Friends are the worst. One minute they’re stuffing delicious bananas in your mouth to heal your wounds, the next they’re flailing at your head with a police truncheon. But what would life be without some friendly fractures to the skull? In Streets Of Rogue, the anarchic roguelite we can’t stop playing, you can still harm your fellow players in co-op mode. That means lots of accidental pal-murdering.
But that’s not how you should play this with friends. You should do it like we did, with a plan. There are a lot of characters in the game, each with their own abilities, so you can easily build a crew of delightful degenerates. Here are some co-op recipes we came up with, guaranteed to provide a good time.
The Streets of Dr. Morogue
What you need: 3 Gorillas, 1 Scientist
What’s your goal: Learning. The scientist has a water pistol that can be filled with various drugs. The scientist player must test said drugs on their willing ape army as they make their way through the levels.
Astrid: There’s this trope in movies featuring mad scientists. Sometimes, in their frenzy to oust the hero, their cruel machinations backfire, and they accidentally use their inventions on themselves.
My sickening plan to giantize my gorilla squadron to wreak havoc upon the slums did eventually work, but not before, in the confusion of loading my water pistol, I used one of the vials of Giantizer on myself. I panicked, flailing about in a ruddy great giant form, and properly smashed up a prison. When the drug wore off, I returned to normal, surrounded by rubble, feeling how I imagine Bruce Banner does after stepping on a bit of Lego and subsequently losing the deposit on his flat.
Sin: It’s not easy being a gorilla in this city. Clapped in irons, prodded with rulers, denied even the comfort of chicken nuggets. When we three gorillas disperse throughout any level, the streets are strewn with rubble and corpses in minutes. Someone fights the police. Another antagonises an entire bar. I brutalise a lab, freeing an unaligned gorilla, who sees Astrid’s labcoat and immediately attacks her until she uses a shrink ray on him and orders me to get stomping.
Project Kong happens without me, as Astrid embiggens Brendy, Nate, a passing rescue gorilla, and then fires at the wall behind me. The trio of gigantic apes stomp across the district while I stand and watch, forlorn. At one point it becomes clear Astrid is failing us as a parent: one of our loyal NPC rescue gorillas has joined a gang.
Nate: They say you’re most artistically free when you’re working with limitations, and so it is here. Unable to speak or use firearms, life as a gorilla in Streets Of Rogue is a beautiful symphony of knuckles, with few decisions to make beyond where to point your rage next. And with the good Doctor doing all the thinking, you can empty your mind entirely and act on moment-to-moment brute impulse.
Occasionally you’ll be made stronger. Or invisible. Or absolutely vast, capable of grinding down the buildings before you like an unstoppable, sped-up glacier of mange. Of course, science isn’t always benevolent. At one point, I see Brendan turned into a pathetic, knee-high primate, scurrying around the streets like a rat with a doughnut nose. He’s crushed to death by a passing pedestrian. A miserable end for a great ape.
Brendan: My memories as a gorilla are hazy, possibly due to all the drugs, but I remember one moment very clearly. Dr Astrid had died, but Nate quickly hoovered up all her lost equipment and brought it back to her respawned body like a dog playing fetch. He stopped in front of the doctor and started emptying his pockets onto the ground. An endless inventory of questionable apparatus.
“Shrink ray, freezegun, leafblower, gun, gun, gun, drugs, gun, cigarettes, gun...”
We apes can’t use ranged weaponry. Which means Astrid had been hoarding all the guns she could, and was now walking around with more arms than a big statue of Vishnu. I won’t pretend to understand science - I am but an ape - but this feels unnecessary.
Latest stage capitalism
What you need: 1 Investment Banker, 1 Shopkeeper, 2 Zombies
What’s your goal: The age of capital is under threat by zombies. The zombie players must turn all the citizens of the map into undead chums. While the Shopkeeper and Investment Banker try to make a hefty profit amid the destruction.
Astrid: I’m birthed into digital existence as an investment banker, and immediately hit with a countdown. I have 60 seconds to pump my body full of any and every narcotic I can get my hands on, be they delicious bags of sugar or vials of ‘rage poison’. Fortunately, I have a hefty wad of cash to fuel my desperate binge.
I say fortunately, but it ended up being very un-fortunate. That conman Brendan, aware of my affliction, overcharged me for some cigarettes I needed until I could find the stronger stuff. The haggling took so long that I developed shakes, and dropped all my money onto the ground. Three hundred gold for half a pack of fags and a free item voucher. Prick.
It didn’t matter. When you suffer from withdrawal, you lose a point of health every second. It wasn’t long until Sin asked me how I was doing for drugs, and my response was simply: “I’m dead.”
Brendan: Never let a zombie insurrection get in the way of a good rip-off, that’s what my father, who is a real shopkeeper, always says. I immediately take advantage of Astrid’s addiction, hawking her some cigs I found in the bins. She agrees to buy them for $100, but somehow her entire savings fall onto the ground - more than $300 in shiny coins. I grab it all, dump the smokes at her feet and throw a “free item” voucher on the ground as an additional insult, then leave. That’s just business.
Sin: More like zzzzzombies, amirite. On the other hand, we get to be the zombie AND make life harder for the rich? I’m in. It’s a simple job. Anyone you hit will turn into a zombie if killed. I immediately start spitting zombie phlegm at the capitalist players, partly out of curiosity, and partly psychological warfare. It’s a while before I remember that doing this costs me health. Soon I’m stuck loitering on the edge of the fun, scavenging for beer and ham sandwiches. It’s basically the usual RPS office party, with fewer shuffling husks.
Nate: Once again, I am in the brute squad. It’s all about wading into crowds, causing as much damage as possible, and hoping your victims reanimate into backup. I’m not certain whether I’m meant to be working alongside our two bickering arch-capitalists, or hunting them. In the end, I decide it doesn’t matter. A zombie’s world is visceral and immediate, and the floundering of two coinlords is nothing but bunkum on the wind. I’m going to vomit and mangle and lumber forward, and if those chumps get in my way, it’ll be the worse for them.
In the end, I go down to a shotgun blast from a panicking goon, round the back of some dismal saloon. It doesn’t matter, the horde is on its feet now, and the end is beginning.
Cop and Robbers
What you need: 2 Thieves, 1 Police Officer, 0 Nates (he had to leave)
What’s your goal: Classic playground mayhem. The thieves are out to steal everything they can. While the cop must keep law and order.
Sin: I quickly indulge in the cheeky joy of swiping loose change from unwary pockets. The filth can’t pin much on me, so Brendy is reduced to glowering from across the street. But he’s playing nobly enough to resurrect me later, when he finds my body in the street.
That’s when I steal his gun.
Brendy gives chase but the thief character is too fast for hapless plod. I dash off, breaking windows, taking idle potshots at the pursuing detective. “You’ll never catch me, copper!” But he does. Constable Brenstable went full McClane, picking up whatever he could find, and he eventually whallops me with a crowbar. I die an ignoble death in the gutter, and spend the rest of the game following him around as a ghost, whispering “murdererrrrr”.
Astrid: For a career criminal, I didn’t do many actual crimes before Brendan’s fascist police state took me down. In fact, I hadn’t committed any crime when the baton came down (in front of the cops, anyway). After spending my completely legally obtained currency on a pack of fags and a lighter, I went to deposit my change in an ATM like a dutiful citizen.
Along comes Officer Baco-- I mean, Officer Brendan, who sees my innocent use of public property and - despite my having no ability in the game to do so - he assumes I’m tampering with the machine to steal cash. He chases me down and exercises a bit of police brutality, but I escaped. Oink oink, Brendy. You’ll never catch me.
Brendan: “Crime doesn’t pay!” I shout fruitlessly into the streets. As a policeman I can only run at a fraction of the speed of these nippy thieves, I’m like an old dog chasing a cheesewheel. Sin has pickpocketed me twice, and I have no weapons. Astrid has been interfering with ATM machines. I don’t know how yet, but I swear she has. Every time I try to chase them down, they leg it to the nearest alley, cackling. The impotence of my police work has bruised my ego, so I make do with arresting innocent NPCs passing by, just to make myself feel powerful. That’s what being a police officer is all about.
Trick or Treat
What you need: A Werewolf, a Vampire, and a Shapeshifter
What’s your goal: Clear every building as a single spooky squad of trick or treaters. Knock on doors and tap creepily on the windows to lure people over. When the inhabitants of a home answer, it’s Halloween time.
Sin: “My, what lovely costumes you have! I’ll just turn to the sweets cupboard, exposing my innocent back for a moment.” I imagine our hosts saying if they ever pick the ‘treat’ option. It’s trick. It’s always trick.
As the shapeshifter, I tried to possess a guard at one point, but the game called it “some kind of… possession-ception?” I realised he must be possessed already. Astrid runs over and clubs him to death, and another little naked man hops out of him. I spent a while chasing him around the level and giggling at our little bums, the sheer absurdity of the last few hours completely jellying my brain. Nobody gives me any sweets.
Astrid: I was a werewolf during our trick-or-treating, but I’d endeavoured to good. I might be able to transform into a fuzzy, toothed beast at the right-click of a mouse, but I’d be damned if I didn’t try and stay in-character as a kind-hearted person with a horrible affliction.
That didn’t last though, did it? We knocked on the door of a lovely doctor, and as I moved my mouse to look around the place, my finger right-clicked unintentionally, my body contorted and I got right hairy. The next fifteen seconds were a blur. The doctor was now paste, all trodden into the carpet. Curses.
Brendan: I played the vampire, and started feasting on the blood of a stranger in the streets. But I didn’t pause to consider the stranger’s glowing red eyes, and when I drained him of his blood, a horrid shapeshifter popped out of his body and scurried off. It made me feel sick. Imagine polishing off a delicious salmon and then one of those tongue parasites crawls out of the head, laughs, and scuttles away.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
What you need: 3 Shapeshifters
What’s your goal: Mayhem.
Brendan: This was anarchy. We could hop into the bodies of anyone we pleased, and use their powers. People died. There were explosions. In one moment of relative peace, Astrid and I sought to revive Sin from a pesky death. But to bring her back we needed to pay the Styxian toll of $60. We had $16. Astrid possessed a hacker and started hacking a slot machine so I could gamble the money with increased odds of winning. But the casino’s bouncer noticed and bashed us both in the head.
I’m glad we murdered him.
Sin: Whenever I play Streets Of Rogue with someone new, even a total beginner, they invariably do something I didn’t know was possible. Astrid shows me that you can exit a host without having it sit on a grenade or suckerpunch a bouncer. The rest of this round devolves into a grimy, ultraviolent Being John Malkovich as I hop in and out of random bodies and dodge maniacal robots.
Astrid: Have you ever seen that bit in Ghoulies II, where douchebag Philip Hardin sits down on a bog and one of the Ghoulies hiding in the bowl violently destroys his bum? Put a pin in that.
Sin told me that, while playing a shapeshifter, you can jump into toilets, flush yourself down, and emerge in the bowl of another toilet on the map. I gave this a go right away, and came out of a toilet in use by a slum dweller. I didn’t rip him to shreds, but I did possess him, which is even more disturbing if I’m honest -- exactly how did I get into his body?