Roguelikes are a bit of a double-edged sword in the gaming world. On one-hand, since they are easy to create, there exists a large number of would-be devs churning out Roguelike after Roguelike, so there is no short supply of available games. On the other hand, this huge amount of content is staggering, and might intimidate a new player, which is to say nothing of the genre itself. Roguelikes, are by definition, daunting and involved; their complexity lies in micro-managment. It's a wide, varied genre, so what you're micro-managing will vary, be it supplies, food, or even just yourself, but it's still micro-management nonetheless. This level of unnecessary tinkering is but a part of the game's appeal to enthusiasts, but is also the chief reason many are repelled altogether.

This is where the so called 'Coffee-Break' games come into play. Originally used the describe Doom: The Roguelike, a worthwhile RL that I've covered previously, the term has been adopted by the Roguelike community as a looseley-defined subgenre, describing any and all casual RLs that focus more on action, and less on resource-management. Zaga-33 takes the idea of a casual-Roguelike to it's logical extreme, creating an almost arcade-like experience.

Note: Does not actually take place in space

Zaga-33 (PC, Mac, iPhone)
Developed & Published by: Michael Brough
Released on: April 12, 2012

Zaga-33 distills the very essence of what makes a Roguelike enjoyable, and discards the elements that would scare away any of the softer-cored takers. There is no eating, no forging, no nonesense. In a way, Zaga, almost isn't a Roguelike at all, but rather more of an arcade puzzle-game.

Zaga's gameplay, at face value, is typical RL; You control the valiant @, who moves a space at a time, all of your enemies shuffle around randomly, combat consists of violent humping, etc. Where Zaga differs, and vastly, I may add, is the way it treats inventory; items picked up, are essentially power-ups, allowing you to perform various devastating, and more importantly, safe, attacks.

@ can destory enemies and blocks alike with his bombs.

Randomness is the key to any Roguelike, and Zaga offers that; you begin in an algorithmically generated room when you begin, with one of several weapons randomly given to you from the get-go. You travel through 25 equally random rooms, where you'll encounter several different enemy-types, as well as nearly a dozen different weapons.

Each playthrough begins with you not knowing what each weapon is. As you use each weapon, the next time you pick one of the same kind (or immediately, if you have more in your inventory already) you will be told what it is. And you can't cheat by remembering the sprites for each weapon from a previous playthrough; the sprites for the weapons are also randomized for each playthrough. though they will stay consistant for the duration of that particular session. The only way to figure out what does what is to just use it, always unsure of the result. In a way, every run in Zaga-33 is blind.

@ unleashes earthquakes and quad-directional lasers. @ is much more badass than most roguelike adventurers.

I've beaten around the bush a bit, but the weapons are the star of the show here. I've shown so far, the Bomb, which destroys surrounding terrain, in addition to just enemies, the Earthquake, which shuffles things around randomly, and the Laser, which fires insta-kill beams in cardinal directions from @'s position. There is also Repel, which knocks every enemy on-screen to the furthest possible corner, to give you a fighting chance, Nuke which reduces every enemy to 1 HP, Freeze, which traps every enemy in solid blocks of solid ice, so you can hump them until they shatter, and Heal, which heals you.

This naturally, is the part where I demonstrate the game in motion.

On the left is a complete playthrough by a competent player. On the right is me, objectively inferior:


Got some coffee? 

Good. Now get Zaga-33 at Michael Brough's blog, MIGHTY VISION.

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