Randomization is both a blessing and a curse; there’s nothing like the feeling of stumbling upon quality gear as it aids you through rooms of dangerous enemies. But sooner or later you die, and in a rougelike such as Tallowmere, that means starting from scratch. But now your luck has ran out, and you’re at the mercy of the random number generator. You are not given a life-regen granting rocket launcher, and your damage resisting katana that locks on enemies is being withheld. All you have is your starting axe and a shield that grants extra damage for a weapon that you don’t even have. This is common in roguelikes, and frustration is expected when pure chance is keeping you from progressing; Tallowmere does nothing new in this regard. However, every run manages to be full of new discoveries and satisfying combat, along with a bit of charm as you blast your way through colorful enemies and meet quirky characters.
At first glance, Tallowmere seems like a simple game, as all you have is a single attack, a jump, and a shield, with the only goal being to get to the next room. But this simplicity is deceptive, as you soon realize that these simple mechanics require a mastery of when and how to use them. Your jump is unlimited, but must be used cautiously to avoid jumping into the many spikes around the walls of each room. So instead of using this jump to dodge projectiles, you have to block with your shield, and this method of defense should not be overlooked, as it protects against all incoming damage. Then there is your weapon, and the game shines in this regard due to the sheer variety of them. I’ve already mentioned the rocket launcher and the katana, but there’s also a mace that propels you downwards if you’re in air, an ice wand that (to the surprise of absolutely nobody) freezes enemies, and my favorite, the grenades. But I say they’re my favorite with some contempt, as my best run ended while I was chucking grenades over a platform to kill a group of enemies, doing damage while staying out of harm’s way. Before I realized, half of the grenades were at my feet, my body was a pool of blood and the words “you have died” mockingly appeared on the screen.
The weapons aren’t the only aspect of Tallowmere that have variety. Starting from the seventh room, you encounter “events,” and these range from capturing a flag and bringing it to base, to fighting a giant laxative-eating cat, and they only get more interesting from there. But like the rest of the game, which event happens is entirely random, and some are much harder than others, such as the aforementioned cat boss fight. Not only does the cat have a lot of health and mobility, but once the event starts, you can’t go back to base to heal because the healer is stuck in the fight with you, and can’t do anything but watch.
The biggest flaw of Tallowmere, however, is that it is designed for PC first and mobile second. The game runs surprisingly well on mobile with all the particle effects, blood, and explosions going off, at least once you lower the blood decals in the options menu, but the problem is the interface. The small text is only a minor issue when you find yourself raising your shield when you wanted to activate the waypoint back to base, or when you want to run but end up switching weapons, or worse, using the health potion that you were saving. Combat is still fast and exciting, but it is disheartening when one of the biggest obstacles is not the difficult enemies, but trying not to press the wrong button.
Despite this, Tallowmere is very much worth your time. Even though I have died dozens of times and have not gotten past the ninth floor, I find myself picking it up again and again just to see what items I can find and how far I can get. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face even after death, and knowing that each run could potentially be better than the last makes it hard to stop playing. Just remember one thing: an extra ten health is nice, but saving the lives of kittens is the ultimate reward. So please, don’t sacrifice the kittens.
The combat is fun and rewarding with the abundance of different weapons, and there are enough challenges to keep you playing for a long time.