App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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After last year’s phenomenal Void Tyrant, I had a feeling we could expect to see more Blackjack-based games, and here we are. RogueJack is a simple dungeon-crawler that resolves combat encounters by seeing whether you or your opponent get closer to a hand of 21 without going over. There are some things that RogueJack does in an effort to feel like more than just playing a bunch of Blackjack, but it doesn’t give you as much variety or as many play options as you probably want.
RogueJack looks just like a run-of-the-mill, retro-inspired dungeon-crawler designed for mobile. With a simple virtual d-pad, you can command your hero around darkened hallways full of enemies from a top-down perspective. It isn’t until you bump up against one of these enemies that you can tell that the game involves cards at all.
When entering combat, suddenly the d-pad disappears, replaced by a couple of cards. At the same time, both you and your enemy have a pair of cards appear above their heads, which act as your starting hand for a round of Blackjack. Your goal from here is to draw cards from the bottom of the screen (if you need them) in an effort to get a better hand of Blackjack than your foe. If you win, you deal damage to your opponent. If you don’t, the enemy hits you.
Dungeons in RogueJack seem to be procedurally-generated, and the point of the game is to see how many floors deep you can get as you face off against increasingly difficult monsters. To keep up with the increasing difficulty, RogueJack has loot that you can equip to your character to change the way they deal damage, and there’s also a progression system that changes the way your hero behaves each time they level up.
When you die in RogueJack, you don’t have to start your progress over from the very beginning, although it may look that way at first. New games always start from the first floor of the dungeon, but you can always opt to warp back to the level you died on and even find a tombstone from your last run which can give you some of your earnings and gear back if you opt to collect it.
Luck of the draw
All of this is well and good, but RogueJack—in choosing a game of probability for its combat system—can sometimes feel frustratingly random. I can’t tell you the number of times playing this game that I lost a round of combat because my initial hand totaled 12 or higher while having two face cards in hand. In situations like that, RogueJack offers no real way to do anything but stay and hope your opponent busts, or otherwise suffer a humiliating defeat.
It’s great that RogueJack doesn’t penalize you too much for dying, but it ultimately feels like a weak concession for a game that can so easily screw you based on bad card draw. Without any way to customize your deck, use special abilities, or manipulate the odds in any meaningful way, RogueJack can sometimes feel like a gussied up game of chance.
The bottom line
When luck is on your side RogueJack can be fun and exciting, but when it isn’t, the game feels really limiting. Without any robust systems building off of the base combat, you can easily get forced into making losing plays with little recourse. This obviously doesn’t feel great, and it feels doubly bad knowing that there’s already a Blackjack-based game that exists and solves this problem in Void Tyrant. Given this, it’s not easy to recommend RogueJack even though it does have some novel ideas.