Grafting and exploding in robo-roguelike Polybot-7.
While he works on his ambitious, robot-based roguelike Cogmind, developer Josh ‘Kyzrati’ Ge has used its source code to make a smaller title for this year’s 7-Day Roguelike game jam – a game jam where, like the name suggests, developers create a roguelike in a week. That game is Polybot-7, a bot-focused dungeon delver that does some novel things with the humble inventory system.
Settling itself somewhere between ASCII roguelikes and modern games with more approachable UIs, Polybot invites you to explore a multilayered facility populated by murderous machines and loot. Make it to the end of the five-level gauntlet and you can new game plus your way through it again.
The visual style evokes the likes of ADOM and Angband, even if the ASCII characters are optional. However this plays more smoothly than those largely keyboard-driven games, as you can control (almost) everything via the mouse alone. A further act of streamlining is the surprising lack of control over your inventory. Move in range of a new weapon, armour piece, doohickey or doodad, and your cute little robot will hoover it up and attach the thing automatically.
If that sounds limiting, well, it’s meant to be. The only way to drop equipment is to ‘purge’ everything from your system, destroying half your load and scattering the rest. You’ll therefore want to give unwanted items a wide berth, to keep your robot from filling up on junk. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t return to items later. Uncollected loot will degrade to slush after a while, some of which can be used to recharge your weapons.
Speaking of guns, rather than assigning them to slots, by default everything you’re holding is equipped on your little robot in Polybot-7. The appropriate firearm will be selected automatically as you aim at enemies with the mouse, although weapons, armour and so on can be toggled on or off for more granular control.
It’s an approach to inventory management that isn’t common in RPGs, and it gives a refreshingly narrow focus. Rather than collecting XP or hunting for food, as in so many RPGs, you’re carefully building the ultimate robot, piece by piece.
in the mix
Also uncommon is the attention paid to the sound design, the well-mixed noises elevating a sometimes visually basic game into one supported by a cavernous atmosphere. The low-res sprites don’t sell the fiction, but as bullets echo through hallways, lasers ping against metal and exploded grenades rock your enemies, the facility is brought beautifully to life.
Distilling much of the early access
Cogmind into a game jam freebie,
Polybot-7 is an inventive roguelike that will likely consume your next few lunch breaks. If this is the level of quality we can expect from Cogmind itself, then I have a feeling we’re in for something special.
The only way to drop equipment is to ‘purge’ everything
Many roguelikes are big and complex, but here’s a relatively simple and focused one that plays like nothing else.
Enemies explode in a satisfying shower of components.