Given my recent love of the “Roguelike” genre of games with last year’s epic space adventure FTL, I’m always looking for new ones on the horizon. When I heard about Dungelot for my iPhone, I was intrigued. A mix of minesweeper and a medieval roguelike? What in the hell? So I grabbed Dungelot up immediately and gave it a spin…and then three hours disappeared.
A Strategic RPG…Advent Calendar?
Dungelot is fairly simple: you choose a class of character, then proceed into a dungeon, trying to go as far down into the depths of the dungeon as possible. Upon your inevitable death, you start over, but having leveled up your starting statistics for that class using gold you found in the dungeon so you can delve deeper into the dungeon your next go. Lather, rinse, repeat. However, Dungelot makes perfect sense on your mobile device. The dungeon is laid out like a Minesweeper board, where you literally uncover the dungeon with each tap. Some taps have monsters you have to defeat, others have traps, some are just empty, while some have that precious, precious loot that you need to survive. Your objective is to find and kill the creature holding the key to the door to the dungeon’s floor exit, which then takes you to the next floor of the dungeon. When you stumble across an enemy, which range from your standard goblins to your more unusual rabid cow, they block off the tiles around them, so you are forced to deal with the enemy if you want to see what those tiles he’s next to are hiding (see also: possible loot!).
Levels in Dungelot are simplistic and can take anywhere from a minute or two to complete depending on if you want to clear out every tile or you’re just looking for the key and are trying to move forward. As there are no active time elements in the game and the game’s mechanics are simply tapping the screen, you can play one handed, casually uncovering tiles with the same hand you’re holding your device with. Very handy, especially if you’re just looking for a quick gaming experience while you’re waiting at an ATM…again, very important for a mobile gaming option.
With the cartoony art design for the game, Dungelot has a little tongue and cheek humor in it, such as the classes themselves. Instead of the typical dwarven warrior we’re all so familiar with, Dungelot has a dwarven brewer, who has special skills based on his drinking ability. The vampire class, instead of looking ominous and dark, simply looks tired and is carrying around what appears to be an IV with a bag of blood attached to it. And again, there’s an enemy type called the rabid cow. This about covers most of the attempts at humor in Dungelot; you can’t expect a whole lot from a game with no real story or character development, but what you have is a fairly stylized little adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Do I Have a Lantern?
Dungelot isn’t without its problems, but they’re minor. You have a number of slots that you can equip items and spell scrolls on, but there are special “Legend of Zelda” items that you acquire from beating boss creatures like a compass to show you the tile where the key is at, a map to point out trapped squares, etc, but there’s no real way to tell which items you have and which ones you don’t. I mean, it’s not a big deal, seeing as there’s a mark on the screen showing you where the key is or showing you where your traps are, but a more comprehensive inventory would have been appreciated where I can see that yes, I do in fact have a lantern. Some of the write ups and text in game needs a touch of proofreading, and not everything is readily apparent what it is. Following a completed dungeon crawl (you die), you see a stat screen which tells you how many times you fell in a pit. How many times I what? When did I fall in a pit? What does that mean? Also, you are awarded various bonuses based on what you’ve accomplished (I believe), but it isn’t readily apparent what they mean. I got 60 bonus gold for “Brawler”, but what is that? These are absolutely minor, minor quibbles that don’t really effect gameplay, it’s just a level of polish that I imagine we’ll see added to future iterations of Dungelot; the developer Red Winter (which is very likely one guy working out of his basement) has a list of bug fixes and updates on his main page he is addressing and crossing out as he goes.
While Dungelot is a great time waster on your phone for a single dollar, you can give Dungelot a try over on Red Winter’s Dungelot site, which has the free version of the game up as a flash game. Try it over there, but Dungelot really shines when you want to get your game on, don’t have a lot of time to do so and are doing so on your mobile device. I’ve managed across five playthroughs to reach the 65th level of the dungeon, and I’m not sure how much further down I can go before the difficulty curve makes it impossible to proceed. I was hoping for a level 100 challenge or an end goal, but you can only level up your character classes so much before maxing them out, and the Alchemist that you unlock by reaching level 50 doesn’t appear to be any kind of game breaking character class. I wrung about 6-7 hours out of this silly little game and cleaned up as far as Game Center achievements go, but I’m not sure if I have any reason to go back to Dungelot right now…except to try and make it just a little further this next time, but Dungelot definitely earned it’s dollar from me.