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We’re back once more with yet another ad-based 100%-free game by Skipmore, the same Japanese indie-developer whom previously made both Drancia (our review) and Fairune (our review). This time Skipmore tackles the genre of top-down turn-based perma-death featuring rogue-like adventures, all while furthermore going even more artistically-retro than he’s ever gone before! 1-Bit Rogue (out now free), does indeed feature — much like the game’s title would suggest — graphics rendered in a purely singular-bit fashion (or to put it differently, this app features pixels that are exclusively either black-or-white only).

You begin the game with a famous deceased hero — such as a warrior, a cleric, a witch, a ranger, or even a ninja — who was recently revived by King Boldof, via the mighty Ashes of Life. He’s brought you back to seek out four powerful-treasures hidden across his realm, with the promise that peace will prosper eternal forevermore if you venture forth and bring the quartet back to his castle. Now — despite the fact you weren’t properly told to “Wise fwom youw gwave!” — you’re journeying forth yet again, secure in the knowledge that Boldof’s Ashes of Life have your back should you likely be defeated.

sc1024x7681-Bit Rogue controls rather simply enough, with players swiping in any of the four cardinal-directions in order to move their hero a single space (after which all of the enemies — each of whom may also move a single-space — will take their turns as well). While your hero obviously doesn’t have the ability to walk through walls (although certain types of monsters certainly do), attempting to walk into various objects will command your hero to interact with them. Treasure chests may be plundered for useful rewards, statues may be given offerings, and opponents may be engaged in a round of perilous combat (with both experience and gold being your reward should you succeed).

Bumping into treasure chests will tell you what’s inside, with the item inside either  being: medicine (which restores health), a melee weapon (which is used for smacking monsters), or a spell scroll (which is also used for smacking monsters). Since most heroes are usually only capable of using either scrolls or weapons, finding an item you can’t personally use will cause it to be instantly converted into a valuable pile of gold. Otherwise you’ll be given the option to either immediately use the item — with scrolls/weapons being equipped (destroying the old one in the process), and potions instantly drank — alternatively you’ll leave the chest temporarily alone for the time being.

Bumping into monsters — as previously mentioned — will cause your hero to strike them a single blow, after which they’ll also strike you back (with some of the monsters inflicting additional penalties whenever they attack). The goal to combat is to ideally approach monsters such that you get the first blow — rather than letting them hit you first — so as to hopefully emerge totally unscathed, which reminded me of Into the Dim (our review). However, greatly simplifying things here — when compared to Happy Magenta’s game — each monster in 1-Bit Rogue may only execute a single move or attack each round (although some of them do have long-ranged attacks, which certainly complicates stuff).

sc1024x768-2Now before you charge into 1-Bit Rogue assuming your superior monster-herding skills will safely see you through everything, there is an important caveat you must always consider: weapon durability. Every randomly discovered weapon/scroll will have a durability-value that decreases by one each and every time they’re used, with a hero forced to use their pathetic-fists whenever they’ve found themselves utterly weaponless. While every floor of 1-Bit Rogue’s dungeon is guaranteed to have at least one treasure box — if not more — you’re never guaranteed any of these randomly generated chests will contain the gear you need, a fact always worth considering before breaking precious gear.

Furthermore, once a monster has been trounced — either via a weapon, or thanks to your puny fists — your hero will both receive some gold, and additionally have their Max-HP increase by one as well (unless the fiend was sadly incorporeal, then you only get gold). The catch is that this increase to a hero’s Max-HP doesn’t affect their current HP-Remaining, a problem that can only be remedied via either medicine — certain curses and/or blessings (more on these soon) — as well as the cleric’s personal innate-perk. Unfortunately — since proper Rogue-likes need many ways to hinder you — some monsters additionally possess devastating attacks that can actually permanently knock your Max-HP back down, but thankfully you can always raise it back up again afterwards.

Lastly are the statues — depicting either a benevolent Goddess, or a cunning Demon — to which you may offer forth a tenth of your currently held coins, in exchange receiving a random curse/blessing that will last a couple of floors. Now while the Goddess’s blessings are generally all safe in nature, they’re usually much weaker and/or context-specific than the often far stronger perks you stand to receive from the Demon statue. However — as to be expected — the Demon’s aid comes with a price, and therefore each of his boons is packaged with a randomly-chosen nasty side-effect that balances out the fact he duplicitously carries the larger gifts.

sc1024x768-4Ultimately — monsters, treasures, and statues aside — your real goal on each floor is to journey to the cavern’s next level; which can only be done via stepping on the floor’s pressure plate, after which the hidden-staircase will be revealed. You can then descend to the next floor by walking over this staircase and selecting yes, keeping in mind that you’ll never be able to traverse backwards once you’ve done so (so open those chests first). However — should you choose to not descend immediately — always remember that a dungeon floor might have invisible traps, and — without the aid of either the Goddess or the ranger — they’ll inflict inescapable damage should you sadly manage to locate them.

Now while there definitely is an achievable end-game in 1-Bit Rogue (the likes of which I won’t be spoiling), your journeys will usually end — rather than in glorious victory — after your hero has been defeated (either by monsters, or those aforementioned traps). Afterwards — as is to be expected of most rogue-likes — you’ll find your hero transported back outside the dungeon (now freshly randomized anew), alongside being stripped of any gear and/or Max-HP upgrades they might have possessed. The catch is that you’ll still maintain any gold you were holding the moment you sadly perished, which also serves as your as score that run (the game maintains a leader-board for top scoring trips).

Players can use this gold to permanently increase a specific-hero’s starting Max-HP, which will greatly aid them on later trips to the dungeon (especially since these upgrades aren’t lost upon defeat). Thankfully — unlike games such as Into the Dim — there’s no greedy penalty-timer holding back these upgrades, meaning you can apply these basically however quickly you’re capable of tapping the screen. You may additionally use these to unlock access to additional heroes beyond the starting warrior, each of whom contain unique innate-perks that dramatically change how 1-Bit Rogue needs to be tackled.

All of what I’ve just said is — in fact — absolutely as awesome as it sounds, and there truly aren’t any hidden greedy-caveats with which to tarnish the endless turn-based rogue-like fun found within 1-Bit Rogue (unlike games such as Into the Dim). The game’s sole meaningful IAP-option — which is known as ‘Tip the Developer a Beer’ — can be purchased for $2.99, but it doesn’t do anything you’d usually expect from similar apps. Generous folks will discover this IAP-option unlocks the game’s 3-Bit mode, wherein the normally black-and-white world of 1-Bit Rogue is now suddenly rendered in a glorious — yet still limited — color palette of just eight colors (an effect which is freely togglable).

The result of all this — should you love similar experiences — is that I have to whole-heartedly recommend you immediately check out Skipmore’s 1-Bit Rogue, but — then again — I’d equally suggest you check out all of his other amazing free iOS games as well.

Verdict

Skipmore’s 1-Bit Rogue is a 100%-free ad-driven game featuring rogue-like turn-based dungeon-exploring action (complete with both perma-death and randomized-layouts), which is furthermore free of any greedy-caveats (unlike games such as Into the Dim). Players take up the mantle of a resurrected legendary-hero, whom has been ordered by King Boldof to find the four powerful-artifacts hidden below his kingdom (with the promise being that peace will reign eternal should they succeed). Players will then plunder treasures, fight monsters with fragile weapons, and avoid many dangerous traps, all while striving to reach the freshly randomized black-and-white dungeon’s bottom. After failing — something that happens often — players may use their accrued gold both to further empower their heroes for the next trip, or unlock access to additional character-classes (each of whom possess their own unique game-play altering innate-perks).

'1-Bit Rogue' Review: More Than Two-Bits of Fun!
100% ad-driven turn-based dungeon-exploring rogue-like with no coercive IAPs
You’ll probably get addicted
4.0Great