Ruggnar feels like an old game. One that you’d find on your emulator and say “Oh, wow! I remember this game,” then sit there for an hour trying to beat it again. Composed of mysterious yet inspiring music, Ruggnar, which I assume is the name of the main character, features a bearded dwarf harboring a candle on his head. His sole objective is to collect golden coins and keys to escape the dungeon. The game has three chapters for story mode and two miscellaneous modes: random dungeons and daily dungeons, both of which require the player to complete Chapter 1 of the story mode to unlock. Join Ruggnar and help light up his path to victory!
Immediately after launching the game you are presented with a screen letting you know that a controller is recommended for playing this game. Getting my controller ready, I first made sure that I wouldn’t rather be using my mouse and keyboard. The menu screen is navigated using the arrow keys and with enter to select. The menu screen is simple and includes the title of the game, navigational buttons, and Ruggnar, who says “I need some help. Do you want to try?” After selecting play and the first chapter on story mode, I noticed something interesting. The game included its own online leaderboard with users and their times for completing the level. Even the tutorial had a number-one time at 14.112 seconds. I thought to myself “I could probably beat this”, but after 10 frustrating minutes I gave up with a personal best of sixteen seconds. I decided it was time to delve into the actual game.
The game revolves around your candles, whether that be the one on top of your head or the multiple that you have at the start of each level. Parts of the dungeon that aren’t already lit up by chandeliers, lava or any other light source are darkened, restricting your vision and leaving you in the dark (literally). To light the area up and see what you’re doing you have two options: move to dark spaces and risk getting killed by something you can’t see, or throw your candles and watch as it lights up the area on which it falls. Although you only have a limited amount of candles to start with, you can pick up more around the dungeon. Beware as waterfalls can extinguish the flame on top of your head, requiring you to relight the candle using one of your own. Each dungeon contains traps to kill you. These include swinging axes, spikes, lava and much more. Checkpoints, which are shown as candelabras, are littered throughout the dungeon so you don’t pull your hair out trying to finish a level. I say that because unless you’re extremely patient, you will die many times.
The main reason will be because of a lack of knowledge on where to go and how to complete the dungeon. When you die, you leave behind a tombstone with a candle on top, creating a handy light source. Another aspect of the game are the items that you can find and pick up around a dungeon. These include a feather, enabling you to jump much higher and run faster and a light which removes all the darkness in a level for a short period of time. The dungeons get more and more complex as you continue, often requiring some time to figure out a level before beating it. The biggest potential for this game is speedruns. I can already see that the developer has this in mind because of the leaderboards. I found myself wanting to speed through each level but failing as I didn’t know the layout of the map. More experienced players can definitely make this game known for its speed run capabilities by showing off their skills as they complete each level at record time.
The use of candles throughout the game was an interesting mechanic, but one that I didn’t find much use out of. In my experience, running through the level and using trial and error was the quickest way to complete a dungeon. Perhaps it was my lack of patience that made me choose the speedrun method, however I can’t imagine many people using the candles for their actual purpose. They have a small area of effect and take a little too long to throw. Your tombstone provides a better source of light and even acts as a little reminder so know if you need to watch out for anything. Although the music consists of one looped soundtrack, I found it fitting the game perfectly. It was mysterious, yet encouraged you to continue the level to see what you could find. The old-fashioned artwork helped give the game a nostalgic feeling, enticing players who desire games that bring back memories.
One thing to keep in mind throughout this review is that Ruggnar is still in Alpha. It’s in its early stages but I hope to see some new elements and improvements in the near future. The potential for speed-runs in this game is huge and could be its main attraction drawing players in. Overall the game offers challenging and solid puzzles to complete, a peaceful and mysterious soundtrack all accompanied by the compelling artwork.