I play a lot of roguelikes – some would say an unhealthy amount of them – thanks to the ability to jump in for a 20 minute run helping to cut into the small gaps in my chaotic life. Because of this, it’s not very often I play a roguelike that actually feels fresh. That’s exactly what Backpack Hero is though, and it’s delightful.
Backpack Hero initially casts you as an adorable mouse called Purse, who’s been delving into a dungeon looking for her mother. That’s going to drive a lot of the story, and it unfolds in an interesting way with you finding items and talking to your dad to find out more about them. You won’t find an item related to her straight away, but what you will find is a big old backpack.
This backpack can grow in size as you level up during your runs, conveniently allowing you to carry more stuff. You can use the stuff in your backpack too. Some items will have passive effects, like boots that give you armour for every row above where they’re placed, while others will have active effects, like potions that deal damage to everyone, or weapons that fire the ammunition placed to the right of them.
Location is everything in this magical backpack though, as many items have requirements for where they are, or what they’re near. You need to rejig things and forsake items as you go to survive the run, but you also need to try and get items back to your hometown as well, because that’s how you can upgrade it.
Upgrading the town means you can research new items, including keys to new dungeons, and that’s the meta progression behind each run. This mix of dungeon-crawling and town management has been done before in games like the exquisite Moonlighter, but I’ve never had to worry about sorting out my inventory to quite this degree. It’s incredibly interesting to turn something that’s normally quite a dull part of a game into a core mechanic, and it’s even more impressive that Backpack Hero manages to makes that fun.
Along with all of that, you’ll have a slew of different missions to take on that can unlock new item sets, with some even allowing you to effectively build new classes, assuming you get the right items. Then there are characters to unlock, and the loop just continues. It’s at no point boring though, because every time you think you’ve run out of stuff to do, something else pops up. It helps a lot that the graphics are adorable, and that the music is really catchy.