Down on the 26th floor of LoD's dungeon, there's some treasure that needs finding. In Robot Loves Kitty's rogue-like RPG beat 'em up, players are tasked with creeping down into the darkest depths in order to collect their loot, fighting all manner of beasts and creatures as they go, before ascending back up the place where the game starts: the inn that inexplicably sits on top of the entrance to the dungeon.
As exemplified by the straight-forward concept, Legend of Dungeon carries itself with an elegant simplicity. While there's plenty to learn, and nuanced details to absorb along the way, it's also the personification of pick up and play. You can literally jump in and get playing, enjoying yourself straight away, though lasting success will only come to those who learn the game's intricacies because, as the player delves deeper into the dungeon, the difficulty steadily increases.
Every game starts in the inn mentioned above. The player-character enters at the top of some stairs, and before the adventure begins in earnest, there's the opportunity to change the gender of your character (by walking into the appropriate toilet cubicle). You also pick up the lantern that will assist you in the darker corners of the dungeon below, and there's a handful of health-giving apples to collect before you descend down the immediate set of stairs and embark on the first of the 26 floors.
Once down in the dungeon, it won't take long before you bump into your first adversary. It might be a snake, a skeleton, a bat, or a little goblin. Either way, the initial enemies are easy enough to deal with, via a swipe or two with the sword that each adventurer starts with. Beyond the starting equipment, what you'll discover, and when, is very much in the lap of the gods, as everything in Legend of Dungeon is randomised. You might not find a decent sword until the seventh or eighth floor, you might find an awesome hammer after the second set of stairs have been navigated.
It's not just loot that is random, the layout of each floor, and the creatures that inhabit the various rooms you move through, are also different with each play through. You never know what you're going to discover. One room might be full of lava pits and axe-wielding orcs, another might be overflowing with gold and guarded by a brace of snakes. It keeps things interesting throughout, and ensures that you never rest on your laurels.
The game's RPG leanings are prominent. There's apples and gold coins waiting in wooden crates, while weapons, hats, potions, and spells are all there to be unearthed should you look hard enough. The better the loot, the easier forward (or should that be downward) progress will be. There's a huge range of different items waiting to be discovered, though some are much more useful than others.
A good weapon will go a long way to boosting your chances of survival. Different options require different tactics. The standard sword has middling range and does little damage, while a knife does less damage and requires a more intimate fighting style. A good hammer allows players to dispatch opponents from further away, and flamethrowers and magic spells allow attacks from range. The differences between some of the weapons are subtle, but slight adjustments must be made if you're to get the most out of the arms you carry.
Hats can be plain or enchanted, with the latter offering perks and buffs that can aid players on their quest. One hat might make your character move like shit off a shovel (we wore a coffee cup on our head for one run that gave us dizzying speed), where another will give you added resistance in battle. As you collect more, you can select your headgear (and other equipment) by scrolling through your inventory, and although very little information is offered, you can see what bonuses each piece of gear will offer you via the statistics presented in the bottom left corner of the screen.
If there's a criticism of Legend of Dungeon, it's that much of the information needed to aid survival is not offered to the player, and must be sought out on wikis and forums. Even a tutorial mode, that could be turned off in the menus once no longer required, would have been appreciated. For example, the affects of the various potions changes with each play through. In one descent a gold potion might grant the player an increase in strength or level them up, in the next it might make you sick and weak, or cause you to fart and thereby alerting nearby enemies to your presence. The changing properties of the potions is a nice touch, that adds depth and excitement to each fresh adventure, but the fact that we're not told how they work (and that their properties change in the first place) could have been remedied by a simple pop-up window.
Each of the different monsters you meet along the way has something interesting about them, and should be approached in a different manner. Killing them, and collecting the green orbs that fall when they're downed, is the means to level up and increase the amount of health your character has. Little goblins can be leapt over, warlocks hurl flaming skulls at you from range, huge minotaurs swing life-ending axes and, like the red-eyed wraiths, must generally be avoided if you want to keep your adventure alive. There's a huge selection of challenging opponents to fight/avoid, and each new floor of the dungeon can reveal another enemy type.
One thing we've not mentioned is the pixel art visuals of the game, and in short, they're utterly charming. It's clear that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the assets, and while the dungeons that the house the creatures might not be the most inspiring of locations, everything you encounter within them - the monsters, the weapons, the hats - all have personality. There's a decent soundtrack too, with screeching guitar riffs accompanied by haunting piano riffs. The music, which is also randomised, provides the background, and in the foreground is an array of delightfully retro sound effects.
For gamers with local friends, there's the inclusion of co-op. Up to four players can adventure together, and it changes the dynamic somewhat, as characters can be reanimated after they die. Once downed, a player transforms into a ghost, and must hoover up blue orbs dropped by the enemies felled by their onscreen partners. It makes for a less punishing experience, but a fun one nevertheless. Although the omission of online co-op has been explained (it would require too much work to implement), it is frustrating that it's not included, as it would've added another incentive to return to the game with more frequency.
Without the inclusion of online co-op, the main draw here is the single-player campaign. Happily, each journey down into the depths of Legend of Dungeon is an enjoyable one. It's tough, there's no hiding that, and the further you progress, the more likely you are run into something capable of taking you out with a single swipe, but the increase in difficulty - the challenge - is also one of the things that'll keep you coming back again and again. That, and trying to place higher on the online leaderboard (your score comes down to how much gold you've accrued when you die) and/or beat your own personal best.
Understanding the game's mechanics, and developing tactics to overcome the various trials you encounter, goes along way to improving your chances of survival, and why this information is hidden away on wikis is a bit of mystery. It's tiny gripe though, and when considered in its entirety, Robot Loves Kitty's game has more than enough personality to compensate for any of its minor shortcomings. If you're looking for a fresh take on a familiar concept, this is one Dungeon that's worth exploring.