Welcome to Coverage Club, the regular series where we shift our critical eye towards smaller games that deserve some attention. Each week, our review editors select two titles and provide honest first impressions in the same style as our full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preferences, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here. In this week's episode, we cleanse shrines with top-down action game Kamiko. Following that, we go on an action date with Roguemance.
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
Okay, you just bought yourself a Nintendo Switch. There’s plenty of Nintendo games available on it, and that’s great. But you may also be looking for exclusive indie content that you can’t find elsewhere. In comes Kamiko, a top-down action game that appears to be inspired by classic Legend of Zelda titles.
The game has you picking one of three playable characters: Yamato, Uzume, or Hinome. Each character plays significantly different. Yamato uses a sword, which makes her play closest to the source material. Uzume’s bow means you can pick off targets from farther away. Finally, there’s Hinome, who’s like a hybrid of the two. She can throw her shield like a boomerang and defend herself with a dagger until it returns. No matter your choice, gameplay is quite simple as you only have movement, an attack, and a sprint button.
That doesn’t mean it’s boring though. The goal for each of Kamiko’s four stages is to find and restore the four shrines in each level. This requires you to fight enemies to collect energy that you can use to open chests and restore the shrines. Stages are short; my first run through only took 50 minutes, making this a great game for when you have an hour or so to kill.
To restore these shrines you need energy, which you can gather by killing monsters. Monsters will constantly spawn and respawn, so you never need to worry about a shortage of them. Most are also just cannon fodder, serving to get killed so you can raise your energy multiplier. Only a few enemies provide real threats, teleporting and shooting at you. There’s also a bit of basic puzzle solving that involves pushing blocks onto switches, but nothing too hard.
After you cleanse the four shrines on each stage, you have to fight a boss. Each stage’s boss is actually quite fun and unique. It may be a cube that hops around that you need to lure onto switches, or a snake that you can only hit certain segments on. Each boss was creative and fast-paced, leading me to have a pretty good time.
Ultimately, Kamiko is rather simple, but I was having fun with the game. It’s a good addition to the Nintendo Switch’s library, and its pick up and play nature make it a fantastic fit for the console. If you’re looking for a simple action game that can scratch that itch, you could do much worse.
Kamiko was played on Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by the player.
Covered by Robert Grosso
Roguelikes are a dime a dozen concept nowadays. They are simple to make, easy to add a challenge to, and encourage replaying through its mechanics. Roguelikes need a hook to stand out; either a theme or mechanic to really grab a player’s attention. Roguemance, an indie title by developer Lucas Molina, captured that with a fairly unique style in terms of his game's theme: the power of love and relationships in a hostile world.
It took a while to get that impression, though. Early on, Roguemance’s failed to impress mostly due to the stale presentation. Pixel-styled graphics a decade ago were a novelty, but now thousands of indie games use this as their primary shtick for a “retro” feeling. Visually, there is little special to creating your mini avatar. Aurally, hearing decent but forgettable midi tunes throughout the game doesn’t really light the world on fire either.
What is a fresh take, however, stems from the odd battle mechanics. It is hard to explain, but Roguemance uses a turn-based system done in real-time, where the player's and the opponent's moves are done in sync with each other. Fireballs, throwing axes, kisses that heal health, even jumping up and down provides variety to combat scenarios. The player can only carry four moves at once, so selecting the right combination of moves gives the game some great replayability beyond the eventual death the player will likely suffer. This makes the combat a puzzle to solve over using attacks over and over.
The Roguelike part of Roguemance is also simple but effective in giving choices to the player as well. Outside of combat and boss battles, players can encounter shops to buy new abilities, potions to restore their health, and even allies to aid them in combat. Allies become important in the game as they provide much-needed support in combat situations, as well as a quick way of increasing your relationship with your companions.
The relationship mechanic is fitting for a title themed slightly on love; allies you do pick up will have happy or sad dispositions depending on your choices in the main game world. If you follow an ally down a specific path, you get a boost; if you decide to spare enemy monsters because your ally wants you to, you get a boost. Boosting your own relationship meter is how you gain more HP, which is a vital statistic as you delve deeper into the game's levels. This happens to your companions too, so the more you effectively do together, the stronger you both become.
It is a deceptively clever mechanic that befits the “love” theme that Roguemance has. You and your partners, through countless battles, grow stronger together, swapping out abilities to compliment your strengths and positions on the battlefield. You can’t directly control your companions, save for which direction they face in combat, but this adds to the puzzle-like nature of the in-game fights.
Roguemance looks rather generic in the sea of pixelated indie games, but its beating heart, in the end, is a clever, well-made roguelike that is able to stand upon its own shoulders. It is certainly a game that will provide entertainment for a few hours, and well worth a play for indie game enthusiasts.
Roguemance was played on PC using a copy provided by the developers.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.