What might at first sound like a lazy reskin of an old classic, Roundguard is actually a fresh, ingenious take on an otherwise tired puzzle concept. Self-described as a “Peggle-inspired dungeon crawler”, Roundguard takes on the basic concept of the old Xbox classic and adds its own distinct flourish to the mix by adding enemies, combat, and a new strategic way to play.
Coming into Roundguard I wasn’t expecting too much. After all, how far can a Peggle game really deviate or improve upon the original formula? But within moments Wonderbelly Games’ new take was impressing me. It is a mix of simple little additions to the Peggle formula that together make for an all-new fun way to play.
Porting the Peggle Plan
Rather than clearing the screen of blue pegs ala Peggle, the blue pegs are replaced by enemies—each with their own distinct abilities and strategies. Clear out the enemies and the level is complete. Battle through levels to complete each dungeon in a dungeon crawling test of endurance.
Every enemy has a health bar which you’ll need to chip away at every time you come into contact with them, but just as you deal damage to them on a hit, so too do they damage you. This proves to be the key to what makes Roundguard work. Attacking an enemy is just as damaging, or more so, to you as it is to them, meaning that you’re really going to have to be strategic about how you plan out your turns. Very quickly a few stray bounces could have you in danger of dying yourself.
To mitigate your own damage there are also health potion “pegs” around the level that will grant you some recovery if you hit them. Again this simple addition adds an extra bit of strategy. Then there are your own abilities: Roundguard currently possesses 4 different characters each with their own distinct stats, powers, and advantages and disadvantages. On every turn you can trigger your power with mana to change the tide of the battle that extra bit more. Just as health can be recovered by health potions, blue mana potions are also found throughout every level.
Every level then becomes a puzzle of balance: which items or enemies you opt for on every turn is vital to consider carefully. Without a proper plan you’ll bounce around endlessly taking damage and status effects before being put to your untimely end. Of course, for all the planning in the world a slight miscalculation on your bounce could again turn the tide against you or make for a very fortunate chain of events. So goes the Peggle/Roundguard hands of fate.
A Fresh New Take
The combination of battle dungeon crawling and Peggle puzzler works surprisingly well, so much so that it’s near incredible that I haven’t seen it before. It’s a simple addition that refreshens the formula and takes the game surprisingly far.
There are plenty of nice little add-ons too to flesh out Roundguard’s gameplay as well. The playstyles of each of the 4 characters adds something distinct for each, and after some experimenting player’s will likely find their favourites that work for them best – personally, I found the lightning approach of the wizard to be most fun and effective. There is a slight learning curve to each one barring the base “warrior” character who works more as an introductory all-rounder with little flashiness or complexity.
For every character too there are items to unlock as you play through each run. In typical dungeon crawling/roguelike fashion these items are temporary but will hopefully help you get further through the game if you get a good combination. You’ll be accruing new weapons with stronger attacks and secondary effects as well as clothing which will boost your health and perhaps add a passive effect or two. Some combinations of weapons/clothing/abilities can become truly brutal after a while, allowing you to rip roar your way through some levels. If you don’t get that good combination however, and as I found out many (many) times, you could be in for a tough time.
Roundguard has a fairly steep difficulty curve. Even now I still struggle to make it the whole way through just the first dungeon, never mind the second or beyond (although maybe I’m just rubbish). There are however modifiers you can add to mitigate that difficulty. “Relics” can add modifying effects to change the run slightly. The first one available, for example, lessens the difficulty but will reduce your gold accumulation. Other relics are unlocked via certain quest completions.
With this Roundguard could just go on and on with a new way to play every single time you jump in. For a fairly small game and simple concept as is this is pretty impressive.
Currently there are also two other modes to play in aside from your campaign runs. Each day brings a new “daily puzzle” which is a shorter dungeon with a certain set of stipulations and modifying effects to it. These puzzles tend to be a bit more chaotic, expanding out the typical rules of the game just a tad to drive an experience that works as a fun one-off away from the endurance of the normal campaign. You’ll be locked into a certain character, for example, and the dungeon will have a certain quirk to it that you don’t normally get in the game.
Additionally there is a “weekly run” which again adds new stipulations to the normal campaign run with the promise of better rewards for upping the challenge. It could be that there is some positive modifier to help you but that too comes with an additional negative effect to up the ante. Again this simple yet impactful twist adds a nice texturing to a formula that was otherwise stale, and makes for a more fun, rounded out experience.
Roundguard surprised me immensely, and for that alone I’m going to have to give it a favourable recommendation. Quite simply, the game is fun, if frustrating to lose at again and again. But the fact that I have kept coming back for more proves that Wonderbelly Games have done something exactly right here. Roundguard is oh so simple in concept but each new addition to the Peggle formula works exceptionally well. There are plenty of little surprises to be found throughout the game with a good mix of enemy types and boss scenarios. The control and physics of the game are good, though with one or two issues with your ball getting stuck every now and then. Overall however the experience is enjoyable and vast enough for what the game is.
Final Score: 8/10