Whatever you do, don't die.
Gamers who grew up in the 80s and 90s spent an untold number of hours battling their way through dungeons, particularly on the NES and Super Nintendo, with Nintendo Power maps sprawled across living room floors. KintoGames sought to recreate this nostalgic experience with bit Dungeon, an iPad exclusive adventure that comes with a warning of permanent death.
There is a save function, but only to record one's progress should they put the game down. Otherwise, getting killed sends the heroic warrior all the way back to the beginning, sans gear collected during the previous journey. Suffice to say, it's in your best interest to stay alive.
To that end, this top-down game sends you through a variety of rooms populated by an assortment of nasty critters, from zombies and skeleton warriors to oversized bugs, ghosts and other horrors. You dispose of these enemies by simply tapping the desired targets and watching the knight hack away until they're dead.
In addition, there's a whole bunch of loot to grab, including health and magic potions, along with more powerful weapons, all contained inside treasure chests; tap the screen, and the knight moves to that location. You can only carry one weapon at a time, so there's always the tough decision of whether you want the reliable sword you've been using or the shiny new club. Hint: always pick up the more powerful item.
Part of what makes bit Dungeon so entertaining is its presentation, designed to resemble Zelda and other 8/16-bit games from the glory days of Nintendo and Sega. That, and the fact that bit Dungeon's extraordinarily difficult. You literally can't take anything for granted, or go into a room without a battle plan. This is especially true against the bosses that take up a hefty chunk of screen real estate.
All of this comes at the expense of a plot. At first, we didn't think it would bother us, but it does. The game's App Store description mentions the hero's wife getting kidnapped by demons, but we wish there was a little more, perhaps an intro cut scene to lay everything out.
That small issue aside, bit Dungeon is a cool homage to the glory days of gaming, when true skill was required to defeat insurmountable odds. If you have fond memories of tackling bosses and other creeps on NES and Genesis, download this game.
What's Hot: Punishing gameplay, no shortage of enemies to slaughter, charming 8-bit visuals, permanent death raises the intensity level.
What's Not: iPad exclusive, barebones plot.