Seven Scrolls review
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Seven Scrolls review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on March 11th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: CONDITIONAL CRAWLER
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Seven Scrolls draws perhaps a bit too much inspiration from its source material, yet somehow still manages to feel distinct, fresh, and fun.

Developer: Jesse Venbrux

Price: $2.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone XR

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Seven Scrolls is a mini-roguelike that draws much of its inspiration from Michael Brough games like Imbroglio, Cinco Paus, and P1 Select. It even goes so far as to crib the same crude art style that defines these titles. As similar as it may appear to Brough's output though, developer Jesse Venbrux's work on Seven Scrolls establishes its own, distinct personality that feels completely original and surprisingly accessible.

If dungeon, then crawl

In Seven Scrolls, you control a monk who is adventuring into the depths of a dungeon. Each floor of this dungeon fits conveniently on your phone screen and is comprised of a 5x5 grid with doors in the middle of each wall that can loop you to the opposite end of the floor Pac-Man-style. The game is turn-based, meaning each turn you can swipe to move or attack before enemies get their turn to do the same thing.

Your goal on each floor is to collect a key by killing monsters so that you can unlock the next floor. Attacking monsters is a simple affair that happens automatically if you swipe in a direction of a monster that is lined up with your monk's row or column at any given distance. As you progress through the game, you'll also collect scrolls, which present interesting conditional statements that mess with the rules of the game.

Logic loopholes

The easiest way to describe how scrolls inSeven Scrolls work is to provide an example. A pretty basic scroll might say something like "If Monk is healed, hurt a monster." With this scroll equipped, a random monster would take damage any time the Monk gathered a heart pickup or found some other way to heal. The real fun in Seven Scrolls though is seeing how all of these scrolls combine as you collect more of them.

As you might be able to guess from the name, Seven Scrolls lets players mix and match up just over a half dozen scrolls, and any number of them may be able to chain-react to each other. On some playthroughs, you might be able to freeze monsters which then triggers chain lightning that will spawn a key if you get hurt, or perhaps you'll just be able to turn into a monster killing machine with tons of scrolls that just hurt or kill monsters as a result of any number of actions.

It seems as though the scrolls in this game are all procedurally generated and revolve around randomly combining all possible permutations of game conditions and outcomes. As a result, some runs can be really dynamic and interesting, while others might feel disadvantageous or just plain old boring. Luckily, you can help manage the scrolls you have under your control by choosing to remove them from your inventory. In order to do this, though, you have to manually use the power of the scroll once before it burns up and is removed from your inventory.

Art imitates art

Seven Scrolls is a roguelike in the sense that dying in the game resets you to the first level of the dungeon every time. Fortunately, this doesn't seem like too much of a penalty since the fun in the game lies more in discovering new combinations of scrolls than making it far in the dungeon. Rest assured though, if you want to try go on deep runs in Seven Scrolls, there's a surprising amount of stuff waiting for you to uncover and explore.

Beyond some of the random elements, my only real beef with Seven Scrolls is its art style. The game hews so closely to Michael Brough's work that it looks like a knock off, and quite frankly it doesn't add a whole lot to the experience. The ways Seven Scrolls references games like Imbroglio and Cinco Paus are apparent in the way that it plays, so having it look the part too feels a little over the top (not to mention the fact I've never been too fond of Brough's visual style).

The bottom line

Seven Scrolls feels like a love letter to Michael Brough's games. At the same time, it is built around a unique core that is more accessible than the titles that inspired it. I wish Seven Scrolls did a little more to make itself look as distinct as it is, but it is otherwise a completely delightful mini-roguelike that you should absolutely play.

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