Dungelot is a casual roguelike game where each level is a 5 x 6 thirty tile grid. Turn over a tile to reveal either a monster to slay, small upgrades, treasure chests, temporary helpful allies or quest objectives. Levels are randomized, permadeath is inevitable but less painful than you’d think and once you attack an enemy, combat is turn based. It’s easy to pick-up-and play and a great introduction for beginners unfamiliar with basic elements of roguelike strategy and RPG genres. Experienced players will either find its simplicity a charming return to fundamentals or a frustrating experience with too many limitations.
Its pace and balance suited me perfectly. Early levels that are often replayed are easy and quick to traverse and with access to four different heroes each with upgradable skills and a random level generator kept it interesting and appealing. Each enemy has a special power and your hero has both magic and physical attack power. Magic is unlocked by discovering spells in treasure chests. There is a a lot of repetition and after a while I did find myself tapping away on auto-pilot whilst watching a film or talking to a friend, returning my full attention to it on spotting a quest, a particularly tough enemy or reaching the harder levels deeper into the game.
The four classes are Paladin, Vampire, Brewer and Assassin. You start as a Paladin and the rest are unlocked at levels 15, 25, 35 respectively. The Assassin cannot be unlocked in the free version until you upgrade the game. It is disappointing that all four characters are male and the only females in the game are helpless buxom maidens waiting to be rescued.
You die a lot, but there are bonuses that transfer after death. The level that you die at will contain a boost pack on your next play through with extra health, attack power and coin. Coins that are collected transfer between playthroughs and you can use these to buy upgrades for your 4 class-specific abilities.
The design is simple but slightly confusing. Each hero has 4 abilities that can be upgraded, but cannot be activated, they’re triggered automatically. Neither is obvious. Four universal hero statistics are listed at the bottom of the hero screen, but these cannot be clicked on and it is never explained. Its easy to deduce that the heart is for health and the sword for attack power. The boot and the skull is less clear, but also not that important. The short tutorial at the start covers the basic mechanics, but doesn’t mention the heroes and it should.
My biggest frustration was that the ad-banners in the free to play “Lite” version doesn’t slot in above the game, but over the top, obscuring either a top part of the screen and with it your currency or the bottom. It is difficult to purchase upgrades on the character screen when you an ad obscures how much coin you have to spend.
Dungelot has no bright flash or flicker and photophobia (light sensitivity) associated with migraines, dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders and more shouldn’t experience any difficulty. There is a red flash around the edges of the screen when you take damage, but it is barely noticeable on low brightness. It is a static screen with minimal movement and motion sickness shouldn’t be a problem.
The grid pattern is generous and easy to see, however, the letters indicating health and attack power is quite small. Anyone with low vision or visual defects may experience some difficulty on tablets and will most definitely struggle to see the text on a smaller phone screen. There is no zoom. No reliance on colour, all use of colour is supplemented by either icons or text, perfectly adapted for any type of colour blindness.
There are no subtitles, but no dialogue either, so none needed. Although there are some special effect sounds, there is no reliance on audio cues and Dungelot can be played without sound as easily as with it.
Turn-based combat makes it very accessible regardless of how fast you can react. There are two tiled-based puzzled relying on fast reactions – the skill cycling tile and the blacksmith slider. However neither prevents progress, you just receive small extra bonuses when you succeed. Some precision is required to target the right box, but they are quite big on a tablet and even if you accidentally click on the adjacent square, nothing catastrophic happens, it just turns over another square or attack a different enemy, rarely anything with great consequence.
The controls are very easy: Tapping only on touch screens and mouse movement and left-clicking on the PC version.
There is a small requirement for remembering details. A pop-up at the start of a level lets you know when there will be a quest on this floor. There is no reminder for it once it disappears. If you quit the game before finishing the level or is distracted, you may forget about the quest and miss out on some handsome rewards. Also, its up to you to remember the special ability of each of the enemies – you can’t look it up if you forget.
Some basic math is required to manage your budget and both attack power and health are displayed as numbers that you need to keep an eye on. The numbers are small, starting with ones and twos and steadily moving up as both your hero and enemies gain more health and attack power.
Help available: There is a short introduction that explains the basic game mechanics, but it provides very little information and only displays on the first start-up. New enemies are introduced when encountered for the first time, but you can’t look up their special ability later on. The character screen is very basic, some explanation for some of the icons would be helpful.
There is no social interaction with either other players or NPCs.
The pause menu and main screen has a music note icon to toggle sound on/off.
Dungelot is fun, addictive and very accessible on all of the platforms it can be played on. Its flaws amounts to a few small cracks in an otherwise perfect facade – the text is a little too small, an enemy and skill index would be a welcome addition as would a heroine added to the set of heroes on offer. It simplistic and easy to play and it entertained me for quite a few days (and nights). I played it in a browser on the PC, on an iPhone and Nexus 7 Android tablet and although the iOS version has a few small extra touches, all three versions played well. If you struggle to see or press smaller icons, the smart phone version may be difficult to navigate. I would highly recommend it for both PC as well as Android tablets and the iPad.
[stars rating=”4″ type=”Game”]