If you're a roguelike fan you're probably playing on one of two platforms, PC or mobile. Plenty of these perma-death experiences wind up on console, but these days it's the more open platforms where the most fertile ground can be found. PC has always been the main focal point, but dungeon crawling on the go has been getting increasingly popular, and with cult hits like Crypt of the Necrodancer lining up alongside more traditional offerings (including a readily available version of the original Rogue, if you're so inclined), there's a decent selection of games to choose from.
Now you can add one more to their number, as Immortal Rogue has just landed on iOS and Android and this one is most certainly a great fit for genre fans looking for a new pocket-shaped hit of permadeath. Like all good attempts at the genre, it mixes up more modern ideas with traditional mechanics to create a fusion of past and present, and thanks to effortless controls and some deceptively deep features, it's easy to recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre.
The setup casts you as an immortal vampire who wakes up every 100 years with a thirst for blood. Each time you awake the scene is set with Earth in various states of flux, from post-apocalyptic frozen wastelands through to cyberpunk streets filled with robots. You're usually given a choice of who to hunt down, one of two opposing forces from the era, and there are ramifications depending on whether, for example, you kill a ruthless industrialist or the workers he's trying to control. We plucked that scenario out of thin air, but there are loads of little decisions to make just like that one, and once you've completed a given level, you go back to sleep, snore for another century, then awake to find out what's going on before venturing out to do it all again.
Each era is represented as a small arena that's filled with enemy units and environmental dangers. By simply swiping your finger on the screen, your little vamp skips across the battlefield, and you can string his movements together and maintain a decent sense of speed (if you've got the reflexes to back it up, of course). A simple tap results in a light attack, but pressing and holding the screen charges up your heavy, with the effects of those attacks relative to the weapon that you're holding. You start off with a standard sword but you can buy new ones at the store found in each level, so if you prefer a wide attack or a quick jab, you can buy a new weapon using the gold that you've extracted from fallen enemies and chests.
Enemies also drop blood, blood that heals you in the short term, and lets you progress more broadly in the long term. Over time you're joined by additional NPCs, and once you've levelled them up, they'll grant you a boon at the start of your next new run, including offering you a limited amount of the gold you dropped when you died in that last failed attempt or a random light weapon for those who prefer to use the cutlass or the mace.
The most useful of your assistants is the first one you get. As you go through you'll unlock different helmets that each offers you a special skill or buff, leaning it towards a different playstyle. If you want to resist explosive damage, there's a hat for that, and if you prefer a deadly light attack, you can set yourself up for that style too. We regularly opted for the lizard-like helmet that grants a solid speed boost, and coupled with the intuitive and effective control scheme has you darting around the battlefield at high speed, making you a harder target to hit.
With regards to the enemies you meet, they all have their own attack patterns that you'll need to learn, and naturally, some of them are harder to take down than others, with ranged units mixed up with melee-focused minions. Often times you'll be able to stealth a little, sneaking up on your enemies, but it's usually not long before a mob is after you and it's when there are multiple opponents around you that you're very vulnerable. You'll regularly come up against the specific targets we mentioned before, but there are also Dracula's lieutenants that you'll meet with from time to time, and unsurprisingly these boss battles require a change of tact from the player. If you can get past them you can continue your path towards a showdown with Drac himself.
With lots of different hats on offer, plus a number of upgradable characters to further help you grow into the game, Immortal Rogue does a great job of pulling you into its gameplay loop. The action is fast and furious and intuitive, and although the combat is perhaps a touch too simplistic and would have benefitted from a smidgen more nuance, we still liked it. The level design is perhaps the most disappointing part of the package, with the various environments fairly uninteresting to explore and instead of only getting big wide open areas, we'd have appreciated a bit more variety. That's about it in terms of our complaints, though. Otherwise, the art is cute, the soundtrack is catchy, the controls are super simple, and there's a nice sense of progression as you're playing. If you're a roguelike fan and you're after something new to swipe on your way to work, Immortal Rogue is a microtransaction-free must-buy.