Review: LEGEND OF DUNGEON - Frustratingly Wonderful

I just got killed by a warlock. Again. Courtesy of the husband and wife team of Robot Loves Kitty. I’ve been playing a lot of their new game, Legend of Dungeon. Released on Steam today, it is a roguelike, dungeon-crawling beat-’em-up, and it’s frustratingly wonderful.

The game started back in November of 2012, when it was Kickstarted with $34,000 (650% of its goal), and the developers used to those funds to make the game while living “in a treehouse on a mountain.” It was then greenlit on Steam. They wanted to merge their loves of arcade beat-’em-ups and the classic Rogue (the progenitor of so-called “roguelike” games). The result is a unique, randomly generated dungeon crawling RPG experience.

Gameplay

Roguelikes are known in part for their frustrating difficulty and use of permadeath--in this, Legend of Dungeon is no exception. The first time I played, as I was getting acclimated to the controls, I fell off a bridge into some lava. Dead. I improved after that, but the game has a way of rudely reminding you that you’re mortal. Just when you feel like you can handle the perils of the dungeon, an ogre will show up and bash you with a club, knocking off half your health. The difficulty ramps up quickly, and you just have to hope that you level up fast enough and find enough cool items to carry you through.

The items are one of the best parts of the game for me. They’re fun and tongue-in-cheek. There are so many hats. So many hats. Almost everything in the dungeon is a hat. Find a cat? Put it on your head. It’s probably a hat. I’ve also stumbled upon a few really cool weapons, like a flaming sword or a magical book that shoots glowing skulls. Like most roguelikes, the randomness of the item drops is one of the main things that make them so fun and replayable.

In the spirit of arcade beat-’em-ups, the game also has up to four-player co-op. Since this game is being released on Ouya, this would be a great game to play on the couch with your friends, exploring the dungeon together.

Presentation

Legend of Dungeon appears at first glance to be a simple retro pixelated game. On closer inspection, though, it’s surprisingly sophisticated. The soundtrack is dynamic, reacting to monsters and battles on screen. The lighting is also surprisingly sophisticated. There are various levels of lighting throughout the dungeon, and the light and shadow moves in really cool and eerie ways. Some rooms have no lighting at all, and you’re left to your torchlight (or if you’re lucky, you might have a ball lighting hat to give you illumination).

Conclusion

Legend of Dungeon is a maddeningly fun game. If you’re fan of roguelikes (and are already acquainted with the wonderful bitterness that is dying over and over again in a randomized dungeons), then this is definitely worth playing.

 

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