Roundguard Review: Bouncing Heroics

Roundguard is available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Apple Arcade. I conducted this review on an Xbox Series X.

Overview

Roundguard is a rogue-lite puzzle game inspired by Peggle and pinball mechanics. You choose between 3 different heroes and fire them from a ballista to bop the baddies and win gold. The dungeon encounters are randomized and each character has skills they can utilize, and gear they can equip.

The rogues double jump is quite handy

To clear each level, you have to reduce all the enemies to zero HP. You have an unlimited number of shots, but your hero has their own HP bar. If they fall through the bottom of the map when it’s at 0, you lose and have to start over.

Progressing through the dungeon awards you with upgraded loot, abilities, trinkets, and relics. If you’re lucky, you can take a relic with you to your next run.

Gameplay

Roundguard will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played Peggle, but it has a pretty big twist. Roundguard isn’t about solving set puzzles but rather, combating enemies in a randomly generated dungeon using the quirky Peggle gameplay style.

Colliding with an enemy deals damage to both the foe and your hero, but the levels are scattered with all manner of items, between gold pots, mana potions, and most importantly health vials.

Each hero can equip different skills. The straight forward Barbarian can barrel through objects and foes with a spinning attack, or dart right toward them with a charge. The crafty Rogue can fire arrows or jump in the direction of your choosing. The Mage can strike with lightning, and encase foes in bouncy bubbles.

Boss fights are really cool, but repetitive after a few runs

Different enemies can require different approaches as well. Most enemies deal damage on impact, but some fire ranged weapons instead. Enemies such as the spiders only deal damage if you hit them in the head, leaving their backsides safe and exposed.

The standalone formula that inspired Roundguard was already satisfying and addictive. The added complexity and rogue-lite elements bring a great deal of fun and replay value to the table. It’s simply more entertaining to use the pinball like physics in a dungeon crawler type setting, as opposed to a pure puzzle.

You have to pay attention and think carefully about each shot you take. Not only do you take damage when colliding with an enemy, but the bottom of the map is filled with spikes, a comfy cushion moves back and forth, but you can’t always rely on it. You lose additional health whenever you hit the spikes.

Loot comes in many flavors, but it’s random.

Learning and adapting the strengths of each character in any given encounter is a lot of fun, especially when you nail a cool combo. Though you have to defeat enemies to win, scoring high is still important. “Gold” is your score, and at different intervals, the game will spin a wheel of trinkets based on your score.

The higher your score, the bigger your chance to win a powerful trinket, which grants a game-wide bonus of some kind. When put together, you have to balance your need to win, and you’re own HP and mana, while scoring points. It’s an interesting balancing act to engage in.

As you progress you will also pick up new weapons, armor, and skills you can equip. Most of which have straight statistical improvements to your health and attack power, but can also grant other effects, such as inflicting bleed on an enemy. These effects can alter the way you play a character, which is pretty cool.

Using each characters skills is the key to playing well.

Roundguard is extremely random and you have very little control over it. You can choose your paths through the dungeon, if you aim well enough at least, but all the gear, each skill, and every trinket is random.

Powerful combinations are obtained purely through luck, so it’s rarely satisfying when it occurs. Each hero type has a rather small selection of skills as well. They can have bonus functions, but that’s not enough to diversify the gameplay.

The wizard is the most complex character, but satisfying when you get the hang of her.

The enemy variety is nice, but the end dungeon bosses are always the same and can get repetitive pretty quickly. The dialogue is cute and amusing at times, and the occasional side quest appears to help spice things up.

Verdict

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Roundguard is a small, lightweight, and simple game about pinball physics in a dungeon-crawling setting. I feel that it’s asking price is a bit much on PC and consoles, but it’s a perfect choice on Apple Arcade.

Any fan of Peggle will find a bundle of joy in Roundguards evolution on the concept. It’s rogue-lite nature leans too heavily on randomness, but the added layers of combating enemies with three different character classes is undeniably entertaining.

A copy of Roundguard was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for the purpose of review.

You might also be interested in my review of Tetrogue Dragons.

Pros

  • Fun pinball physics
  • The dungeon crawler take is a fun evolution on the Peggle formula
  • Skills and enemies add a new layer of skill and depth to an otherwise simple puzzler concept

Cons

  • The loot and boons you obtain are extremely random, killer runs tend to be reliant purely on luck
  • Dungeon Bosses are repetitive
  • Low variety of skills for each character