STAFF REVIEW of Roundguard (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Roundguard Box art I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong. Case in point, I unfairly pre-judged Roundguard as a simple Peggle knockoff. To be fair, it’s hard to blame me, as when you see the screenshots and notice the peg board pachinko-style gameplay we’ve all played before, it’s easy to make assumptions. But I was wrong. Yes, it plays like Peggle at its core, but there’s enough variety and gameplay tweaks that it does feel like a different experience that Peggle made popular.

If by some miracle you’ve not seen or played Peggle before, it was a very popular game last generation where you were tasked with clearing pegs by shooting a pinball down a pegged board, watching it be pulled to the bottom of the board by gravity. It was very simplistic yet absolutely addictive. Developer Wonderbelly Games clearly has taken this addictive nature and made some minor tweaks to the core concept that actually changed the gameplay, arguably for the better. You wouldn’t think that adding a dungeon crawling element and roguelike gameplay to Peggle would work, but they’ve managed to pull it off for an entertaining adventure.

While there is a shoestring of a story element within Roundguard, revolving around you trying to save the king and recover his gold, let’s be honest; it’s nice that it’s included, but you won’t care about it when you simply want to shoot your ‘balls’ down the play field, trying to make it to the end of the dungeon. You only have one life though, indicated by a health bar, so this is where the rougelike element comes into play, as when you lose all your life you start all over again from the beginning of the dungeon.

In classic Peggle, the pegs on the board are just that, standard pegs, that disappear when you hit them with your ball. Roundguard changes this up and makes it fit the dungeon theme, so pegs can be health or mana orbs, poison, monsters, pots that smash open and drop gold or other items you’d find in a dungeon. Instead of a plain pinball to drop on the field, you’ll actually choose one of three heroes; a warrior, rogue or mage, each of which have their own starting stats and abilities based on their class. Warriors obviously have the most health where the rogue can use sneaky attacks against their enemies. Mana is used for your special class abilities, so when you run out, you’ll need to find some mana orb/pegs to hit to replenish.

Just like Peggle, you aim from your crossbow at the top of the screen, aiming at your target and then launching. In Peggle, once you launched your ball you would generally just wait until gravity does its thing and the ball reaches the bottom of the screen. In Roundguard, there’s a bit more ‘gameplay’ to it if you will. Once launched, you still won’t have direct control of your character as they bounce down the board, but with your abilities, you can choose when to use them, some of which will require some quick reflexes, planning and of course, luck.

In Peggle you simply had a ball counter that you needed to fulfil your objective before running out of balls. Roundguard however changes this up a bit. Instead of a ball counter, you have a health pool. When your health is depleted it’s game over. There are health pot pegs though placed randomly across the board, so sometimes you’ll need to forego hitting that monster to pass the stage, as doing so also hurts your character as well. And yes, when you attack a monster by hitting them, you take off a certain amount of their health pool, but they have an attack stat as well, and you’ll also receive damage for doing so. Even the bottom of the screen is filled with spikes, hurting you if you don’t land on the scrolling cushion that will spare you some damage at the end of a launch. Lose all your health and your run is over.

Just like a good dungeon crawler, you’re also going to find upgrades to your abilities, armor and weapons along the way as you make your way further down the dungeons stage to stage. These will be paramount as you make your way from stage to stage on the way to the bosses. When you do eventually die and have to restart, you’ll gain a bonus for your next run, hopefully making it an easier go the next time around. If you’re able to beat a handful of bosses and clear the dungeon completely, you’ll earn an ever important relic that is a permanent choice to toggle on or off, changing gameplay in different ways, like maybe having more health and mana pots on the board.

Dungeons are also randomized every time you play, not just the peg placements and other items, but even quests and bosses, so it doesn’t become stale as quickly as I expected. There’s also online leaderboards, so there’s plenty of competition to be had against your friends and other Rounguard-ers. The visuals are very cartoonish, there is some decent humor present and the music is basic but catchy. Obviously someone playing a genre like this isn’t playing it for its narrative, graphics or audio, but for its simple yet addictive gameplay.

I honestly expected Roundguard to be a simple Peggle re-skin, but came away very surprised that this wasn’t simply a 'shoot and wait' experience. On paper a roguelike dungeon crawling Peggle game shouldn’t really make sense or work, yet Roundguard has manages to give an exciting experience that is just as addictive as the game that the genre is best known for, and in some ways, surpasses it with its depth.

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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