Ufouria: The Saga 2 — My First Roguelite

I have a soft spot for soft games. Games that focus on presenting an interesting set of mechanics, difficulty be damned. My poster child for this type of game is Kirby’s Adventure for NES. It’s easy, yet it offers a veritable buffet of powers and abilities to play around with. Finding the way through isn’t hard, but finding all the secrets can keep you occupied. Most of the Kirby franchise falls into this category; to be more of a toy rather than a challenge which you can win.

Ufouria: The Saga 2 attempts to fall into this category. It’s anything but a difficult game. Heck, the game provides an unlockable hard mode halfway through and for the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out what it bumps up in difficulty. It’s equally invested in trying to let you play around with its mechanics, but… it fails to do so. Which is odd considering its legacy. After all this is meant as a sequel.

Everything you might know or remember from the original’s presentation is here: its enemies, its abilities, its characters. And even though the west-washed living snowman Bob-Louie and orange lizard Freeon-Leeon have been reverted to their original guises of white penguin Hebereke and girl-in-cat-suit O-Chan, it feels pretty much like the same game.

Birds dropping poos, platforms providing drool to function as climbing ropes, licking molluscs, and naked aliens. It’s all still refreshingly off-kilter compared to the average platform game. Characters will even provide little skits when acquiring new items or gaining access to new areas, resulting in a Garfield comic-style vibe permeating every story beat. Is it bad? No, but it also isn't good. It's just utterly charming.

That said, what is left of the NES original’s design? Regarded in hindsight it turned out to be a light metroidvania: each of the four characters you can gather has their own traversal abilities and the game world was one large labyrinth making use of them. It wasn't exactly as large and complex as Metroid (never mind Super Metroid) but it did provide more of that exploratory taste in a very family-friendly package. Ufouria 2 is not quite that game. It takes the same ideas, but flattens it all into a set of randomly generated platform levels instead. Think of it as a simplistic roguelite graced with the very faintest of metroidvania-touches, presented in a charming felt and cardboard style: a My First Roguelite.

You complete these randomly generated levels to collect coins and “utsu-cans”; collectibles you can use to buy and unlock permanent upgrades from a vending machine. Slowly you progress to find four pieces of a (rather familiar) MacGuffin, use that to encounter the (equally familiar) final boss, and end up in new (yet very familiar) final scene. That's it. There's little else on offer here besides a collectathon platformer. It's all so easy and breezy like the Kirby-series that you'll find yourself collecting everything, only to find the clock creep beyond 10 hours of playtime. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up in charm.

But it drops the ball a bit by not letting you play around with all your characters and powers as much. For example, O-Chan used to be the only one being able to walk on ice, the rest of the cast simply falling down whenever they tried. Here, O-chan can still walk normally on ice, but the rest of the game simply gains Mario-style slippery ice physics. Making a big jump would normally call for Sukezaemon the ghost to drift over, but here there are often platforms nearby to let any character make it. Only very specific collectibles and level entrances require you to switch characters and abilities.

It’s a bit of a shame, because the roguelite elements do gel with the light metroidvania setup. Racing cross the levels, performing tiny quests is completely in line with its easy-going presentation and toy-like approach. Unlike the Kirby games however, it doesn’t let you play with all the toys that are present. The result is a fine collect-a-thon platformer with a heap of potential, that never lets you realise that potential to enjoy the various characters and abilities.

That also means it doesn’t feature the infuriating platform-sequences from the original, like O-Chan having to create a bridge out of flying enemies by turning them into ice cubes above hot lava. Something in-between the two extremes would’ve elevated this game to an easy game to recommend. Now it’s simply a curio for the handful of Europeans and Japanese players that have a soft spot for this obscure release from the early nineties. And fans of Kirby, of course.