Publisher: Dolores Entertainment
Release Date: 8 March 2018
Price: $8.99 / £8.09
Reviewed by Josh Brant
Exploring further into dungeons hoping to reach deeper depths has been a staple of the dungeon crawler genre for a while now, and developer Cosen is hoping Nintendo Switch owners will find plenty of worthwhile adventuring in Bit Dungeon+; a port of the Wii U and Xbox One title. It’s hard to perfect the dungeon crawling, rogue-like structure of enticing the player to continue coming back to your title, and tapping into nostalgia can only carry a game so far. Bit Dungeon+ delivers in providing an old-school retro experience, but is that enough in this day and age, with so many similar titles?
Bit Dungeon+ takes players back to a simpler time, when hack-and-slashing was easy to perform, yet far more unforgiving. With a pixel based art style and retro aesthetic, it almost feels like taking a trip to the era of games like The Legend of Zelda. The game is an isometric title, and plays very similar to Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth, but with large changes to the overall mechanics of loot and enemy spawns.
When traveling from room to room, each single-screen room is inhabited by different enemies and clearing them out will grant access to the adjacent rooms by collecting a key. Once you find the boss's room, which is indicated by a big red door, you can slay it and descend to a new floor. Along the way, you'll uncover many different types of equipment that you can use. The stats can be seen too, so you are able to to make sure the piece of equipment you are picking up is stronger than the one currently equipped.
Bossing the baddies
The combat involves fighting enemies by either using melee attacks, performing a power attack, or using magic to deal damage. Melee attacks can do both critical and death strikes, which weirdly seem to be lacking from the power attacks. You definitely won’t use power attacks all that much, just because they aren’t really effective in comparison to the regular attacks, with critical hits not scaling effectively.
Enemies will come at you with both ranged and melee attacks, with some of them boasting extra powers such as teleportation or invisibility. I found that not taking damage seems almost impossible when fighting melee, due to not being able to dodge, and pulling up the shield has a delay when you are attacking. It was somewhat frustrating, but could be offset by making a character with high power attack damage.
The ranged enemies meanwhile, will either use bows that shoot arrows at varying speeds, or they’ll hit you with magic that can occasionally home in on your character, making them tougher to avoid. The bosses are large, and definitely a highlight of Bit Dungeon+. Each one has unique attack patterns and provide a fair challenge.
Even though there are different weapon and armor types, they all seem to handle similarly enough to be indiscernible from one another, but they at least look different when equipped. The magic spells are the most prominently varied aspect, as you'll find yourself summoning balls of fire or energy that rotate around you and hit any enemy that is unlucky enough to cross your path.
Each room you go through in the dungeons are all the same size. Some variety would have been appreciated and it would have helped the dungeons feel like each room has a random element to it. If it wasn’t for the minimap, you could find yourself completely lost trying to clear each floor. The downside to the procedurally generated maps is that the lack of variety in enemy movement and attack patterns is all the more obvious, with the uniform layouts offering little in the way of different fight strategies.
Graphically, Bit Dungeon+ doesn't do much to differentiate itself from any other retro-style indie game either. The enemies look decent and the environments are mostly dimly lit caves, although there is a good amount of variety as some floors are covered in ice or fauna while others appear much more sinister. The music is composed of modern chip tune-inspired electronica which jars slightly with the atmosphere of a dark dungeon. Also, the sound effects occasionally sound out of context. For example, loud laser effects accompany enemy fireball attacks, which just doesn’t sound right.
Even though there is a decent amount of variety in the enemies and equipment, the gameplay itself gets repetitive fast. Exploring room after room while fighting hordes of monsters, quickly turns stale when performing the same actions each time. If there were variations in exploring, such as puzzle rooms, new abilities, or challenges to complete, then it would feel much more compelling. Unfortunately, no such variety is forthcoming. There is fun to be had in the two-player couch co-op offering, but sadly that lack of depth is still on show.
Bit Dungeon+ is an average rogue-like dungeon crawler that is good in short sessions, but becomes repetitive if you want a longer experience. It relies too much on invoking a sense of nostalgia rather than building a rewarding progression system. Still, if you are wanting a quick game to explore a few dungeons with a friend, there is some fun to be had.
Pros & Cons
+ Nice retro art style
+ Plenty of different loot and item customization
+ Well thought out boss battles
- Repetitive and overly simple gameplay
- Lack of variety in enemy attack patterns and dungeon layouts
- Music and sound effects are lackluster