Typically, I see the words "rogue" and "like" together and instantly lose interest in a game.
While there are a few standout exceptions to the genre — The Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy to name just two — these days, it's become an overused trope; an excuse for developers to cobble together something playable by reusing assets in randomly-generated environments. They're not all bad, but more often than not, they're not good.
Recently, a wee game called Freaky Awesome landed in my inbox. Despite having that god-forsaken 'rogue-like' tag attached to it, it looked somewhat interesting. Promises of mutants and toxic waste was enough to make me at least redeem the Steam key and give it a try. I'm glad I did.
From developer Mandragora, Freaky Awesome released on Steam last month with very little fanfare — the game has only 82 (mostly positive) reviews on there so far. It's a shame, because my first impressions are very positive indeed. The gameplay isn't particularly original or revolutionary — but it doesn't need to be. It's very much like The Binding of Isaac in terms of level layout: you move through a series of rooms, killing all the enemies in each before you can leave. There are bosses, locked doors, shops, health pickups and usable items. Where Freaky Awesome stands out, however, is in its "upgrade" system.
It's not really an upgrade at all, actually — well, unless you consider horrific toxic mutation to be an upgrade. Your character will mutate into a different type of monster, and as you play further into the game you'll come across new mutations - each essentially being its own creature with its own strengths and weaknesses. Your starting mutant, for example, has a basic punch attack, but the next mutant I unlocked had a ranged attack by flinging a tentacle. Another, beefier, mutant damaged enemies by charging into them.
The trouble is, the mutation process is a little random. Each enemy you kill leaves behind a pile of goop. The goop heals you, but once in a while it'll make you mutate. You might've just got used to your cool new mutant skills only to be morphed back to a less superior monster, but it means you're forever on your toes, constantly getting to grips with different skills. 'Downgrading' is a little annoying, but overall, it's great fun.
Check out a short video of me mutating and dying below. It's worth a watch even just to listen to the music. Freaky Awesome has a fantastic soundtrack. For just £6.99 on Steam, it's well worth a look.