Friday, May 10, 2024

Roguematch: A Nekomancer's Match-3 Love Letter

 A year ago, a dev from the Starstruck Games team reached out to me over Twitter and sent me one of the sweetest messages I'd ever heard. I wrote about it at the end of this post titled "Thank you, Readers."

To sum it up, they had read through my series of blog posts where I went on a quest for a good match-3 dungeon game and felt a sense of camaraderie. They too were in search of something amazing and kept falling short with what the world was offering. My blog was there for them at the right time, cheering them on.  Because of this, they gave me a free copy of the game with no demands for review or anything other than to say thank you. I got you.

That said, a review of Roguematch: The Extraplaner Invasion is overdue. As of today, I've put about 22 hours into the game, and it's pretty great. Now, is it without bugs? No, I mean, even with a larger team, we still had our fair share of bugs in Animal Cove. But I have to say that for a three-person indie team, Roguematch is pretty freaking clean, and it's a fantastic game worthy of a best-in-class study for a dungeon-based match-3 game.

Time to delve into the dungeon of many matches!

At its core, Roguematch feels like the answer to the question, what if you combined Binding of Issac's storytelling, dungeon crawling, and item building with the classic match-3 mechanics akin to those found in Candy Crush?  Bam, that's Roguematch!

Feya is all about moving fast and jumping out of danger

Each room you enter in Roguematch is a match-3 board where you not only move your character around on the board, shifting pieces as you move, but also you can make color matches to damage enemies that are definitely out to get you.

You have a health bar and each character you play has a different set of skills they can use. If you spend too long on a board, chaos pieces drop and increase the difficulty of the game, bringing a five-color matching system to a six-color matching system.

Sonya the nekomancer vs. the evil snail boss and his mini snail minions!

In addition, there are boss and mini-boss fights that have special conditions surrounding them. These are challenging fights. Some have really tight boards and rely on you pulling out all the stops with the items you've collected around the dungeon.

When you defeat a boss, you'll be presented with a stairway leading down further into the dungeon where the stakes are higher and the puzzles are meaner . . . where the questions remain: How good is your gear? How good are your matching skills? How lucky are you feeling, punk?

Each dungeon features all the dangers a harsh, extraplaner environment can dust you with

When you lose all your life, you're thrown out of the dungeon and graded on your performance. How many turns did you take, which bosses did you fight, what new items did you discover, and what stage did you make it to?

Sad Sonya is sad at her defeat

Of special note to me is the fact that one of the characters, Sonya, is a friendly "nekomancer," who went dungeon-delving in search of the "Nekonomicon." Any friendly nekomancer can be a friend to the Friendly Necromancer!

As originally posted on Twitter a year ago

The art style is extremely cute, very much in the style of anthropomorphized chibis, which I understand is a turn-off to some, but to others . . . well, it's just warm and inviting. Don't let that art look fool you though, cute does not equal easy by any means.  It's legitimately a hard game. In all of my 22 hours playing, I've never made it past the second dungeon. I've only ever unlocked the first two characters.  I got close once, but I failed on the final boss fight.

I have to say that since the beta that I played a year ago, Roguematch has really streamlined the story beats at the beginning of the game. Where once I was a little confused as to what was going on, now I fully understand why I'm heading into the extraplanar match-3 dungeon. Props to them for clarifying the story and getting the tutorial shaped up.

If you're up for a complex, but fun match-3 experience that meshes Roguelike and the matching of gems, I can confidently say this is a great game that belongs in your library . . . and that's coming from a guy who's reviewed a lot of match-3 games in my day.

Happy Dueling!

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