Yesterday, we mentioned in our review of Bloody Harry that some games can only ever exist in a niche - impenetrable to most, unmissable to others. Dungeonism operates at the other end of the gaming spectrum from FDG's zombie-slashing side-scroller, and sits comfortably in that corner where quirkiness, innovation and experimentation are celebrated.
The game's a solo development project from Jeffrey Fal, and in it you assume the role of a bold adventurer, heading deep underground into a series of dungeons to slay the resident monsters and reach the exit point, gathering coins and experience points along the way. Those coins can, in turn, be used to buy more powerful weapons, spells and equipment.
Your movements and actions within each randomized dungeon are turn-based, however. You can only move so many steps around the screen before your turn ends, and every nearby opponent gets a chance to respond to your presence. Combat positioning is key in this particular dungeon-crawler. Tackle an enemy face-on and it will absorb a little of your damage, and as you're afforded the very same protection, a delicate dance around the battle arena is essential if you're to survive.
That sounds simple enough but there are plenty of twists and turns to this underground adventure. Spread around each map are potions to restore health and energy (which affect your combat performance), as well as poisons to give your bow and arrow a damage-over-time flavor. Blocks need to be pulled and shoved to open up new passageways, and fires dodged to avoid a crispy death. That so much of this content is generated on the fly only ensures that the game remains endlessly fresh.
If the element of randomization occasionally leads to frustration - as the odds teeter some way out of your favor and control - know also that these moments are always educational. They empower you to feel a little more knowledgeable about the mechanics of each monster encounter, and even restarts don't annoy - as long as you've had a good run until that point, of course. What you're left with is as pure and fun a digital toy as you could hope for on your mobile.
There's no doubt that Dungeonism won't be to everyone's tastes. With its pretty but primitive graphics and sound, not to mention its roguelike flavors which give death an air of inevitability, you'll need an appetite for exploration and experimentation to get the most out of this experience. If that sounds like your cup of tea though, Dungeonism might just end up being one of your favorite games of 2013.
Download Dungeonism - iOS
What's Hot:An endlessly fresh dungeon-crawler with plenty of loot to work towards, not to mention more strategic depth than the early minutes suggest.
What's Not:An iPad version of the game would have been the icing on the cake.