While the rise of the rougelike has given rise to some pretty amazing games like The Binding of Isaac, Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon, there’s no denying the genre’s sudden popularity had several developers looking to join in on the craze. Ziggurat is one such game that is sort of hard to pin down. On the one hand, it has a lot of good ideas and executes them fairly competently; on the other, it doesn’t really feel like even it knows what it wants to be.
Ziggurat has a fairly simple narrative. In a magical realm, brave wizard apprentices attempt to brave the titular Ziggurat—a tower of trials from which no one has ever returned. Armed with their wits and a magic wand, players must clear each procedurally generated floor, picking up weapons, relics, and skills as they level up. Much like most rougelikes, the story is vague but players can find scrolls hidden around the Ziggurat that will slowly reveal its purpose.
However, the story in most rougelikes is only the garnish to the main course which is the harrowing gameplay, and unfortunately, this is where Ziggurat fell apart for me. Ziggurat ditches the top-down, semi-RPG styles of most rougelikes in favor of fast-paced shooting action, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it feels out-of-place in a game like this. For the most part, combat is pretty good in Ziggurat. There is a certain amount of fun to be had quickly strafing and blasting enemies. Most of the weapons you get are an interesting mix between staves, spell books, alchemy weapons and firearms. There are a lot of interesting ideas at play.
However it’s not perfect. Fights usually take place against a multitude of enemies, but unlike The Binding of Isaac where fights feel harrowing thanks to tight controls and a perspective that let’s you see everything at once; here it feels off with movement so fast it feels slippery and fights becomes annoying as you’re attacked from enemies that spawn behind you or you’re forced into rooms with little to no movement. It feels like it wants to be Serious Sam, but doesn’t really give you the freedom to have fun.
And it doesn’t help that the game has serious design flaws as attacks go through walls and bits of cover, or how the game starts chugging when there’s too many enemies on-screen, or a laughably short draw distance. It’s not a bad-looking game, although it does look a bit rough in that indie way. Maybe it’s a nitpick, but the weapon inventory is still numbered, and you can see where that was meant to be for number keys. The fact that it wasn’t changed to R1/L1 just feels lazy. While the enemy design is a bit uninspired, it’s consistent and constantly throwing in new types; I mean what other game has mad carrot monsters? Sound design is about the same.
Ziggurat has a lot of good ideas and with a little tightening, could’ve been an interesting entry into the rougelike genre. However I can’t overlook it’s flaws, especially not when it was released two years ago on Steam, and two months ago on the Wii U eShop. I can’t fully understand how Nintendo missed the boat so badly on this one, but as it stands, I can’t fully recommend Ziggurat especially not when The Binding of Isaac is also on the Nintendo eShop.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Wii U code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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