So what exactly does an adventurer do after they beat the last boss? This is the question Padaone Games' Roving Rogue poses to its players, and it gives a pretty straightforward answer: they walk back to the first level, of course. Kurt the Righteous does just that in this light platforming adventure, which begins promisingly but makes a few critical errors on the way back to World 1-1.
Roving Rogue's central mechanic, Kurt's ability to teleport, is a fun one. The controls are easy and satisfying: holding the button creates a movable aiming reticle that shows you where you'll pop out, and letting go will send the rogue to that location instantly. You can even move through walls, although the game prevents you from abusing this by limiting which ones you can go through; these special walls are marked by a special gold texture. Like any platforming protagonist, Kurt can also jump and take out baddies - the latter merely requires you to approach an enemy from behind to send them to their doom.
Tight level design helps set up a nice rhythm of jumping, warping and cutting down enemies that encourages and emphasizes speed. And make no mistake, you need to be fast - levels in which you travel vertically feature a nasty pool of rising lava, while horizontal levels see you fleeing the crumbling of the dungeons themselves (luckily, they just happen to collapse from left to right in an orderly fashion). To make things a little more challenging, players can go after a set of three optional collectible objects in each level à la New Super Mario Bros.' Star Coins.
While the game generates a palpable sense of excitement with its early stages, it quickly loses steam after the first couple of worlds thanks to a lack of fresh ideas. Rather than introduce new concepts, the design is content to increase difficult through abuse of past gimmicks. This leads to a number of haphazard sections later, including a few rooms awash in warp portals. Since there's no way to know where these take you until you've actually used them, this leads to an unnecessary degree of trial-and-error that cheapens the experience a little. There are also some weird, arbitrary moments where the game freezes for a few seconds, throwing off the otherwise rapid pace.
Roving Rogue's story has a clever idea, but it fails to capitalize on it in any significant way. Getting all three aforementioned collectibles in a level will unscramble a diary entry that recounts what Kurt did the first time through that area, but these "revelations" go more for corny humour than for any sort of real surprise. The game also serves up a goofy nod to Twitter to kick off each level, but these also come off as a bit forced and unfunny. It's a shame there wasn't an attempt to make the narrative an active part of the game; as it stands, it serves more as a weak punchline than anything else.
The pixel art here is clean and appealing, although the way levels are arranged - with long swaths of repeating tiles - often muddies their charm. A few more meaningful set pieces would have made a big difference here; as it stands every level merely looks like a rearranged version of the last, lacking the sort of meaningful identity a game like Shovel Knight - as one example - imparts on its locales. The soundtrack evokes a similar mixed reaction; the tunes themselves aren't bad, but they use a lot of generic, cheap-sounding MIDI instruments that significantly lessen their impact.
Roving Rogue has a number of great ideas: its story concept, main gameplay mechanic, and swift pacing are all first-rate. For the first couple of worlds it's a simple, addictive little platformer with tight level design. Unfortunately, the game loses its way by not introducing enough new ideas to keep things fresh, and by relying too heavily on trial-and-error in the back half of the quest. The narrative also feels like a missed opportunity, amounting to little more than a series of cheesy jokes. Players looking for a speedy dose of platforming action might be able to find their fix here, but they're going to have to slog through a number of missteps on the way.