Developer: Zeno Rogue
Release Date: 16 January, 2015
Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS
By Chris Picone, 08 February 2018
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this game.
HyperRogue is a fun roguelike by indie developer Zeno Rogue. A free version of the game featuring only one land was released in November 2011 but the commercial version, which more closely resembles the current version, was only released in January 2015. HyperRogue includes all the normal roguelike features such as procedural generation, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and perma-death, but also has the unique claim of being set on a hyperbolic plane. Non-Euclidean geometry it’s called, apparently, but it’s not just a gimmick. The whole game is designed around this strange feature, and it makes for a surprisingly fun experience. The world is enormous, boasting around fifty drastically different lands to explore, thanks to the infinitising effect of the hyperbolic plane. However, the geometry-based gameplay is just the tip of the iceberg for this diamond in the rough.
There is no story. You play as a nondescript character and have to try to collect as much treasure as you can while using the strange geometry to overcome otherwise overwhelming odds and kill or avoid being killed by the world’s monsters. Collecting treasure opens up new lands to explore, but also makes more enemies spawn, making the game harder.
I initially made the mistake of thinking the graphics were entirely functional – at first glance, the game looks like it’s been lifted off a 90s arcade system. However, the graphics are a deliberate choice, modelled after M.C. Escher’s Circle Limit woodcut series. III, in particular. Fitting, given the game’s theme.
The graphics are accompanied by classic arcade-style special effects and soundtrack. The looping tracks are repetitive, but you don’t notice so much as the music is constantly changing to match every land you explore.
HyperRogue is all about the gameplay. The premise is deceptively simple: Roam around the enormous map collecting treasure to try and rack up a high score, while dodging or killing the enemies. The enemies are also deceptively simple, usually moving only a single space every turn, and rarely doing much more than following you in as straight a line as possible. However, this is where the geometry kicks in. The hyperbolic plane means that straight lines aren’t straight lines, so you can use this so that enemies eventually fall into line behind you, allowing you to kill them off one by one. In theory, you simply repeat that strategy over and over, collecting treasure until you’re surrounded and overwhelmed. In reality, the quirks of each land you explore mean that you have to try and adapt that situation to your surroundings, and to the enemies therein. For example, the strategy works fairly well in the ice land, which is the starting area. However, the movement restrictions imposed by the mountains in the desert land mean that this strategy is likely to find you cornered. In the living cave, the walls are actually alive, and move each turn. In the land of eternal motion there are no walls, but every step you take leaves a permanently impenetrable chasm behind you. The enemies also force you to adapt your strategy. The troll, for example, leaves a living wall in his place when he dies. That might help you by preventing your enemies from reaching you, but it might also hinder you by blocking your own escape routes. Desert worms are fairly passive enemies; they don’t seem to attack you directly but they are long and they move around the map seemingly at random, making it difficult to move freely. In the jungle, the walls are actually vines that chase you around the map. In the alchemist lab, you can only move on tiles of a particular colour, but killing a slime makes it explode, changing the colour of the tiles in its vicinity, and therefore the map around you. Other enemies explode in the regular manner, potentially killing enemies around you, but also destroying treasure and walls. Thankfully, the game does occasionally throw you a bone. In the ice land you can find orbs of winter, which erect ice walls behind you as you walk, and flash orbs, which kill all enemies in a small area when activated. You can also find thumpers in the desert, which attract the worms, and the orb of life in the living caves, which summons a golem ally to protect you for a short time. In addition, there are lands that introduce totally different challenges, such as the hall of mirrors and the minefield, and even special lands that offer quests, such as Camelot, in which you must attempt to find the exact centre of the round table (a difficult feat on the hyperbolian plane!) in order to find the grail. As if that wasn’t enough, the game also offers alternative gameplay modes, including a combat-based orb strategy mode, and a shoot-em-up mode.
Fun Factor / Replayability
In a steam review, I described HyperRogue as “surprisingly fun.” In my first playthrough I decided to tackle the tutorial, which is really a demonstration on how the hyperbolian plane works, rather than a lesson on how to play the game. The tutorial plays much the same as the regular version of the game, except that if you’re about to die you can simply teleport to safety, and there’s a function which allows you to view the world through different lenses to highlight the unique geometry. I surprised myself by happily sinking more than an hour into the tutorial, and then eagerly jumped into the main game. As a roguelike, HyperRogue is already designed for short games and maximum replayability, but I often find the repetition quickly becomes tedious and I move on. In HyperRogue, however, the world is so big and wacky, and every land so drastically different from one to the next, that I soon found myself restarting the game over and again, trying to collect as much treasure as I could so I could unlock new areas of the game and keep exploring.
While I do enjoy the odd diversionary arcade-style game, they’re not my usual genre, and I’m normally content with playing them through a few times as a bit of a change of pace and then moving on. HyperRogue, however, has me totally hooked. I’m finding that I’m jumping on the computer to play one of the games I’m already in the middle of, and then loading up HyperRogue instead. Just a quick game, I figure. Five minutes on HyperRogue and I’ll go back to my game. Next thing I know, it’s midnight.
My verdict is: If you enjoy puzzle games, roguelikes, or other arcade games, give HyperRogue a go. Best case scenario, you’ll find the game as exciting as I have – worst case scenario, you’re down $5.
You can also try the game for free here: http://www.roguetemple.com/z/hyper/online.php
The paid versions include more lands, are updated more frequently, and include social features such as achievements and leaderboards. I also found the free version ran very slowly on my computer, whereas the paid version was smooth.