Relinquishing Control: Reviewing games, cooperatively.
Sproggiwood is a turn-based dungeon crawler with procedurally generated worlds filled with cute little monsters who will have you pulling your hair out. For a game developed primarily for touchscreen devices (we use PC) it is consistently challenging.
The aim is straightforward: work your way through the levels of each dungeon until you reach the boss, then kill it. As you progress you will collect loot, souping up your little Cloghead into an unstoppable killing machine. Until the end, when you lose everything but your gold as you travel back through ‘the astral plane.’ However, each new item you’ve found on your journey will become available at the shop, giving you the option to start off your next escapade a little better off.
Overall, there are 6 character classes to choose from, each with their own unique abilities. Ideally, each level should be completed with each character to make the most gold and to work out the strategic benefits of each distinctive character class. For example, when we first unlocked the Vampire class Rory was ready to dismiss it as a bit naff. However, after pushing through the initial struggle, we found the Vampire was a force to be reckoned with, but one requiring a more strategic approach.
Quick and easy to pick up, Sproggiwood is a great introduction to the roguelike genre, whilst still providing a challenge for more experienced gamers (3 difficulties are available). Each enemy has individual tactics, it will use to hunt and destroy you, which develop with you throughout the game, it can be very intimidating as 20 slimes and spiders edge closer with every move you make. You must quickly learn to adapt your playstyle or you will surely perish, over and over again.
This being said, there is minimal frustration in your failures. The levels are short enough that even if you die with 1 hit left on the boss, you’re unlikely to smash your controller into the wall. This also makes it a great social game for friends or partners, swapping over after every death, or at the end of a dungeon without getting bored waiting for your next attempt. And for someone who is constantly in search of the perfect couch co-op this provides some welcome middle ground as a decent single-player to take turns with.
The art style is friendly and simplistic, and the story is enough to add mild entertainment throughout your journey. Without giving too much away, you are of the peaceful and orderly Cloghead race, brought to a mysterious realm and tasked with developing civilisation. But with the best of intentions at heart, you will soon begin to question the effectiveness of your diplomatic techniques.
This brings us to what is perhaps our main issue with this game, it’s storytelling. It is humorous, lighthearted, and cheap. There are numerous points in the game where the bosses plead their case and try to make you see reason, Big Ick’s later arguments are particularly compelling, but alas there is nothing that can be done. Nothing, that is, but continue to kill everyone in sight. At the very least they could have added a reason for the killing to continue. There is a point during one of the earlier altercations with the Mushroom Elders when this effort is made; it is, unfortunately, not sustained throughout.
At this point it should be mentioned that we received this game as part of the Humble Freedom Bundle. As such, this is perhaps a game worth adding to your Steam wishlist, and watching for a sale. It doesn’t quite seem worth the full asking price of £10.99. Saying that, it can be found for a more reasonable £4.99 in app form.
Overall, this is a good dip-in, dip-out game that won’t let you walk all over it with your slime covered clogs, but won’t ruin your evening either. Simple on the outside, but a good balance of tactical complexity hidden beneath the surface.
In Relinquishing Control, Lollie and Rory put their relationship on the line to bring you the best in couch co-op. Rory has been gaming since he was a babe, and Lollie, until recently, has never seen the value in them. With players as unevenly matched as this, games can become a chore. We’re here to pick out the good ‘uns and argue over the bad ‘uns, so you don’t have to.