Rogue Star Rescue (RSR) is a blistering top-down, pixel-art sci-fi roguelite by Chute Apps that’s currently in development. Having played it in early release, I was surprised to see that it pushes the roguelike envelope by combining the best elements from bullet hells like Enter the Gungeon and tower defense strategy games such as Kingdom Rush. The result is a seamless fusion between these two previously unrelated but widely beloved indie genres, and it’s an absolute blast to gun your way through the game’s strange worlds and set up elaborate defense systems to fend off extraterrestrial hordes.
For context’s sake, the most popular indie title to compare Rogue Star Rescue to is hands down Enter the Gungeon. Though they are very similar, it does a disservice to RSR to simply leave it at that, because it strives to be so much more of a roguelite, going far beyond just being a sci-fi homage-filled bullet hell. Yes, it does take directly after films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and etc., and it’s a bullet hell at heart, but RSR’s exciting narrative, groovy synth, expansive level design, and dynamic tower defense features make it a truly one-of-a-kind addition to the ever-expanding roguelite canon.
For those who haven’t played bullet hell rougelites like Rogue Star Rescue, The Binding of Isaac, and others, here’s the rundown on how they work. You operate a tiny sprite from above using both joysticks, one to move and one to aim, firing off rounds to kill NPCs, which in turn attempt to kill you in a hail of gunfire; you progress from room to room throughout dungeonesque levels, clearing them of adversaries, until you reach the boss room. That’s where RSR distances itself from other roguelites. Instead of battling one big baddie, using the deadliest weapon in your arsenal, you have to withstand an onslaught of smaller units, utilizing the game’s tower defense armaments such as turrets, mines, and bombs to survive.
Getting into the nitty-gritty details of the game, the way that RSR successfully weds the bullet hell formula and tower defense strategy is by far its best attribute. Otherwise, it would just feel like a sci-fi take on an overdone genre. In this way, Chute Apps has raised the bar in terms of what it takes to make an outstanding bullet hell roguelite in 2019.
As far as the gameplay goes, Rogue Star Rescue is remarkable, too. Unlike most roguelites, the rooms in the game are generally larger than those found in similar titles, providing a more open atmosphere in which the player can maneuver around obstacles. It also makes it seem like more of a journey, because you have to venture long distances to clear stages, spamming rounds at countless tough enemies. The momentum of the game, however, dramatically shifts when you enter defense mode, erecting traps, explosives, and turrets to protect your ship; it’s almost as if the game’s entire polarity reverses, i.e. the hunter briefly becomes the hunted, and it feels like nothing I’ve experienced in a bullet hell to date.
Another very entertaining attribute of RSR is its story. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that it’s a classic tale of good versus evil in which you, the hero, are trying to save the entire galaxy from certain doom. Epic, right? The sheer scope of the game’s story also sets a much larger interstellar stage for the narrative, where you navigate from planet to planet, trying to stop the alien invaders and the swiftly encroaching end of life as we know it.
Rogue Star Rescue features numerous playable characters as well, each with their own unique attributes: a cute spaceman, a rad steampunk girl, and a chunky cyborg. There are also over 30 weapons and counting so far, and you can upgrade your tower defense items using coins. All of these firearms and modifications are completely unique, which gives the game a vast sense of variety as far as rhythm and playstyle goes. In short, it’s a glorious smorgasbord of guns and gadgets galore.
The one downside to RSR, and I think this really goes without saying, is that it is an extremely difficult game and not for those who don’t like a challenge. The runs are long and treacherous, and it can be a bit discouraging to make it considerably far only to fail in defense mode. But bullet hells are called that for a reason, and honestly, if you’re playing one, you should expect some adversity. So, I’d ultimately argue RSR not only fits the bill; it blows it out of the water.
From what I learned playing the demo, Rogue Star Rescue is an absolutely amazing game, and will likely only become better up until it’s official release, but don’t take my word for it, go try out it in early access. You can sample it via either Steam or ichi.io. Also, keep up with updates from the dev. If you want a better idea of what the game looks like in action, check out the trailer below and, most importantly, pick up a copy of RSR when it finally comes out. I personally can’t wait to try to speedrun it on my Switch.