1-Bit Rogue is a title very much true to the spirit of the RogueLike, but is rooted more firmly into the increasingly popular RogueLight sub-category of the genre, providing small snatches of random dungeon crawling with a unique visual style that wouldn’t be amiss on the Game Boy.
Developed by Kan Kikuchi alongside Skipmore and available on iOS and Android, this game feels like a love-letter to a simpler time. Though the company has meddled with the format of RogueLikes in the past, this feels like the purest distillation of the formula and with such a simple visual style it manages to immediately grab the attention of those who see it in action.
Graphically this is a game that makes the very most out of a very limiting design choice. The game plays as standard in white on black (with an in-app purchase to unlock limited colours that feels unnecessary when the pixel-art is this well done) and uses pixels to their fullest potential to map each area and generate a number of chibi-style ‘Dragon Quest’ inspired monsters and characters. The default hero and his unlockable allies are all well animated and each new monster has its own unique look that can be spotted at a glance and ties into their behaviours (bigger monsters are less likely to chase as fast, smaller armed characters show intelligence, etc). Menu options appear at the base of the screen in the form of simple yes/no prompts as events occur and are never intrusive, allowing for the game to feel extremely slick in its presentation. Sadly there is an advertisement bar at the bottom of the screen at all times that can’t (as yet) be removed with an IAP, and this does somewhat detract from the games simple charm at times.
Musically the game uses a soundtrack based on chip-tunes to generate a NES or older DOS based game-style ambience, with the title screen having a beautifully balanced melody that swings between fun and haunting in tone. Sadly aside from this tune the only other track is a looping piece that plays throughout gameplay in the dungeons. It’s nice to listen to and manages to not wear out its welcome through 30+ floors but multiple extended sessions may have a player looking to mute the game. Sound effects are well recorded and very clear, based in a similar tone to the retro aesthetic and never out of place.
Below a village lies an endless dungeon that changes and warps each time a hero dares to venture into its depths. It’s possibly the story at the heart of every good RogueLike and rather than be told in detail here it’s merely hinted at through a shot of the town above on the title screen with a descent into the dungeon below clearly depicted. This is not a game that has any real plot to speak of, though this does nothing to damage its charm.
Gameplay is streamlined to simplicity. From the title screen the player can select to dive straight into a randomly generated dungeon with a quick tap of the screen, or can trigger one of the icons lined up below to level up their hero’s starting stats, unlock new hero classes, purchase the games single IAP (comically titled ‘buy us a beer’), and view any trophies you may have unlocked through dedicated play. Inside a dungeon movement is grid-based and the world works on a strictly turn-based system in traditional RogueLike fashion. Tapping in the direction you want to travel in using the hero’s position as a marking point moves one square in that direction, whilst pressing and holding the hero ‘waits’ a turn. Moving in the direction of a monster on an adjacent square deals damage equal to you level plus the value of whatever weapon you have equipped at the time. Weapons have limited uses before breaking and each floor will contain a single treasure chest that contains money, a new weapon, medicine or a scroll. What you get is totally random and resource management is key to survival. You can also be blessed or cursed by statues of demons and angels in addition to finding hidden traps on later floors. When you HP reaches zero you’re booted back out of the dungeon with whatever cash you have left, unless you choose to watch an ad or pay out some of that cash to continue. Monsters are initially generated in low numbers but as you pass gateway stages (with powerful dragons you may want to avoid) the scenery alters and the difficulty ramps up in gradual increments. The game is playable entirely offline, which makes it the perfect free download for those long journeys or quick lunch-time sessions before getting back to work.
Overall there is entirely no reason to not download this game. It’s small file size, replay value, high production values and sense of fun should make it a full-time member of your gaming library. We recommend you not only download it immediately, but tip the creators that beer and buy the IAP to show them we support quality of this kind. You won’t regret it.
NOTE: Since the time of writing this game has been updated so that purchasing ‘3-bit colour mode’ removes the in-app advertisements.