The 4th of July brings with it conflicting emotions for gamers. On the one hand, the long weekend is a chance to catch up with the great games of the first half of the year, while celebrating with a socially sanctioned saturnalia of beer, meat, and controlled explosives.
On the other hand, this orgiastic holiday marks the beginning of the summer game drought. The summer game drought typically lasts from late June into September, and is a time when, typically, very few good games get released. True, there may be oases in the dunes (for football fans, the annual early-July release of an NCAA Football game is a holiday in itself, and this year brings Nintendo’s Pikmin 3 in early August), but typically summer games are rare and they are bad.
The big, end of July, multiplatform release of 2013 is The Smurfs 2.
What is needed for the drought is a game that can be played over and over, that is addictive, that has the power to make you forget that you’ve finished The Last of Us and still have two and a half months until Grand Theft Auto 5 washes over the world of gaming like a typhoon.
I am happy to report that this game came out last week, and it is called Rogue Legacy.
Rogue Legacy is a $15 downloadable Windows game, and if you give it some time, it will keep you very busy indeed. The game defies the usual Game X meets Game Y categorization; it’s much easier to tell you how it works. You play as a little cartoon knight, and your task, like all little cartoon knights since Sir Arthur, is to explore a haunted castle swarming with charming Gothic cliches. The catch in Rogue Legacy is that your knight only has one life, and after he dies, the castle reforms randomly, and you apply all that you looted to upgrading your child, who takes on the quest in your memory. In the game’s funniest quirk, your children are afflicted with a random series of birth defects and psychological conditions, and so if your knight has ADHD, he moves faster, and if she is colorblind, she sees the haunted castle in a lovely sepia, and if he has hypergonadism, he is more powerful. (And if your character is gay, it changes nothing at all. It seems Cellar Door Games, the Canadian studio behind Rogue Legacy, has a sense of humor.)
Only through repeated death and rebirth can you move deeper into the castle, and it is this cycle that is going to burn through your summer. Happy 4th of July.