April 14, 2024
Ruggnar | Review

Ruggnar | Review

Do you remember a time, ages ago, when computer magazines often contained diskettes of various sharewares? Essentially, they were the demos of another era, but they offered a more extensive and usually more complete experience than the demos. One could say that we were talking about more “innocent” times where each would-be creator would give a brave piece of his pain, completely free, in order to convince anyone to give the corresponding price for the remaining two-thirds of the game or even for the other half.

Somehow, at a young age, the writer had “melted” completely free games such as Rick Dangerous and the forgotten FPS Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, titles that in their shareware version had a particularly extensive duration. Ruggnar brought back memories of that time both thanks to its visuals and gameplay style and because of its duration (which in this particular case is reminiscent of shareware in a negative way, as we’ll see below).

The simplicity of the gameplay, the visuals of the well-done pixel art, the petite building of the character and the edgy animations make up a game that seems to have been “excavated” from this particular era with a kinship to Rick Dangerous. And where the experience generally predisposes to a pleasant occupation, which takes us to nostalgic gaming times, comes an abrupt end in one and a half to two hours, which gives the impression that it lacks the message of buying the full version. As if we dealt with its shareware version (plot twist, we actually dealt with its full version).

Sword N’ Wands’ small development team (essentially one creator with the help of four others) seems to have struggled at one point and then to develop extensive material that leverages its fun – albeit simplistic – gameplay base.

In Ruggnar we find ourselves in a fantasy setting where we take control of the eponymous dwarf explorer in order to discover riches in a dangerous dungeon, with which he will subsequently revive his bankrupt city and hometown (now deserted). As his only tool he will have various candles as the only source of light in the underground buildings, frozen in darkness and filled with traps.

The protagonist pleasantly accompanies the experience, thanks to the humorous mood of the texts and the appetizing work of the experienced Pierre-Alain de Garrigues in the rendering of the voice. The light and witty commentary often pokes fun at the ways we get killed, at other times poking fun at some common platformer practices like magically levitating coins.

The absolute darkness that dominates most of the levels makes an impression at first. Around Ruggnar there is only a faint light from the candle he always has on his helmet. It doesn’t take long to see that this is also the main gameplay aspect of the game, that is, our attempt to navigate a deadly environment, watching our every step in dark conditions.

Fortunately, in addition to the helmet candle, Ruggnar has some extra candles that we can throw in remote areas to light them up, which by extension will help us achieve safe platforming. That’s pretty much the core gameplay. Enemies are absent for 99% of the experience (with the exception of two bosses) with deadly hazards appearing in all manner of traps (arrows, spinning axes, pop-up fires, etc.). Our primary goal in each minute level is to find the exit but in the meantime we can indulge in finding the numerous coins.

If one tackles Ruggnar with the sole concern of finding the door to the next level, then one is likely to see the adventure over in less than an hour and a half. Where the creators seem to bet is on the replayability that concerns us trying to find all the coins of each level, completing it at the same time in a certain time limit, in order to win the coveted carafes of beer (in the form of medals).

The platforming doesn’t have much to offer, just featuring the classic double jump, though at least the handling allows for easy precision jumps. The mechanism of candles for lighting the levels works pleasantly in the feeling of navigating through dark and dangerous environments, without tiring as much as one might expect, which is of course helped by the small individual levels.

On the other hand, there are several points where it is obvious that the creators were not able to expand or enrich some gameplay mechanics. A case in point for the above conclusion can be seen in gaining control of a wax spirit, which can fly as well as pass through narrow passages where Ruggnar cannot fit.

At first the method to take control of the spirit seems particularly pointless, as – for no reason or reason – we first have to throw away all our candles, before directing the spirit, which we could not understand what exactly serves the gameplay. From then on, just two or three levels after gaining the spirit the opportunities to use it simply fade into obscurity, ending up as an apparently untapped ability.

The same applies to the pickaxe we get towards the end of the experience, which we use in just two levels to collect some rocks, without much importance in their use. An upgrade that we can buy also makes sense, a pair of boots that are supposed to make our steps quieter so that the enemies don’t hear us easily, but which… are nowhere to be found, which we could say testifies to the design of enemies that but in the end they were not implemented.

The above examples of underutilized mechanics wouldn’t be such negatives if Ruggnar contained a more extensive number of levels. As it stands, it’s a pleasant, albeit distinctly standard, platform experience, giving the impression of an extensive demo (or shareware to return to the intro). Let’s mention here that there is the possibility to enter randomly generated dungeons, which, however, pale in design compared to the more carefully curated levels curated by the creator himself.

The bottom line is that we had a good time with the infused Ruggnar, but we definitely wish Sword ‘N Wands had given us a fuller experience, with a lot more levels, even if they didn’t have any enrichment of traps, enemies, and abilities. of Ruggnar.

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