Jun 10, 2011

Sigmore Mines 2

If you had only one word in which to interest me in a game, the word to choose is "roguelike". I have logged an astounding quantity of time playing roguelike games, including ascending every character class in Nethack, winning Angband with a half-dozen character or so and just basically playing these types of games as much as I can. Nethack, in fact, was the first thing I downloaded on my Droid after getting it. So, all I needed to see for Sigmore Mines 2 is that it's a roguelike, and I was off and running.

A roguelike game, for those who haven't encountered the term, is a game that is like the original Rogue, one of the very first graphical adventure games around. What distinguishes roguelike games is that the levels and environments are programmatically generated instead of being statically created by the level designers. That means that these games present fresh challenges every time they're played, giving a wide variety of game experiences. Probably the game that most folks are most familiar with that takes the basic idea behind roguelike games (and runs far with it) is Diablo, which resembles a roguelike in many ways (although roguelikes are usually turn based). The more advanced roguelikes present a huge variety of monsters, treasures, equipment and environments and can sometimes be bewildering in the variety they provide.

Sigmore Mines 2 (SM2 for the rest of this review) is designed for small screens, and in fact is available on J2ME as well as Android. Being designed for such a constrained environment as J2ME means that a lot of the variety of a later roguelike is missing from SM2. There's really only one kind of environment, about a half-dozen basic types of monsters and one character class. The town consists of just three people, and the levels are not particularly large. Perhaps more damaging is that there aren't very many features that crop up in the dungeon, with only a couple of things you might encounter beyond just hostile critters. There are also only a few actions your character can take, with the on-screen controls being limited to walking in the four basic directions, a spell book button and a quick button that can be bound to a particular spell. The only remaining commands are accessed off of the menu, and mostly you'll just be looking at your character or inventory from there.

The game is pretty rough right from the beginning. You get a single point to distribute to one of your six stats (later levels give you 7 points) and then off to the dungeon. You have to kill five rats to gain your first level, and be prepared to die often before getting there. Your hit rate with your melee weapon is very poor, and it only takes a couple hits to bring you down. The good news is that you can head back to town and save any time you want, which you'll need to do frequently. One thing that makes the game more difficult is that the stats aren't really explained to you, and I at least allocated some points in a way that I wouldn't have chosen after I learned more about the game. You also start with 20 gold, which you'll want to spend wisely for your first set of equipment, as your equipment makes a big difference.

Later, as the game moves on, it remains pretty rough for a while. Eventually, I was able to get to the point that I could handle everything in the dungeon with ease, with the exception that occasionally I would be fatally lit on fire (if I didn't have any extinguish fire potions on me). I was able to increase my frozenball spell high enough that I could kill most things in one shot, occasionally two, and even if they didn't die from the first blast they would often be stunned for double-digit turns. I did eventually play all the way through the game and defeat the final boss, which was satisfying although the winning message was a bit anti-climactic.

There were some things I liked about the game - the size of the game was manageable on my phone, and it was pretty easy to play in small bites. There were some technical issues with the game, including the fact that the game doesn't save its state when put into the background, so if I did too much before switching back to it, I would have to resume from my last save game. That meant that I had to try and make it back to town in order to save progress which hampered the quick-slice approach to playing the game. There were also a few smaller technical issues here and there, but nothing huge. Another issue is that every step would sometimes wait for a bit before I could take another step, friction that slowed down the game. There also was no run function (which most roguelikes have) and no way to rest for multiple turns, which meant that when I needed to recover mana (in order to heal myself or get ready for more frozenball spells), I spent a long time running around in circles. There were also a few too many menus in places. It all added up to an interface that felt slower than it should have. Roguelikes should be pretty rapid-fire, and this just felt slow too much of the time. Add in the lack of variety in the game and the relatively high price, and I can't really recommend the game. There are other options for roguelikes on Android, and although I did play to the end and had some fun, only roguelike addicts should be having a look. There is a free version to try out first, which I recommend anyone try out first. I'm going to give Sigmore Mines 2 stars. With some interface improvements to make the game much faster flowing and state saving when put into the background, that could climb, though.


  1. Six times Angband winner? Respect!
    As for the roguelikes on android - are you aware of any good ones?
    I've tried Dweller (which has a bit more development-time behind it), but it still has some interface issues.
    Than there's Legends of Yore, untried by me.
    My favorite: Powder, via GBA emulator. Simplified, but has various equipement (including unique), distinct enemies, classes and gods.

  2. Really glad to see some roguelike coverage. Thanks! They're definitely a niche genre (except in Japan where they sell nicely) but some of us in the west are playing (and making ;) roguelikes for Android. Look forward to more reviews!

    - Patrick

  3. Hi,
    Looks like I should set a google alert for SM2 topic.. I should have read your post way earlier..

    Anyway, I am a developer of SM2 game. Just wanted to let you know that I have updated the battle mechanics so the game is not that hard at the beginning.

    As for other points:
    1. Should I allow the player to save game any time he want without going back to town? - this would fix an issue with traveling back and forth to town when you forgot town portal scroll - it was something i have taken from diablo as they used the same solution.

    2. As you said, after some time you get super strong in one spell, if I allow resting, it will be even more easier to use magic, rest, use magic rest.. no need for mana potions also.

    3. Overload state was added because i removed amount of items you can keep in the inventory, but to balance it, you will be slower if you keep to much.

    4. I'm open for constructive criticism and ideas how to improve the game, you said that there is not much what player can do in the dungeon. What new abilities would you like to see in the game?

    https://market.android.com/details?id=com.itprogs.sigmoremines :)