Let me get this out of the way: Roundguard is absolutely delightful. It combines two of my favorite games: the pachinko-like Peggle, and the deckbuilding roguelike Slay the Spire. It’s a twist I didn’t see coming, but now that it’s here, I may have a new favorite thing. As much as I’ve always loved the whimsical charm of Peggle, its gameplay is mostly “shoot your metal ball, and wait to see what happens.” However, in Roundguard you take a more of an active role.
If you’re familiar with Peggle, you’ll feel right at home with Roundguard. It copies Peggle’s gameplay formula extremely closely, adding roleplaying game elements in a way that feels so natural that Peggle now feels like it’s missing something. In Roundguard, instead of loosing your ball and watching the result, you shoot off your chosen warrior, who has stats, weapons, and special abilities that affect how they interact with the board—and even more excitingly, you can often use their power-ups to great effect. This makes Roundguard a lot more active than Peggle.
As I mentioned, you don’t shoot a ball in Roundguard. Instead you are literally launching a little round person—which is your character. Roundguard has three characters to choose from: a warrior, rogue, and wizard. Each has their own set of abilities, armor, and weapons. They all function much like the ball does in Peggle. Except, not being a ball, there are a lot of things to consider when shooting them, like their health, mana, and what danger you’ll be putting your little member of the Roundguard into when you shoot them off. Also, instead of aiming for different colored pegs, you’ll be aiming for potions, chests, pots, and enemies while avoiding hazards, like webs and poison sacks.
The abilities each character possesses are a huge part of the gameplay of Roundguard, and each of the classes feels surprisingly unique. The rogue can double jump to change her direction in mid-flight and use smoke and poison on her enemies. The warrior has a spin attack that lets him travel through objects, and is more about heavy damage. The wizard uses powerful lightning, wisps and other magic to break pots and defeat enemies. Each class has their own weapons and armor that give further benefits, like extra attack damage, bleed, and poison effects for the weapons, and increased health, buffs or even immunities to certain status effects for the armor.
There isn’t really combat in Roundguard, but enemies have health and damage stats. Hitting an enemy, unless there is an ability or status that makes it otherwise, will make that enemy attack you back. If you don’t have the health to survive the attack, and you don’t land on a health pot before you hit the bottom, your character dies and your run is over. Enemies aren’t just passive, either—they will throw spears, and some will even heal and resurrect downed comrades. Defeat all of the enemies to complete a level. Instead of having a finite amount of balls, your character’s health determines how many times they can be shot off. Like the basket in Peggle, there is a cushion that can save your Roundguard from taking damage. But if you miss the cushion, you’ll be forced to take damage by spikes or acid below.
Instead of accumulating points, one of your goals in Roundguard is to collect gold. Gold isn’t used to directly purchase items. Instead, it’s used to give you a better advantage on a random chance wheel. The more gold you gather, the better your odds at getting powerful trinkets that can help your current playthrough—or your next one.
Each playthrough of Roundguard is different. Consisting of three acts, it takes about an hour or so for a run through. Much like Slay the Spire, you can access a map that shows which paths you can take. This gives you some degree of control over which encounters you’ll face. There are enemies, treasure rooms, minibosses, etc. You can even see what enemy type you will encounter, of which there are three: goblins, spiders, and skeletons. Each of these enemy types have their own challenges, with more powerful enemies of each type appearing the further you progress. There are also several different minibosses, and at the end of each of the three acts you will face a different boss with their own unique mechanics.
And while each of these bosses and minibosses are great, there just isn’t that much variety. I’ve already spent several hours with Roundguard, but I feel like I’ve seen most of what there is to see. Each act always ends with one of the same three bosses, and you’re likely to encounter most minibosses through just one playthrough. For a roguelike, there isn’t that much variety—but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good amount of replayability. Starting a run with a relic activated can make a significant difference. Interestingly, the first relic that is unlocked actually serves as a bit of an easy mode. But the ones you’ll be unlocking afterwards are all about the challenge.
Roundguard scratches an itch I didn’t know I had, and incorporates roguelike gameplay brilliantly into the Peggle formula. I love Roundguard—I just wish there were more variety of enemies and bosses to encounter. Even so, Roundguard is wonderful, funny, and absolutely recommended for Peggle fans.
Roundguard is available now on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
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