When it comes to roguelike titles, I’ve admittedly been spoiled by games like Hades, which allowed me to have the best of both worlds by having a great story matched with diverse and engaging gameplay. Needless to say, I can be a little picky when it comes to other games in the genre; I want them all to feel as satisfying to play, whether it’s because the story is getting pieces together with each new run or because the gameplay just makes you so eager to keep improving and make it to the end. Is that too much to ask?
Lys and Ruka’s Magical Bag manages to satisfy in the second sense as a roguelike dungeon-crawler with a heavy emphasis on gameplay. Take a journey with Lystia – the titular Lys – and her partner, a bubbly spirit named Ruka, as they venture into the town of Litos, where a strange dungeon suddenly appeared in the ruins at the town’s outskirts. Assuming a spirit to be behind this, Lys and Ruka set out to find the secrets of the dungeon that changes upon each entry, and save some people along the way. With each venture, more of the town opens up to help our intrepid adventurers on their journey by providing tips and information.
Much of the gameplay is combat based. Enter the dungeon for the first time and you’ll come across a room without enemies but full of loot. You’ll get the basic rundown of usable items here, including weapons, magic, cards, potions, and stones. Then, you’re tossed right into the action! There’s a variety of weapons and magic books that you’ll find throughout the dungeon that you can use to tailor your experience and figure out how you prefer to play.
Are you a button-mashing melee lover? Do you prefer to keep a little distance by using ranged spells? Or are you a mixed bag, switching between weapons and magic to get the job done? You have plenty of time to figure it out as you work through the levels each run.
Of course, weapons aren’t the only items you’ll find. There are tons of bread and potions to help you keep your health, magic points, and stamina up, as well as give your attack and defense abilities a boost. You can find fashionable bangles that can increase your max health or your attack power. You can even find cards and stones that will provide a number of special abilities, from enhancing weapons to protecting your bag slots from being held hostage by enemies.
That being said, the magical bag Lys carries provides the second part of the gameplay. The bag holds two sides, a front from quickly accessed items and a back for lesser used items. Each contains a five by five window where items appear when picked up. Here, you get to play a sort of matching game: line up three of the same items and they will combine, freeing up space in your bag and leveling up your items. This is especially useful for weapons and magic books as it increases their attack power quickly.
You can also put stones you find to good use here. Every stone has a different ability; you might find one that allows you to use all of the items adjacent to it simultaneously, or one that increases the abilities of all of the items adjacent to it. It’s fun to play around with this and shuffle items to see what you can do. When you don’t have any other enhancements, these are a real lifesaver.
While the gameplay is solid, the story of Lys and Ruka’s Magical Bag isn’t anything incredibly special but still has decent plot progression. Each time you wake up after the end of a run, you will find new areas of the town to explore and new pieces of information from the townspeople. You’ll also find new entries in your item log (which shows you how many of each item you’ve picked up and what special upgrades you receive for gathering a certain amount) and on the town bulletin board, which will give you further advice on how to use items and survive in the dungeon.
Light on story but heavy on gameplay, Lys and Ruka’s Magical Bag is an enjoyable roguelike that mixes combat with a fun and useful matching minigame. It can get a bit repetitive at times, especially at first while you’re learning to use all the items at your disposal, but the more you progress the more you’ll find new ways to make each run unique. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure that gives you plenty of ways to play and an interesting (if a bit typical) story, this might just be the game for you.