Hitting an enemy in ScourgeBringer is like ringing a bell. There’s something hollow going on, something metallic, something that resounds. And by hitting them I mean smashing them, which is the stun move and the knockback move and very different to the main attack in both the time it takes to play out and the time that’s imposed before you can do it again.
Actually bells aren’t quite right – or rather the bell move is a bit of a special case. Action-heavy Roguelites – Hades, Dead Cells – these games are feelings, really, textures at a push: they are about the particular flavour of connection being offered. Hades is that polished marble slide that ends in a headbutt. ScourgeBringer, bells aside, lives in its own hideously toothy mouth. This is a game about chewing: you chew through enemies but you also chew through the space they exist in. You chew through the pixel-pure air itself! If I play too long I worry my teeth will be grit and rubble by the end of it. But still I play on. Maybe all the bells I ring will eventually summon a dentist.
ScourgeBringer is wonderfully horrible and beautiful sci-fi. You are a white-haired force of nature billowing around a series of perfectly poky 2D chambers. The chambers fill with waves of attackers, which you chew through in order to unlock the various exits. The chambers themselves connect up to form realms, each capped with mini-bosses and then a mega boss known as a Judge. Beyond that, more realms, with their own twists. Ice? Tofu walls? A surprisingly brilliant reference to the classic cartoon Duck Amuck? Fail, and it’s back to the start.