Using giant robot fists to punch giant robots in McRogue

In Early Access action game McRogue, you're a burly guy with a big red beard and you have enormous robot hands. You have a gun, too, but if you had giant robot hands you could punch robots with, would you ever use a gun? Giant robot hands pretty much insist on being used for punching (especially for punching robots), not gun-holding. In McRogue, I frequently forget I even have a gun.

The story for McRogue, from developer Snare games, is that McRogue was captured by robots who have been traveling the galaxy and draining planets of their resources. Rather than just killing McRogue, they grafted two enormous robot hands onto his arms. That was their first mistake. And really, a pretty avoidable one. Why would do even do that? What sort of scientific discovery could come from grafting enormous robot hands onto a very angry man with a giant red heard? I'd love to read the report after the robots had finished studying him.

"Findings: the subject was given robot hands and really loves punching us with them until we explode."

Each time you play McRogue, you're in a new procedurally generated map, with the goal of finding and activating a teleporter hidden somewhere on the level. You explore the map, and periodically robots will spot you and rush over for a brawl. Punch them, repeatedly, until they explode, earning coins you can spend on health and upgrades, such as ones that make you move faster and jump higher or give you other combat bonuses.

Punching is fun. Double-jumping and then doing a smash attack from above is also fun. And the robots are entertainingly animated. Some are four-legged and look a bit like dogs and even make robotic dog noises, sort of. Some are bipedal and want to punch you as much as you want to punch them, though it's hard not to notice that they haven't given themselves the same giant robot hands you were given. Chalk that up as the robots' second mistake: when distributing enormous metal hands, keep a few pairs for your own army.

The longer you're on the map, the harder it becomes and the more robots appear, so you can't really dawdle while you search for the teleporter. And there is, of course, the giant robot boss that appears once you've activated the teleporter, an enormous worm-bot that coils around you and delivers powerful strikes if you're not nimble enough to dodge them.

The robo-worm needs to be punched quite a lot, and while I've encountered him just about every time I've played, I've only beat him once so far. He exploded very nicely, though. And naturally, while you're going mano-a-wormo the rest of the robots nearby don't just pull up a seat to watch: they keep swarming, too. McRogue is challenging and, as you've probably gathered, is a roguelike, so upon death you start over completely: new map, progress and powerups gone, but you've always got your fists.

McRogue only has two levels at the moment (I haven't punched my way off the first one yet, even with the robot worm boss dead), but naturally it's aiming to add more during its time in Early Access. It recommends a controller to play, but I feel like using mouse and keyboard is perfectly viable, except when aiming your gun. Then again, I barely used my gun.

I also wish I could punch a few more things with my giant fists. One of the first things I did in McRouge was run over to a tree and try to punch it, expecting a shower of splintered timber. I only hit air. And sometimes you'll discover what appear to be castle ruins on the map, yet swinging my metal fists into them doesn't result in a scattered rain of granite bricks. Maybe I'm just greedy, but I feel like anything I punch with my big robot fists should get hurt, be it robot, construction, or nature.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.