[Review] Trouserheart - Nintendo Switch
We have seen a lot of indie games utilizing the rogue-like and rogue-lite formulas to help flesh out their game worlds and improve replayability for a while now. It's pretty high up there with metroidvania at this point for percentage of overall games released, and it's gets a little tiresome at times when games just feel like another recycled idea. However, even amidst a slew of similar games, you do happen to find the gems that trickle out when building upon a basic template- particularly when those gems figure out a novel way to overcome some of the shortcomings, and then improve upon the feel in the process. Enter Trouserheart.
You see, Trouserheart takes the old school absurdity of classic video game nonsense plot lines (a sleeping king has his pants go missing in his sleep), and combines it with a tweaked rogue-lite system and familiar level design to bring us a fun, light-hearted romp with simple controls, catchy music, and unexpected twists. As I mentioned above, your quest in this game is to recover your pants, and to do that you must progress across the map of keeps with names like Derpington Halls, Tomb of Pantshotep and Dimrock Dungeon. I love that they're a mix of memes, puns, and Flintstone's style conventions.
Every castle you enter has a set number of rooms, with a campfire save point halfway through, and a boss room at the end. However, everytime you play through the castle, it will randomly generate each individual room that you go into. There will usually be a couple of enemies appropriate for the region that you're in, and every so often you will run across a room that is nothing but a lone treasure chest. Sprinkled throughout the game are hidden treasures and bonus levels that are mini dungeons without a boss. Combat is as basic as it can possibly be, as the game relies on one button that controls all interaction with the rest of the game- sword slashing. Sword slash to open chests, attack enemies, and to knock objects around the room. This last one is important because this is how you knock bombs around the rooms and make them explode the things you can't hack apart with your sword. Usually you find treasure hidden within, and treasure is absolutely essential to your progression through the game. Instead of unlocking items by finding them, you spend your gold upgrading your four skills- attack, defense, health, and treasure acquisition. You get bigger and cooler looking swords that do more damage as you level up attack, better shields and armor with defense, more hearts as your health goes up, and collect more treasure for the last. I think the quickest way to grind is to upgrade your attack and treasure percentage first.
I did have to grind a little bit to beat the final boss, as I had not yet fully upgraded my health or defense at that point. However, because of the game's random room generation nature, I found it easy enough to run back through a few previous dungeons without getting frustrated or bored to build my coffers back up, and managed to beat the final boss on my third attempt without being fully maxed out. Trouserheart emphasizes fun and ease of use throughout it's very short playtime, but the fact that it is relatively mindless fun makes it perfect to just pick up and play for a level or two whenever you need a palate cleanser. Trouserheart only takes about 75 minutes to complete, but there are also some achievements built into the game to add a little bit of challenge for those that want to look for more to do after the final boss has fallen.
When I first started Trouserheart, I got a lot of Binding of Isaac and Legend of Zelda vibes, and those are great games to call back to. Really, though, that feeling just comes from the layout of the castles being a series of singular rooms that must be conquered one locked door at a time. Trouserheart doesn't have any clever puzzles or overly tough enemies. You don't have to worry about permadeath at all, and it's easy enough to back out of a castle and go upgrade or grind some more to make it back through the castle you left, and although you have to start over, it's a quick jaunt through and it becomes easier every time. If you're looking for simple fun and a few sophomoric laughs, Trouserheart has you covered.