Legend of Dungeon Review16 Sep 2013  by
Legend of Dungeon is a new hat collection simulator from the sartorially aware folks at Robot Loves Kitty. The player (that’s you) must leave the comfort of a hatless pub and venture down into murky, stonewall catacombs where hats live. Once you’ve collected a few hats, you can give the monsters who reside in the dungeon an impromptu fashion show.
If the monsters like your hats, they will demonstrate this by hurting you and possibly killing you. This sends you back to the pub, whereupon you can begin anew in your quest for attractive and unusual headwear.
Here are some hats I have found in Legend of Dungeon.
– A stovepipe hat with a chimney that belches out smoke.
– A hungry fish that latched its jaws around my noggin.
– A delightful skull mask.
– A lovely birthday cake with a lone candle still burning in it.
– A well-trained or possibly startled cat that was happy to sit on my head.
– A clumsy flamethrower.
Woah there! That last one isn’t a hat at all. Although knowing this game there could be a piece of headgear with a built-in flame attack that I just haven’t found yet.
As well as hats, there are a fair few pieces of handy weaponry lying around in the dark corners of the dungeon’s 26 floors. If you believe that gobshite of a barman in the pub, there’s also some sort of amazing and sparkletastic treasure on the final floor too. Maybe once you tire of trying on hats in unfriendly neighbourhoods, it might be an idea to try to retrieve that treasure and bring it back to the pub so a local bard can make up a song about your daring and courage and fine choice in hats. Sound like a plan?
Yes, we’re in Roguelike territory here. Or Roguelike-like as the developers put it. What does that mean? It means that remember when The Binding of Isaac came out and a lot of people who played it said (not unreasonably) “oh hey this is a good Roguelike” and a bunch of others said “how DARE you, it cannot be a Roguelike because of this and this and this” and nothing about that argument was really productive in any way? Right. That.
So, Legend of Dungeon checks the following boxes on the Roguelike list: permadeath, lots of entertaining and surprising items to find, randomised potions, procedurally generated dungeon spaces and … probably some other stuff too.
Those are just features and mechanics, though. They don’t really tell you that much about the Roguelike “experience” (man,) which, to me at least, is a process of repeated exploration, discovery and a constantly self-refreshing challenge. When setting off from Legend of Dungeon’s little pub, you can be sure that every adventure exists as a number of possibilities; it could be long or painfully short, you may encounter new monsters, new items and even new game mechanics. These variables (in conjunction with some rather delightful pixel art and chiptune-style audio) are what push that continued desire for dungeon-delving.
Just the other day, I discovered that holding down the attack button powers up a stronger attack. Legend of Dungeon didn’t tell me that, or really indicate that it would be possible; except of course that it did, by being a videogame where you hit bad creatures with swords. I appreciate that kind of subconscious instructional cue.
Anyway, that wasn’t the only thing I learned about on that particular run. An encounter with an apparently quiet gentleman who spawned a host of furious bats when I nudged him with my sword was rather instructive. As was the way in which the bats caught fire when squeezing too close to some nearby torches. Later, I learned that Nymph enemies defy their powder-puff-pixie reputation by being merciless bastards. And that fighting them in dark rooms is unwise.
Fighting any of Legend of Dungeon’s beasties in darkness is pretty foolish, really. The hitting of unpleasant corridor dwellers with swords (or magic spells, or, you know, a laser visor) requires a degree of finesse that finds no assistance from being almost completely blind. Individual creatures require different strategies (including “running the hell away,”) and even the basic snakes and bats of the upper floors demand that you put some effort into your timing.
Adaptive tactics extend to the gloomier areas, because you should have a lantern (assuming you picked it up in the pub – you did pick that up, right?) with which to illuminate such places. The problem is if you’re holding a lantern you’re not holding a dangerous pointy object, and the lantern doesn’t hurt people very much. However, you can temporarily dump it on the floor to give you a bit of light in which to fight. This is often a wise idea.
As you can hopefully tell from the smattering of screenshots around the place, Legend of Dungeon does great dynamic shadows. FRAPS hasn’t quite done it justice, really. It looks cleaner and clearer in the actual game.
In fact let’s spend some time luxuriating in the game’s presentation, as I mentioned it in a rather cursory way higher up. The lanky pixel art character style is a popular one in indie circles, but it’s pretty much at its peak here. Each foe has little animation quirks that set them apart from the others, like the skeleton’s adorable dance-walk or the strut of the demoness dominatrix. A word on the sound effects too, which have the kind of deep crunch to them that remind me of the Spectrum or Commodore 64‘s finer moments. In fact, I swear the wibbly noise that happens when your wizard dies in Chaos is being at least partially used in there somewhere. It’s great stuff.
As is tradition towards the close of a review, here are couple of things that are less good but by no means ruinous. Local multiplayer is possible for up to four people and just about as chaotic as you’d imagine that many player-controlled characters flailing around in a confined setting to be; but there’s no online play. The developers have explained that to add this would require the game being rebuilt from the ground up and they have no intention of slapping on some buggy and disappointing netcode. Entirely fair enough, but just a heads-up that it’s not in there. You may wish it were. But it’s not.
The first time I quit out and returned, I was a bit surprised to find that my game was now gone. It doesn’t auto-save upon leaving, so you have to play a run through to completion (or leave your PC on and risk an ambitious pet taking over for you while you’re at the shops or something,) which is a touch annoying. Though this is apparently being worked on for a future update, which is good to hear.
Legend of Dungeon also suffers a bit from the same problem as Castle Crashers, where you’re controlling a 2D character on a stage with considerable ‘depth’ to it. It’s not always clear where to stand to line up your sword-swipes or ranged attacks, and this can result in some unwanted damage.
Can you live with that? If you can’t, do you think any of those problems would be negated by your intense and powerful love for hats? Is it really true that gender alteration is as simple as walking through the swinging door of a pub toilet? These are the important life-affirming questions Legend of Dungeon encourages you to address.
It’s a game with the necessary moxy to get you into its deadly dungeon time and again. “Come on” it says, “you found that amazing sword last time that fired out red homing skulls every time you jabbed it in to something.” This time you might find a blade three times the size of your character that hits like a train. Or you might accidentally drink some beer near lava and fall in. Or perhaps you’ll trip a wall switch and uncover the lair of an angry cyclops. Maybe this is your time to find the treasure? Maybe … maybe you’ll find the ultimate hat. Legend of Dungeon’s Holy Hat Grail.
“Come on,” the darkness purrs. “It’s down there, somewhere. Don’t you want to see?”