Ross is a writer, educator, and performer who lives and works in NYC. When he's not doing any of the aforementioned activities, he's playing video games.
If you get a rush out of roguelite bullet hells like Enter the Gungeon and tower defense strategy games like Kingdom Rush and all things sci-fi, then Rogue Star Rescue (RSR), a forthcoming roguelite from Chute Apps, is right up your turret-filled alley. The game’s still in development, but having played it a bit, I can assure you that it shows signs of being a standout title, because of how it combines the best of both genres into one seamless and fast-paced onslaught of an outer-space shootout. I was lucky enough to get Carl Chute — the creator of this exciting, pixelated space odyssey — on the line. Here’s what he had to say his hybrid tower-defense bullet hell in the stars.
If you had to describe Rogue Star Rescue in just a few sentences, what would you say?
Bullet hell roguelite meets tower defense strategy.
It’s a match made in galactic heaven. RSR is a special blend of these two genres. Stylistically it’s a throwback to the 90s games we love, with all the modern flair. The action is smooth, the gameplay is challenging, and the story is complex and nonlinear. It’s a game you’ll get sucked into and will end up spending months exploring the multiple intricacies and outcomes. Keeping the game fun well past the 50-hour mark is our core design focus.
What are some of your favorite sci-fi books and movies? How did those titles influence your decision to make a sci-fi themed roguelite?
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of them. You can see the design influence in the very first level. That old-yet-futuristic style is really well suited for our game, especially with pixel art. The vast Star Wars universe has also played a major influence, one of our characters’ first encounters is with a familiar looking maintenance droid.
Outside the realm of fiction, I’ve also taken influences from real life space science. Stephen Hawking and Chris Hadfield have written great books on the wonders of space. Their scientific knowledge and constructive imagination are heavily reflected in the game.
What are some other roguelite bullet-hell shooters inspired you to try your hand at the genre?
We love games like Nuclear Throne and the Binding of Isaac. Being a big fan of the genre, I’ve noticed a great opportunity to push the genre forward. Fast action mechanics and procedural level generation work great together, and adding a strategy component adds to the analytical side of the gameplay. This requires more than simply blasting your way through levels, and keeps the game from getting repetitive.
How did you try to make your game stand out from other roguelites?
From the beginning, we wanted to bring the roguelite games we love to the next level. Visually we didn’t want to follow the traditional dark dungeon-y theme. Instead, we created our levels to be diverse, bright, and accessible. Do you remember the first time you played Sonic for Sega Genesis? I wanted to incorporate that sort of visual splendor as much as possible.
RSR is also much less linear than others in the genre. The player gets to pick which planet they’ll travel to next, and their planet choices are limited by how well they perform. This creates over 100 possible endings. This idea was inspired by Starfox 64; I was always amazed by how that game kept me coming back to explore the different possible play paths.
The largest thing that sets RSR apart from all other roguelites is the tower defense element. We haven’t found another game like this.
Can you explain the game’s defense elements to our readers?
Each level is divided into two phases, the Exploration phase and the Defense phase.
The Exploration phase is more like a traditional roguelite. The player searches through the planet, fights off enemies and gathers resources. The player picks up coins, guns, and traps that help them in the defense phase.
The Defense phase is at the end of each level. The player is given an objective to defend based on the storyline (the spaceship, a team member, equipment, etc). First, they get a couple of minutes to strategically place the traps they have collected. There are a few different types of traps including spike, slow, turret, wall, and barrier traps. Each of them can be upgraded using coins.
The main strategy element of the game is to gather coins to purchase and upgrade your traps intelligently. If you blow all your traps on the first level, chances are you won’t be able to beat the final boss. The player needs to find a balance between defense and over-defense, and everybody will be different based on their individual playing style.
Once the traps are placed, the enemies come out attacking in waves. The enemies target both the player and the defense objective you’re trying to protect. If you or the defense objective are destroyed, it’s game over.
We really wanted to emphasize the combination of action and strategy. Unlike more traditional TD games, the player has full control during the defense phases, and can strategically work to fight off enemies alongside their traps. I’m a big fan of Orcs Must Die! and appreciate the control the player has even after the traps are placed and the enemies have been released.
Can you tell me a little more about the game’s premise and its storyline?
It’s [a] galactic doomsday. A massive Rogue Star has formed from the cosmos and is on a direct collision path with our galaxy. It threatens to vaporize everything. Leaders from planets around the galaxy have assembled a top team of fighters to stop the Rogue Star at all costs.
The evil aliens from a neighboring galaxy see the Rogue Star as an opportunity to destroy their longtime rivals. They learn of the team assembled to prevent it, and rush to their galaxy to stop their plans, while the Rogue Star inches ever closer.
Depending on the path the player takes, there are over a hundred different outcomes. The Rogue Star can destroy the entire galaxy, be reflected to the enemy’s galaxy, swallowed by a black hole, sent far away through a galactic wormhole, and dozens of other possibilities in between. It’s really up to the player to make the right decisions based on the outcome they want to see, and who they want to rescue.
Who exactly is the game’s cute little main character and how do you come up with him?
We thought it’d be funny to have a cute looking Japanese style character blasting a thousand rounds a minute. The contrast in the game between cute/bright graphics and super violent guns really defines our style. We’ve got a bunch of other playable characters in the works, including a pink-haired steampunk heroine. She’s badass.
How many weapons are in the game and which one’s your favorite?
So far there’s [sic] over 30 guns, but the finished game will have over 200. On top of that, the player has powerful grenades ready at the tap of a button. This adds a new dynamic to the gunplay and sets us apart from other games in the genre. They’re also upgradeable and we’ll have several different power-ups specifically for grenades. Ice blast, electro-shock, gas, acid grenades and whatever else we come up with.
Item synergies also play a big part. The player can strategically acquire specific combinations of guns and items that enable bonus attributes. These can be powerful, so knowing what items to buy really gives an advantage.
My favorite gun so far is the mini-gun, specifically when combined with the triple shot passive item. It’s just pure bullet hell, an absolute storm of bullets. It’s very satisfying.
Anything else you’d like to relate to our readers?
We’re pushing the boundaries of roguelite games by adding all these strategy elements. If you’re growing tired of traditional explore-and-shoot roguelites, then I really think you’ll like RSR. We’re making a game that we’re still going to enjoy playing in many years, and we’d love your help in building our growing community of RSR enthusiasts. We’re a small team working on an ambitious project, and our community is extremely valuable to us.
Join us by showing your support on Kickstarter! Together we’ll make one of the best games in the genre.
It’s thrilling to see designers like Chute transcend the boundaries that divide genres to make something completely nuanced and fun to play. It reinforces the fact that everything under the sun hasn’t been done, so go and support them on their Kickstarter, which they’re planning to launch soon. If you want to get a first hand look, you can try out a demo of the game here. If you like it, you can get the early access version right now on Steam and ichi.io. Be sure to check out the trailer below and keep up with its development; Chute is constantly adding cool features like new weapons, levels, characters, and more, so it’s definitely a roguelite to keep an eye on. I can’t wait until it makes its way to Switch so I can play it in handheld mode.