Have you ever seen those colorful baby toys, where the goal is to put a specific plastic shape, such as star or triangle, into its corresponding hole? Or have you ever eaten Lucky Charms? If you said “yes” to either of these questions, you already have a pretty firm grasp on RooGoo.
Puzzle games are a dime a dozen on the XBLA, so it can be difficult to come up with a new puzzle game concept. Spidermonk has created RooGoo with its cutesy baby-like presentation using pastel colors and simplified shapes. But despite its younger appearance, the gameplay is rather challenging.
Before you actually start playing, a narrative explains why the game has its adorable atmosphere. Roogoos, these stuffed bear looking creatures, inhabited a planet run by the power of meteors. But the King and Prince of this land took too many meteors for themselves and transformed Roogoos into Meemoos, darker version of these stuffed bears. It is now up to you to salvage these meteors for the good of the Roogoo and set right what was wronged. But just like any other puzzle game, the story line is only used to set-up the back drop of the game.
The concept behind the gameplay is rather simple, using only the shoulder buttons to control rotation of platform, but it actually contains some surprisingly challenging gameplay. RooGoo isn’t based around strategy. Instead, success relies on how fast the player can react to the action that is happening on screen.
Shapes fall from the top of the screen and the player must rotate a panel/platform so these falling shapes fall through the proper hole. For example, the square piece will only fit into the square hole, just like those simple toddler toys. Yes, this may sound easy, but the game comes up with creative ways to always keep gameplay on edge. Pieces will fall faster, more pieces will be added to the board (they look just like Lucky Charms cereal), Meemoos will get in your way, barriers will hinder you, and butterflies can even take pieces away. Instead of just increasing the game’s speed to the make gameplay progressively more difficult, the developers always throw some new element into the mix to change up the difficultly level. This is a great way to keep the reaction based puzzle action fresh and innovative.
The main single player quest will take you through dozens of levels, but each of these levels also contains a specific time based challenge. Luckily, these challenges are optional (unless you want to unlock a couple Achievements). Unfortunately, no matter how fast I completed a level, I was never able to even come close to besting the game’s time challenge. This challenge mode alone makes the game brutally difficult. In fact, these time goals are so unobtainable, it only adds frustration by using a “nan-ha, nan-ha, nan-ha – stick your tongue out at you” attitude But then again, this aspect many not bother some players as it is not a requirement to finish the game.
Besides the unfair time challenge options, I also found a few more flaws within the game, the first being on the programming side. Using the Leaderboard option from the game’s main menu, I was never able to view my rank. In fact, the game could not find my gamertag on any Leaderboard, single player or multiplayer. What is up with that? Secondly, the online versus mode could have been a little more fleshed out. After an online match is completed, the player must back out again to the main menu, create another lobby, then send out another friend invite. There is no option to just hop right into another game when a game is completed. I would have liked to have seen some type of co-op mode as well.
The game may have a very kid friendly visual art style, but it actually fits the entire aesthetic well. The main title screen’s opening music is one of the most pleasant musical tracks I have heard in a long time. Its simple, but laid back melodic tone is quite soothing and I found myself just staring at this initial splash page just so I can take a listen…it reminded me a lot of the water level in Super Mario 64.
For 800 MS Points ($10), RooGoo is going to give you a new way to enjoy your puzzle games. But if you are a player who likes a ton of strategy in your puzzle games, then I am afraid RooGoo will not please. Instead, RooGoo is for gamers that like to react on the fly rather than think ahead four or five moves. Either way, RooGoo is a unique game for the XBLA. Even if you don’t buy it, I recommend checking out the trail version just to experience this new type of puzzle game.