The best thing about the roguelike genre is the inherent replayability that it provides. Each run feels unique, challenging, and makes you want to come back for more. The best games put the player in a challenge against themselves, with the mentality that the next run will be better, the next run will push the game just a little further.
And Rush Rover does a fairly decent job at this. There are two game modes, Arcade and Dodge. Arcade is the closest thing to a story mode this game has, which consists of randomized runs where you try and clear as many rooms as you can before dying. Dodge mode meanwhile takes away your offensive capabilities and forces you to rely on quick reactions to survive. Dodge mode doesn’t amount to much after a few runs and most of my time with this game was spent in Arcade. But Dodge is worth trying out to score a few quick achievements.
The Arcade mode starts rather slowly: you take control of Rover, a little robot whose apparent destiny is to kill all of the evil robots. The goal is to fight your way through hordes of enemies while collecting weapons and upgrades to take on the big baddies in the boss rooms. The game doesn’t have much of a plot and it can all be surmised in a few sentences.
Rush Rover takes place in the future after a war between robots and humanity. The robots, apparently victorious, have decided to “format” all robots to gain control over them, and Rover, the player, is an “unformatted” robot that is fighting to survive.
You start with a simple blaster and a little probe that will accompany you while you work to take down waves of enemies. You’ll find new weapons and abilities as you play, such as an electric gun, flamethrower, electric mine, and more, which can be upgraded by Blue Cores and Hyper Cores that you’ll get by killing enemies and blowing up crates.
The first rooms are pretty easy to get through, as there will be few enemies and plenty of space to run around and dodge but eventually the screen will be a chaotic mess of bullets and lasers. The combat, while smooth, isn’t anything unique. It is a challenge, and coming back to beat your previous score is satisfying, but the game doesn’t introduce much innovation in terms of special mechanics. What I do like is the variety in abilities and weapons for both Rover and the probe, along with the ability to choose what to upgrade. For example, if during your playthrough you come across a strong gun for your probe you can invest your cores into it instead of having to upgrade your starter blaster.
There are a variety of weapons and the ammo works one of two ways – either it is unlimited and there is a delay in the shots, or there is a limit and the weapon will become weaker until you let the ammo refill. The starting gun is the former, and will fire a couple of rounds at a time. An example of the latter is the Beam Cannon, the one I had the most fun using, which fires a solid beam of energy that does massive amounts of damage, but will start shooting for brief periods of time if energy runs out. Once it does run out, all you have to do is start dodging while you wait for it to recharge.
Sadly, most of the weapons aren’t anything special and the ones you think would be fun are actually pretty disappointing. A prime example would be the Missile Launcher, which locks onto your enemies as you walk around them and will automatically fire. It doesn’t do a lot of damage early on and it shifts your focus entirely on dodging, which can be a pro or con depending on the person. For me it was definitely a con when not being able to manually shoot missiles at my enemies.
Speaking of, there is a good variety of enemies, and the bosses are the best example of this. The first couple of bosses are pretty easy to fight and don’t do anything special, but the further you get through Rush Rover the more complex they become. One takes the form of a wall of death that spews out a storm of bullets at you as it slowly makes its way across the screen, while another takes the form of a slithering mech that fires robots and bullets out of its body, while a search light in its head looks for you. If it spots you it’ll charge, and you’ll need to get out of the way fast if you want to stay alive. It will take awhile to fight all of them, and your strategy for the fights will change based on the weapons and abilities you’ve found.
Sadly, there isn’t much variety in terms of actual design. All of the enemies fit the same color scheme and use the same basic elements to the point where none of them feel unique. Almost all of the rooms feel the same too; typically large, concrete spaces with random walls scattered throughout them. The two real exceptions are the boss rooms which take the form of large, square areas that are set-up depending on the boss you are fighting. And then we have rooms that act as obstacle courses, where you can destroy everything but all you really need to do is make your way across in one piece, before destroying the two bots that have the door locked off.
One last critique is that the music isn’t the greatest. It’s a bit catchy at first but there are only a few soundtracks, and after hearing them a couple times you’ll be looking for a change.
All in all, Rush Rover on Xbox One is a solid roguelike bullet-hell game, and for the price point you can’t go wrong. The game runs well and there is enough variety to provide a few hours of fun. Is it as great as some of the other roguelike bullet-hell games on the market? No, but in terms of investment compared to time played, it definitely gives back more than you have to put in it. And one last thing – this is one of the easiest 1000 Gamerscore you’ll ever get, which is something I don’t think anyone can complain about.