Rigonauts, the latest game from the indie duo Engient, is a deceptively complex experience. What starts out as a simple game of chicken between some hobgoblins in a pirate ship with wheels becomes a cloud of controlled anarchy spewing explosions and lasers at anyone nearby. It’s the kind of game where, even when you fail, is at least fun to look at. The folks at Engient have made a fun, albeit flawed, bit of explosive entertainment.
Players find themselves in the shoes of Rigo and his ragtag team of Hobs. While fleeing from their evil former master, they must battle any and all hostiles encountered in their attempt to free themselves. To match this jaunty story, the simple graphics focus on bright colors and smooth animations to keep the battles interesting. The music, although a bit repetitive after a while, is adequate enough. I found that while building my death machines, I would often forget music was even playing, and in a way this was a positive. Building became the key focus, and the music simply bled into the background. The style of Rigonauts complements this lighthearted tale, and while it’s not going to blow anyone away, it’s a perfectly enjoyable wrapping for the core game.
Players are given a basic structure, essentially a pirate ship with wheels, that they can deck out with cannons, lasers, and other weapons as the Hobs arsenal slowly grows. Defensive materials are also given, each with their own weaknesses, and can be added to the ship using a tool-set reminiscent of World of Goo. Once satisfied with the weaponized powerhouse, specific targets can be chosen, but that’s the limit of your control during battle. Bullets start flying once you hit go, and the vehicles on the field rush toward one another, guns blazing the entire time. If victory is achieved, star ratings are given based on the number of weapons and structural pieces used.
And these battles do get ridiculous. By the time the first boss fight is complete, most battles will have players placing up to five or six individual weapons blowing apart ships made mostly of bone and metal. Even when a loss is clear, it’s still fun to watch the carnage play out just to witness how epic the failure truly becomes. At it’s best, Rigonauts makes you feel like a little kid battling with LEGOs, but it’s not always perfect.
Rigonauts suffers from some of the same problems that games like Scribblenauts or World of Goo do. When the possibilities for solving the puzzles are so open ended, it can become a test of one’s willpower to fine tune a new solution. I often found myself just re-using the same few strategies when stuck. In a way, the game’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest flaw. While each battle has an insane amount of possible solutions, only a few are viable, and it’s very easy to settle into a pattern of using the same strategy time and again.
Of course, this also helps to keep the game moving along, and prevents players from getting stuck on a single battle. For better or worse, one can brute force many of the regular fights, but your rating will suffer because of it. And while the game does keep the momentum moving, most play sessions will only last a few levels. Engient seems to have designed the game for short bursts, which is understandable considering it’s available for iOS and Android phones as well as Steam, but this is something to take note of. Even with these problems, Rigonauts is a lot of fun.
Boasting over thirty levels, there’s plenty of content to keep you playing. Experimenting with new designs and working for better ratings can be loads of fun. The dynamic of spending time quietly crafting a ship, and then watching it charge into battle can be truly satisfying. And while the overall experience can get repetitive, Rigonauts is definitely worth looking into.
Rigonauts was developed and published by Engient. A PC copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.