According to some PS Vita owners, gaming on the system has to be about AAA titles – the handheld equivalent of top PS3 titles and all games have to offer the same deep, involving gameplay that we have come to expect from the Vita’s big brother. First person shooters, massive open-world driving games or RPGs with epic storylines and diverse characters… these are the games that many people expect and some even believe that these are the only games that the Vita should be getting.
But there are times when as gamers, we’re not always in the right frame of mind to play a full-blown RPG. We don’t always have the time to sit down and play a game that has a storyline set to engage us for hours at a time. Instead sometimes just the simplicity of crawling through endless dungeons, slaying beasts and hunting for wonderous treasure hidden in the depths is more than enough to satisfy our gaming needs. Heading right back to basics, Instant Dungeon! is on hand to quench that thirst with a never-ending crawler to keep even the most bloodthirsty adventurer happy…
At it’s core, Instant Dungeon! is a simple game. Split into a never-ending series of procedurally-generated levels, you enter each one at a random point, have to find a key on each which unlocks a door elsewhere on the level, and upon exiting through this door you’re taken to the next, larger tougher maze. To hinder your progress, all manner of creatures are roaming the dungeons alongside you and as with every hardy adventurer prepared for the monumental task at hand you enter the dungeons… empty handed!
Able to carry only one item at a time, your only means of defense is through the shields and daggers found scattered around the dungeons. Each single use item can be used against your attackers, daggers killing them with one swift blow (or throw from a distance) and a quick block with the shield will protect you while turning them away from you temporarily allowing you to make a quick escape (but shattering your shield in the process). Later levels allow you to collect various spells as well enabling you to fire multidirectional lightning and fireballs but as with the swords and shields you only have one use of each so you have to make every shot count.
It’s not just about finding keys and defending yourself though. There is treasure to be found. Spread around each of the levels are gold coins to be picked up and these earn you points, as does everything else that you collect on your journey. Eradicate a rogue skeleton – earn a few points. Complete a level, get some points… you get the idea. Every creature that you kill drops coins of varying values and other treasures can be found along the way as well – jewels, rings and more of ever increasing value all contributing you a score that you hope will get you onto one of the games many high score tables.
Yes, tables – plural. You see, Instant Dungeon! offers several game modes from the start (with more being accessible based on your performance in the game) and each game mode (or flavour as the game calls them) has its own high score table. There is a practice mode allowing you to define the difficulty and size of the levels you play and alter other gameplay settings and there is an easier mode that grants you several lives to tackle the Dungeon (by default you only have a single life in the regular Action Recipe mode). One of my favourite modes is the Adventure Mix – this takes the same basic format as the Action Recipe mode but adds an extra adventure element to it as you are set as series of tasks to complete throughout the game. These can be varied ranging from having to kill a set number of a particular type of creature to collecting a certain amount of coins. Nothing too taxing but it does add an extra depth to the game while you play.
Visually the game adopts a simplistic, but effective retro look and feel and while the early stages look similar to each other, they quickly vary with the addition of new creatures, adapatations to the lighting (which considering the visual style of the game works very effectively with only a set area around you being illuminated on later levels) and larger creatures including fire-breathing dragons and giant snakes adding welcome variety. In addition, each of the game modes changes the visual style of the dungeon itself. It’s nothing major but it does help break the monotony somewhat.
Sound deserves a special mention. As well as the level design taking a procedural approach, the music does as well. This doesn’t mean that it ends up as a randomised aural mess, but instead it means that it does alter throughout the game subtly… and I have to say that it manages to do this extremely well offering a remarkably atmospheric soundtrack to what is already a fun game, so combining the completely randomised nature of the levels and the sound, no two games will ever be the same giving Instant Dungeon! near limitless replayability.
And that’s where the real strength lies for Instant Dungeon! It’s not the deepest of game experiences but that’s only to be expected from a pure dungeon crawler, but for what it actually is, it delivers wonderfully. It’s offers more than it’s fair share of fun and enjoyment and will certainly keep you entertained for far longer than the asking price would imply and it’s quick play nature makes it ideal when you’re looking for a game that isn’t going to be too taxing. It’s not the type of game that you’d expect to set aside any length of time to want to play it for, but that’s fine as I doubt that the developers intended it to be anything but a game meant for quick, casual gaming sessions and bearing that in mind it delivers on that front admirably.
Instant Dungeon! is a fun, engaging game that will have you enthralled for hours but my only real reservation is that – even with the randomised nature of the game and variety of game modes on offer – it could become repetitive for some. There’s certainly plenty of enjoyment to be had from the game and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from this, but this type of dungeon crawler won’t be for everyone. However, if like me, you long for the days when an RPG was more about the dungeons and the treasure than about hours of story and you just want to get down to some monster-slaying action, then this is going to be right up your street!
At A Glance
- Title: Instant Dungeon!
- Publisher: Scott Matott / With The Love Studios
- System: PlayStation Mobile
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: N / A
- Cross Play: N / A
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 56Mb