Game Reviews

Dungeon review - "A magical pixel-perfect rogue-lite?"

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Dungeon review - "A magical pixel-perfect rogue-lite?"

There are whimsical charms that rogue-lite games have to offer: thin on plot, virtually aimless in their direction, often minimalist in their graphics but jam-packed with endless fun egged on by chaotic mayhem. That’s my takeaway and token of appreciation for this genre courtesy of a fan-made rogue-lite Touhou that launched my gaming career on this track.

Following the naming convention with the obligatory "io" suffix that games like and even endearingly use, Dungeon is the Sugar Rush-themed, pixelated rogue-lite that fills in the void with a rosy “isekai” premise: you play as a mage unwillingly transported to a realm, and the ticket out is through a path of bloodshed.

Channel your inner demon and unleash that daredevil stunt

Without much deviation from the formula, Dungeon does what it does best and serves a high-intensity, gruelling action on a hearty platter. You get handed omnidirectional control of a pixelated munchkin on a killing spree. Dungeon cements the notion that this genre is best played with a joystick or on a desktop to keep my silly big thumb from eclipsing the screen. The controls are slightly off-tangent in terms of responsiveness - but hey, that’s just me.

Part of the ecstasy comes from eliminating these wicked critters and rapidly gathering the droplets of turquoise diamond-shaped experience points and gold. Both of these are vital currencies in an elaborate power-up system that enhances your capacity to kill.

Bombs, lasers, and ballistic power-ups 

That crunchy sense of satisfaction comes from the process of retrofitting your character with a flashy arsenal. While the selection is not composed of smarmy and witty pop culture references that embody more than half of Vampire Survivors' weapons, you are presented with a gleeful variety of melee and ranged weaponry that varies in terms of usefulness.

The choice of weapons is more grounded in wacky magic thingamajigs instead of high-profile geeky tech stuff. Make no mistake - it's hard to shake off the generic nature of what they have to offer, which is quite evident in the range of projectile-spewing gizmos featuring everything from boomerangs and magic arrows to poison farts and Marisa’s Master Spark laser.

The Bubble one gains my favour because of how unconventional it is as a formidable weapon. Imagine bludgeoning your enemy into a pulp with goofy bubbles that ricochet - yikes. Of course, there are odd ones such as Hellfire, where you spawn a fiery trail behind you that incinerates any poor soul to a crisp. With all that said, there are bad apples in the barrel as some of the weapons are, sadly, just a waste of slots and almost identical in their functions: case in point, the axe and boomerang.

Thrill thrives on high stakes, and Dungeon gives no leeway and snaps into a horror game if you’re unable to eviscerate the enemies fast enough. Once you see the mobs congregate into an unholy swarm and a red meter building up in the bottom left, kiss your pretty duckies goodbye as a shadowy entity called the Reaper will pop out of thin air, eager to gift you a dreadful jumpscare.

Shoot to kill, outgun and outrun

While its peers opt to mask your weapon level, this game proudly displays them on the top of your screen. It’s a pleasant addition that lets you keep track of your weapon’s level. However, there is also a cap to the slot of weapons you can equip for each dungeon run. Hence, proficient strategy is essential in selecting your suite of weapons to tailor to your playstyle. In my case, with my love for random probability coursing through my veins, naturally, I went with an arsenal that hits randomly like Meteor Shower or Lighting Strike.

After maxing out your deck of widgets at level six, you get to buff your attributes such as HP, ATK output and skill duration. Alternatively, wiping out a swathe of enemies or a wave boss will call forth a merchant or genie that offers the same thing, albeit at a cost.

Other than playing as the fire mage donning a red robe casting fireballs, you can enjoy a diverse roster as you unlock fellow pixel characters by gathering their corresponding shards from crates attached with a big price tag. The roster consists of a hodgepodge of mythical characters from sinister skeleton dudes to dragons, each equipped with a unique weapon.

The galore of end-game content and pros

Here's the deal breaker for most live-service single-player games: the lack of endgame content makes it hard to stick with in the long run. Dungeon dodges that bullet by having a ranking dungeon for you to scale the leaderboards.

One impressive aspect worth drooling over is the slick, clean user interface that offers a seamless experience. While Vampire Survivors utilises sprite-based transitions for their pixel graphics, Dungeon does the opposite and opts for vector-based animations that make every action buttery smooth.

Since it's a freemium game, a sore thumb would be the boatload of ads that plague the game. While viewing is “optional” and the game has the decency to not shovel them down your throat, you still have to sit through and view three ads per day just to earn 300 premium rubies as well as lives since stages will require the latter to attempt a run - I believe no one is a stranger to these stamina systems.

Dungeon review - "A magical pixel-perfect rogue-lite?"

Dungeon is a bundle of joy for casuals looking for simple fun at the convenience of one hand. With that said, it lacks novelty of its own. At the end of the day, I derive my entertainment more from the bazillion ads featuring one of those point runner games and of course, more Hero Wars shenanigans.
Anderson Han
Anderson Han
A wanderlust by nature who regards video games as an artful medium for creative storytelling. I implore thee to join me on my jubilant voyage through the sea of video games. PS: I find great pleasure jamming to Touhou songs while riding on public transports.