Full Mojo Rampage

Full Mojo Rampage is a game of reflexes, adrenaline-pumping action and a characteristic amount of rage-inducing moments ready to give both casual and “tough-guy” gamers their money’s worth. "Roguelike" being an obscure videogame genre that will probably lead some players to raise an eyebrow or take a pass from playing the game altogether. To those that enjoy the particularities of oldies like Gauntlet or more modern flash-games like The Binding of Isaac will be able to amuse themselves with what Full Mojo can offer. You’re punished severely for mistakes and you are easily defeated, but these games are about dying and learning from those mistakes. Full Mojo Rampage does this well, and also manages to keep you coming back for more even after dying. As a rogue-like, that works!

The Voodoo Apprentice is in charge of appeasing major deities known as the Loa, spirits of great power. As an apprentice, you are thereby treated as the Loas’ fetch boy (how surprising!), and sent on quests to prove your worth. Three major Loas direct your actions throughout the game, from a drunkard baron who mistakenly opened portals to a dark world to a motherly, yet exigent female deity that needs help rebuilding her destroyed shrine to a gigantic serpent that loves to visit people in their dreams. Tell me exactly what part of this statement is the creepiest for you.

As the game progresses, we learn about more characters in the fray, but sadly they do not get any screen time, much less introductions. The only exception is one of the bosses, but even then he’s quickly forgotten after the fight with him. As a result, this game isn’t so much about stopping an “evil” as it is running errands for lazy gods. Shadow of the Colossus anyone?

While not as extensive as the former examples (in solid game-play hours), Full Mojo Rampage represents its genre pretty well. It is played with keyboard and mouse, and the latter is used to aim and shoot as well as to cast one kind of magic spell. The voodoo apprentice can take so many hits before they’re down for the count, so it’s important to have focus and dexterity to keep your avatar on the move while concomitantly delivering punishment (in the form of wand-fired orbs) of their own.

Before starting every game, we can customize our character’s looks with an assortment of existing/unlocked voodoo masks and their stats by leveling up with accumulated experience points gained by completing stages or dying (receiving what could be salvaged of those points). Personalization in its simplest form. We may boost our Hit Points or Attack rating, or perhaps our Movement Speed or Firing Rate. Depending on what suits your style, you are free to increase either statistic once per level gain, which lets you plan ahead if you’re the kind of meta-gamer that prefers having a good degree of control over your growth.

In terms of particular features, Full Mojo Rampage introduces Pins, actual voodoo pins the character can bring with them at the start of each new adventure. Pins come in various flavors and must be discovered in the game world, hidden in chests or as prizes for finding secrets and the like. Once unlocked, a Pin may be equipped if enough Pin slots are available (and these slots increase with character level!), and will grant the player a passive bonus; the same bonus may be increased by spending coins gathered while playing.

The next features are the Loas, voodoo deities who can each be chosen as a partner for an entire playthrough. As a voodoo apprentice favored by a Loa, your available repertoire of spells and innate abilities will be determined by the Loa’s personality and/or spiritual function. With this in consideration, players can appreciate dramatic differences in play styles depending on their Loa of choice. “Rampage” functions differently for each Loa, but it is generally achieved by causing mayhem and damaging and destroying foes. Great abilities can be unleashed by keeping your deity content with some Rampage. One deity may fully restore your health, while another might show up to fight at your side, or even give you the means to achieve great size and strength to pummel your enemies like the Hulk. There is certain freshness to picking up different Loas for each new playthrough, as it forces one to play with newly acquired abilities while at the same time giving up the former ones. The good thing about this is that there is no pressure to switch if you like a particular one. On the other hand, having chosen a disfavorable Loa forces the player to finish a playthrough (or die trying) if they want to change back, so choice and planning is important.

The “one death and it’s over” gimmick is the genre’s bread and butter, but unlike Binding of Isaac, death does not mean an absolute end to your avatar. The game carries everything that you've done into a new character, save for equipment, consumables and certain modifications acquired throughout the last match. How this works is that your character earns experience after every stage (or “Quest”, as referred to by the game), but this can only be seen in effect after that playthrough has been finished. Once you’ve died the first time, you’ll start seeing the message boxes letting you know that you may try again or go to the menu to strengthen, it is always a good idea to do so if a level up is achieved, since death means having to start the adventure from the first level.

And this leads me to explain how the adventure is carried out. In a very old-school and practical form we have a world map with the road leading to the end of a quest marked by nodes connected to one another. Players advance by clearing each node, but they don’t all need to be cleared necessarily. For example, players might see yellow “?” marks they can visit. These Events function as diversions such as riddles or extra challenges with the potential for extra goodies, if the player is prepared to defeat them.

The game is rich with content. Each stage must be traversed in the same way as any other rogue-like must, in eagle-view with your avatar in the center dodging incoming attacks and dishing out punishment to others in order to survive. Defeated enemies may drop goodies, and there’s loot to find inside treasure chests and different passages scattered throughout each level. There’s a shop that readily offers wares in exchange for your hard-earned cash, prompting you to pick those current-playthrough-only advantages or save the money for the permanent upgrades later.

Every stage has its set of enemies, and also its particular quota one must obey in order to clear it. The world map is always randomly generated. The stages, while not dissimilar to one another, also randomly place your avatar at different starting points, and the game does the same with objects like enemies and treasure chests in order to keep the experience slightly different each time.

There are tons of enemies to fight, an abundance of loot to be acquired, achievements to be unlocked and simple yet entertaining bosses to be challenged. The most important question is, can you survive the onslaught and make it to the end without dying once? If the answer is "no," fret not. The game offers a co-operative mode enabling you to play with friends. One essentially plays the same game mode they chose, but with the addition of a friend to make things easier. Player Versus Player is also available with three different modes, for those seeking competition rather than cooperation. With all of that content and the ability to check your progress in the main menu, completionists can feel right at home and play the game to their heart’s content, watching as their progression advances with each new session.

I’m tempted to say the gameplay is solid and complete, but I’m afraid it suffers after completing the third act, whereupon our efforts are rewarded by an entirely new kind of Quest where, instead of helping deities as we had until then, these very same deities will punish us and put us through hellish ordeals. The difficulty has a sudden spike worthy of comparison to the final boss fight in Golden Sun Dark Dawn. It comes out of nowhere and thoroughly flattens your complacent face to the ground.

Here’s what I mean: Quest 1 through 3 involve randomly generated stages where your goal is to reach a boss at the end of the road. These stages, like I’ve mentioned before, are mostly fetch quests with nothing as daunting as “move from here to here while playing the rogue-like”. The final Quest, however, changes the gimmick by randomly afflicting you with a stage-long-duration status ailment (poison, slow movement, dropping items randomly, turning coins into bombs) for each stage depending on which type of icon on the world map you’ve clicked.

As a player of the game until then, nothing has prepared you for the ordeals the lie ahead. There is no gradual implementation, like a softer version of the punishment you receive in Quest 4’s stages. This naturally causes you to look back at the last 3 quests you just cleared and immediately discard any sense of accomplishment gained from clearing them. This is important: This should NOT happen in any game. Progression dictates an interconnection between events, and Quest 4 feels completely severed from the others. 1-3 were about fetch quests, but this doesn’t mean that 4 should have been a simply fetch-quest either. What I mean is that if you were going to add an entirely new gimmick that makes your experience as a player obsolete the moment you step inside the first stage of Quest 4’s world, the least you could’ve done was add a weaker or simpler form of this gimmick in earlier stages (Put the permanent poison in at least 1 stage of either of the previous levels, and that way I won’t feel disconnected, for example). Quest 4 is the actual challenge, the others didn’t prepare you for it, but they don’t matter anymore because they’re just there to help you grind.

Full Mojo Rampage is rendered in cartoonish 3D. Colorfully painted worlds and sparkly visual effects are very welcome and help give an ambience to each stage, be it a dungeon, a volcano or a graveyard. It’s in touch with its goofy style, but that is agreeable. The main character can be controlled without a lot of fuss, but at times it can be hard to navigate. The map design and the edges blend together to the point where the outline is hard to perceive, making it unnecessarily harder to maneuver (without having to constantly look at the mini-map for assistance) and advance, and it’s especially bad while maneuverability suffers during fights, as most enemies can corner and damage you if you’re colliding against edges you cannot move through. All in all, a good display.

There's also a great show of talent with the soundtrack. The background music fits the theme of each stage. I’m partial to the graveyard music that incorporates the classic organ music for the creepy environment. It can also be chill and jazzy at times, which is great company that keeps me upbeat while playing! Good job here.

Short yet sweet and thoroughly enjoyable, although suffering in certain key spots.