June 25, 2015 11:00 AM | John Bridgman
It's always welcome to find something unique and fresh in games, especially when you're dealing with the Roguelite genre. Procedurally-generated dungeon crawling is all well and good, but it's not absurd to suggest there's been a fair bit of it going on of late. It's a saturated market and it's going to be difficult to stand out amongst all the others in it. Tiny Build Games and Red Winter are certainly mixing things up in Dungelot: Shattered Lands, which promises to combine dungeon crawling with Minesweeper of all things in an intriguing, if surprising, blend.
The game sets you crawling through a dungeon with your chosen character class, each with unique skill sets and attributes, of course, and you explore by clearing off tiles like you would in a game of Minesweeper. Revealing tiles can reveal currency, items, nothing, the floor exit key, or a monster. If you reveal a monster, you are then prevented from clearing the surrounding tiles until you defeat the monster by attacking, using skills, or items you've collected. Gradually you progress through multiple floors collecting more skills, inventory, and ability points through the currency you collect until you're able to make it deeper and deeper through the dungeon, fighting more and more difficult monsters.
The game has a light-hearted aesthetic to it, with somewhat silly cartoonish characters such as the zombie cow which is the boss of the first dungeon. It sets the game's tone nicely and it never strays far from that feel. The artwork is very detailed and I find it to be quite charming. They have some animation to them as well which really brings the game to life. Your character has a few lines of incidental dialogue which I also find endearing. It's quite over-dramatic and I think it works well with the light hearted feel of the game. The music continues this over-dramatic sense and it makes the entire experience leave you with a smile on your face.
The combat is fairly in-depth for the game's seemingly smallish scope. With a few skills to sway things in your favour, and surprisingly resilient enemies early on, there is a sense that you need to be selective about your battles. Weighing elemental advantages against the need to explore more and possibly acquire more loot is a decision I found myself making far more often than when I first came into the game and was simply fighting every monster I encountered. But choosing your battles wisely will help you get farther and farther into the dungeon.
Thankfully, progression is permanent in the game, even as you get defeated in dungeons, and you will need that progression to advance deeper and deeper. Early monsters can whittle you down quickly at first, but if you're careful you'll have no trouble getting enough money to buy upgrades after your first run. It's an effective and rewarding way to keep you engaged with the game despite the usual trappings of the genre focusing on permadeath.
What Dungelot does best of all is give you something to play with in short bursts and come back to any time. It's simple to play but with enough to it that you'll want to play more and more and see what's all to offer. I think anyone looking for a casual way to explore dungeons, and is tired of the usual fare, will find this hybrid an attractive option. Coming out later this year on iOS and Steam, I think it's definitely worth keeping an eye on.