom. That's right, death is not certain in Sproggiwood. Succeed, and you will not only get plenty of cash, but you will also unlock any equipment you find (for future purchase in the shop). Here's the part, however, that gives Sproggiwood its roguelike credentials and bumps it out of the RPG category: You lose all equipment and experience when you complete a dungeon, and when you die. There, I said it. I know it sounds frustrating, but it actually works quite well, thanks to the quick level progression within each dungeon, and the liberal equipment drops. Even with a complete reset after each run, finding a piece of equipment you're particularly fond of is still a cause for celebration because doing so makes the item available for purchase in the shop, which then allows you to use with all your heroes on future runs. Speaking of equipment, you are only allowed to carry one weapon, one piece of armor, and one consumable. At first, this vexed me because I like to hoard my treasure for later use. After a few playthroughs, however, I realized that this forces me to actually use what I find instead of carrying it around in my backpack to eventually be lost when I die without ever touching it. Find an upgrade, use what you have immediately or sell it for gold. I think I've used more consumables while playing Sproggiwood than I have in every other roguelike, combined. Ever. Trust me, it's fun. As previously noted, the level-ups will come pretty quickly, and with them the chance to upgrade your powers. You will need these upgrades to defeat the boss, so don't even think about dodging enemies and heading straight for him. You begin as a simple farmer, but as you progress through the story, you will eventually unlock all the classes: warrior, archer, thief, wizard, and vampire. Each of these have completely different powers and require different strategies, giving Sproggiwood some serious replayability legs.
Sproggiwood is a lighthearted game. Thankfully, the graphics are whimsical without being cutesy, giving it the feel of an animated movie rather than a child's cartoon. The music and sound are also top-notch, and won't overwhelm you to the point that you reach for the mute switch. Lastly, Sproggiwood is a premium game with a premium price. While $10 may seem steep to mobile gamers these days, this version is completely identical in every way to the PC version, which retails for more. If you're looking for a desktop game to play on your handheld device, look no further than Sproggiwood. After some time with it, you'll realize why the PC/Mac game market is still thriving, even without free-to-play as the norm.
Note: Minimum Device Requirements: iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad Mini 2 (iPod Touch 5 is not supported)
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Beautiful hand-drawn art. Don't expect flashy 3D effects, though. Sound: - 4 - Very good sound effects and music. Controls: - 5 - Dead simple interface. No confusion; no mistaps. Gameplay: - 5 - A story-driven roguelike like no other. Lots of fun. Lots of replayability.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Experiment with new game strategies and your powers. There is no long-term penalty for a character dying; in fact, you even get to keep some gold! If you're new to roguelikes, play on the easiest difficulty level. If you aren't sure, this can be adjusted from within the game. If you are looking for a challenge, crank it up. You will be surprised how good the AI is at the highest level.