[Disclaimer: Review code provided by Freehold Games]
Sproggiwood’s core gameplay provides a non intimidating introduction to the world of rogue-likes with its cartoon hand painted style and simplified mechanics, allowing the player to grasp its concepts with relative ease.
The game has a loose-fitting narrative that follows Sproggi, a small creature who wishes to make your world a better place by guiding the “Clogheads” into civilization; providing a lighthearted short story to fit around a short but otherwise enjoyable experience. The music score is enjoyable but has a lack of polish throughout with tracks looping poorly, long silent pauses and the game sometimes playing the incorrect track if you move quickly between cutscenes, the town and dungeon.
Combat, like in most rogue-likes, is turn based with the players turn being made up of a single movement, skill or attack action. Using a consumable item does not take up your turn, this allows a player to use a potion or a scroll when in a difficult position but also creates unique tactical interactions such as combining a scroll with one of your class abilities. The effects of many of the scrolls are incredibly powerful with scrolls such as ‘Summon’ possibly being a little too strong. That said, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as unleashing an angry group of goat men on the world, and some of my best runs came about from the power scramble potion. These consumables are plentiful in the dungeon which could be a positive were it not for the fact you can only carry one potion OR one scroll. Wanna carry that heal potion you found? Well no more deadly yet cute jelly minions for you.
The character has two resource pools, stamina which is capped at its starting value of 5 and hit points which are increased by items, leveling up and purchasing civic boosts (more on this later). When you take damage you lose hitpoints which can be restored by potions, health altars and vampiric effects. While stamina also has a potion that restores it, most creatures give the player stamina when they die, usually resulting in never running out of stamina like some sort of untiring homicidal yet adorable fantasy character.
Each dungeon has a theme and each theme brings with it new enemies, obstacles and a boss. The enemies had relatively simple behaviours and with a little forethought a player will find little difficulty clearing the dungeons and bosses. This is mainly due to the fact that with an unlimited stamina pool, a character can quickly cut through the majority of enemies with only one enemy type really punishing the player for not taking care with how, when and where they kill them.
Instead of the classic perma-death, we instead have a variant in which your characters level is lost at the end of each dungeon and at death but items you collect whether they are weapons, armor, potions or scrolls are added to the shop for purchase. Items you buy are selectable at the start of each dungeon run allowing the player to start each run with better equipment. Weapons and armor come with a limited variety of enhancements including armor that teleports you away from attacks and weapons that explode with ice/fire on each attack. The effects are useful but far from plentiful and I found myself coming across the same enchantments across each class again and again towards the end of the game.
As you unlock different dungeons new features are added to previous dungeons increasing their difficulty and adding some replayability to the game beating a dungeon with each of the classes provides the reward of putting that dungeon’s boss in your town the ultimate proof of its domination. When not exploring the dungeon, the player can go to the town screen to buy civic boosts to gain bonus experience points, health points and make adjustments to how many cryptic shrines and rewards the dungeons generate. As you play, the town is slowly filled with the denizens of the dungeons you have slain each creature providing a small jokey quip for you to read whenever you enter the town screen.
I had hoped that the mechanics of the town would extend at some point but instead was left with a feature that is cosmetic and could be ignored without consequence for the most part. Sproggiwood provides an easy to use user interface that would be at home on a mobile phone or a tablet but provides a lesser experience on the PC. Tool tips that require you to press an on screen button and an on screen control system are two glaring features that are not only unnecessary but clunky for the platform. During gameplay, I also came across some small bugs with the UI, including buff icons overlapping and health bars disappearing behind walls. When not in dungeons, the UI is functional and easy to use allowing you to quickly buy items and get back to the dungeon.
In summary, Sproggiwood is a short light hearted experience that tries to do too much and achieves less than what it could in all areas because of this. Although there is plenty of fun to have with its sense of humor and the different class abilities at the players fingertips, its lack of depth does make the experience more accessible and I found myself dying, swearing and then quickly jumping back in despite my frustration because of the fun I was having even with its problems.
Sproggiwood was developed by Freehold Games and you can check out Sproggiwood on Steam now or wait until Spring when they release their planned mobile version.