Devious Dungeon: Indie Review

Devious Dungeon (PS4, Vita, Switch, PC)

Developed by Woblyware Oy. Published by Noodlecake studios Inc. Published by Ratalaika Games SL on PS4/Vita. Reviewed on PS4/Vita

The TL;DR Recommendation: Devious Dungeon does well for a weekend distraction, for trophy hunters, and  for those seeking to hack and slash through a fun and never frustrating platformer with randomization and adventure around every corner. Worth buying? YES. Full Review below:

A otherworldly invasion has overtaken the medieval kingdom beneath its layers, and your brawny, He-man inspired knight must undertake the perilous quest to save the kingdom by journeying into the darkest, most devious of dungeons and catacombs.  Or at least, that is the basic premise behind this charming little procedurally generated hack ‘n slash medieval platformer.

Not to be confused with Darkest Dungeon, Devious Dungeon does not require the depth or tension of Darkest Dungeon, but rather functions with its 8-bit style by incorporating lite RPG elements.  You will place your experience points to use in three different categories regarding strength of your attack, health, and critical attacks, while the coins you earn for defeating demons and monsters in the catacombs beneath to good use by purchasing potions, armor, weapons, rings, and amulets with their own stats and abilities that help level up your character.  Additional coins are earned for completing quests, which are driven by slaying certain types of monsters, breaking certain items in the world, finding hidden secrets, or completing other similar tasks. It’s a simple, but effective system that never requires an extensive grind, and challenges players to feverishly collect every coin to purchase better gear.

Devious Dungeon also wants to make sure you stick around for awhile. There are five different worlds to explore, each with multiple levels  upwards of ten, and a boss fight to conclude each world as well. You can track your progress in the menu each time you boot the game up. Herein lies my first and major issue I encountered when playing the game on my Vita.  After swiping out of the game (thankful for the autosave feature of modern games) by accident to check the screenshots I had saved on my Vita, I booted the game back up to find that progress, if you quit your game, is only saved on select levels.  I had reached level 6 of the first world when I swiped out, but because the save system marks itself at 4 and 7, I was asked to repeat 4,5, and 6 all over again. To add to this, because they are randomly generated levels, I did not breeze through them based on memory, but started over.  In a rogue-like a death means beginning from scratch, while in most modern games an auto save after every level is expected; in that aspect Devious Dungeon feels more like a 90’s platformer, falling somewhere between rogue-like and regular action autosave platformer. You never lose your gear, but you can lose progress. For that, I both appreciate it and despite it. The consequence for death also creates the same gateway of gain and loss should the Knight succumb to a devious enemy.  So, if you plan to sit out the next level for any reason when you quit the game, make sure you’ve made it to a checkpoint first.

Boss Battles too, are enjoyable, on a simple level, and ask that you consider what you’ve learned about timing, dodging attacks by jumping away, and the enemies you’ve encountered before, as several of them are reminiscent of their miniature counterparts you experience as you move through the worlds. The stages provide part of the challenge too, requiring platforming for some, and well timed jumps for others.

In fact, the lack of enemy variety can wear on some players, but is never disturbing or problematic, as enemy variety is always limited in any game; videogames as a genre will always suffer from that limitation.  Rather, the enemies here are interesting, and everytime I found myself fighting a floating creature who could be the cousin to the ones found in 2016’s Doom, I pretended this medieval universe was part of a larger timeline that it shared with that same game.  

As for difficulty Devious Dungeon is pretty standard thoroughfare.  There is not use of a shield, so you will find yourself hopping around to dodge some enemy attacks, but none of this ever feels cumbersome or difficult.  If anything, some may find it frustrating to hack and slash through most enemies only to come across one you forgot has the ability to wear you down with a few swings of their axe.

In fact, that could sum up my time with Devious Dungeon: never cumbersome, never difficult, always accessible, and difficult to put down.  I found myself, even without the level saving design, interested always in one more level. Levels are short and move quickly, you are never lost (a map is included by pressing triangle on the PS4/Vita but I never employed it past the tutorial), and always feel ready to tackle one more before setting the game down to move on to anything else.  Trophies popped on the regular for those who hunt such items, and the platinum is very obtainable for those looking to add another to the mantle. By the time it’s done, Devious Dungeon will keep you in its dungeons long enough you may lost track of daylight and be forced to seek shelter back inside its catacombs until morning comes.

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