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Love CAN bloom on the battlefield in Roguemance

All you need is love, and a sharp sword.

Tis' the season of smooching, and a lot of games are getting especially silly for Valentines. From outside of the swarm of pseudo-romantically-themed promotions and in-game events comes Roguemance, a cute little co-op (or solo) dungeon crawl where love is in the air, and every date is an adventure in the most literal sense.

Coming from Lucas Molina, solo developer of equally cute-looking (though somewhat more serious) business sim Painters Guild, Roguemance is out now on Steam, and might just be a little smarter than it looks.

Roguemance is a simple little game, but one that forces a little more thought than you'd expect. You walk through a linear world (the broken Heartipelago), fighting cute little pixel monsters in turn-based battles using a simple wheel of actions, and the (free) option to switch your facing from left to right. While you can use any of your four equipped moves at any given time, monsters will cycle through theirs in a clockwise fashion, meaning that you can always see what the next turn of combat will involve, allowing you to jump, block or attack as appropriate.

It's not quite that simple, of course. While you can pick which actions you use, each one will be greyed out until you've used the entire wheel's contents. If you've got a healing smooch loaded up, you'll have to use it, and will want to fire it when the enemy is jumping, so that it flies under them and hits either your partner, or just ends up strategically wasted. The fact that you need to cycle through all your actions means that you often need to plan a step or two ahead, and sometimes just accept that you'll take a point or two of damage.

The game is dense with silly innuendo. Your amorous adventure begins in the Morning Woods, where you'll have to beat off some Blue Balls before you can continue onwards, with the dreaded Love Dungeon awaiting more successful players. If playing solo, you'll pick up partners at taverns along the way, wheras (local-only) co-op play has the two players roll their own characters, with the controls being simple enough for you to share a keyboard.

Pleasingly, gender, appearance, class or even whether a partner is undead or not has no bearing on their romantic suitability, so you can smooch whoever you wish, whenever you wish. That's not to say that love is universal; if you ignore their advice you'll find your compatibility level going down. Chilly partners will do whatever they please instead of following orders in combat, so you probably want to get along well with them.

I've only played a little ways into Roguemance so far, but it seems to be a surprisingly clever little distraction, and the terrible puns have raised a few smiles. Perhaps one for the nerdy couples to unwind with this most heart-filled of days?

Roguemance is available now on Steam and while love is free, the game will set you back £5/$7, minus a 10% launch discount.

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Dominic Tarason