One More Dungeon Nintendo Switch Review

Developer: Stately Snail

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Release Date: December 14th, 2017

Price as of Article: $7.99, £6.99

Story

There is no story to be told in this game.  You are just a guy exploring a dungeon trying to get keys to reach the final boss and destroy the obelisks that evil monsters are using to invade the world.  It is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawler.

Audio

One thing that immediately struck me about this game is how simple its music is.  In most of the stages, it is just repetition of a few notes.  The music did not stimulate me in any way and simple left me wishing that they had invested a little more into this aspect of the game.  About the only song that I enjoyed at all was the music from stages three and four.  It seems that their goal for the music was to have atmospheric sounds, but spending 10-15 minutes in each stage listening to the same few notes play over and over again got very old quickly.  Especially considering that the song only changed once every two stages.

Creatures, attacks, spells and general sound effects are also minimal.  There is just not much to hear in this game.  In fact, other than needing to hear sound effects of an incoming attack from outside your field of view, there is not much use for audio in this game.  I ended up just listening to music on my computer while playing this game to make it a little more enjoyable.

 

Visuals

Fighting a Zombie in One More Dungeon
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One More Dungeon utilizes old-school pixel graphics, and they are by far the most appealing aspect of this game.   The enemies all have a distinct look, and each pair of stages comes with a color palette which helps separate them from the others.  Strewn throughout the stages, you will see randomly placed stage elements which helps flesh them out such as piles of rubble, crystals and bones.  While the game takes place in a 3D setting, like in the classic games this was inspired from, enemies and stage elements are flat, pixel images.  As you walk around them, they rotate along with you in a pleasingly retro manner.

I really enjoyed the profile image of your character displayed next to your health and sanity meter.  As you roam the dungeon, his facial expressions cycle through a few humorous expressions, and he will gradually get a more beat up look as you take damage.  This was humorous and added a lot of personality to the character, but I would have liked to see this expanded upon greatly.  As of now there are only a few expressions and they are not related to what is happening.  It would have been great had his facial expressions reflected fear or surprise based on enemies approaching, or if he would show happiness or disappointment based on items discovered.

The most interesting stages visually are the parallel dimension stages which are accessed via portals randomly found on the map.  These stages have a purple ground with plants that are essentially eyeballs on tentacles, and they feature ornately decorated building as the outside barriers to the levels.

One More Dungeon parallel dimension
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The parallel dimension stages have an appealing design and are hand-crafted.

 

I did not encounter any technical issues or slowdown while playing One More Dungeon.  It is, at the very least, a stable game that shouldn’t give you too many problems.  It did not seem to use any of the Switch’s special features which is a shame.  The menus can be rather cumbersome to navigate, and the touchscreen would have greatly mitigated that in handheld mode.

 

Gameplay

One More Dungeon is a roguelike, first-person dungeon crawling game featuring over 30 enemy types, 80 items and randomly-generated levels.  However, that is the point where this game really falls apart.  There are plenty of good examples of games with randomly generated content.  Take Binding of Isaac for example.  In that game, enemies, stage layout, bosses and items are all random.  Each level takes a few minutes to play through and you will end up with a vastly different and satisfying experience each time you play.  It is not so in One More Dungeon.

You start One More Dungeon with a random potion, a random magic staff with the fire, ice or acid element and an iron dagger that does 1-1 damage.  As you play, you will randomly come across a variety of items such as potions, weapons, staves and occasionally equipment items which affects you in various ways.  However, the problem is that most of the time, you will just end up finding duplicates of what you already have.

The stage layouts are indeed randomly generated, but all it does is rearrange them.  This also had a tendency to generate doors which lead to nothing more than a dead end.  Ultimately, you will feel like you are playing the exact same experience over and over again.  This is especially true in the opening levels of the game.  This wouldn’t be so bad except that you have to restart the game every time you die, and that will happen frequently.  Most of the time you spend with this game will be in the first four levels of the game except for when the RNG gods smile upon you and give you some decent items.  There are quite a few more powerful items with unique effects to be found, but these don’t generally start cropping up until about halfway through the game.

The stages all take about 10-15 minutes to complete, and they come in pairs.  The first and second stages use the same stage design and music, but the second one has a few more enemies than the first and you will find slightly more powerful items.  This pattern carries on throughout all of the game’s standard 8 stages.  I ended up feeling bored with it very quickly though precisely because of the fact that every death meant going back to the beginning of the game then having an extremely similar experience to what I did on the previous go.  And if you don’t play very carefully, you could end up dying quickly.  Enemies have a tendency to sneak up on you out of nowhere if you aren’t inching your way forward carefully, and whether you find any potions to heal up is all up to the RNG.

Another aspect of the game which I found extremely frustrating was that keys for chests would be randomly generated as well as the chests and their contents.  Meaning that there would be several runs where I would either find many chests but no keys, keys but no chests, or be lucky enough to get keys and chests but then only get duplicate items of what I already had.

You will eventually find staves with interesting spells such as a flame wave spell, but at the beginning of the game, you will primarily come across basic ice, fire and acid staves.  And when you will spend so much of your time with this game in the opening levels, this gets old very quickly.

As you play, you will come across some portals which will take you to a hand-crafted parallel dimension as I mentioned above in the visuals category.  These were my favorite levels in the game and featured hand-crafted traps.  At the end of these parallel dimension stages, you will be able to find a variety of special items which give you certain abilities such as teleporting to random places on the stages, healing poison or seeing the route to the boss and stage exits.  Just be careful when using these items.  They cost you some of your sanity meter, and as it gets reduced, the game’s colors change and your peripheral vision is reduced.  Should it get to zero, you will start taking constant damage and the game will become black and white.

Losing my mind in One More Dungeon
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I must be losing my mind.

Each stage is guarded by a boss that is essentially a stronger version of an enemy found on the stage.  It will be guarded by several of its regular class type, so you will need to be careful when approaching them.  When you kill a boss, it will drop a key to exit the stage as well as a weapon or staff of some kind.  Often, especially in the early game, these will just end up being a duplicate of something you already have, but it does occasionally prove useful.

There will be several shrines, alchemy tables and weapon racks you will come across.  These will drops a host of items for you, but again, most of the times they will only end up being slight variations of what you already have or simple duplicates.  The bright side is that you might also find a grinder on the stages which you can drop unwanted items into for some magical energy.

Magical energy is generally found in bags floating above the ground or can be found in crates.  These come in three varieties: red, blue and green.  Finding these allows you to use magic from your staves, so you just need to be hopeful that you will find a staff that utilizes the magical energy that you happen to find in any given play through.  There were times where I only found green and blue energy but only found fire staves in the play through.  Then, I ended up getting dispatched easily by enemies who resist physical weapons.  Oh, curse the RNG gods when one is reliant upon them.

Physical weapons don’t seem to have any special attributes from what I could tell.  They simply have different attack speeds, ranges and do a basic amount of damage.  Not very much to be seen here.  These obviously did not have nearly the amount of effort poured into them that the magical staves did.  I will say that to my experience, if you can find a spear, hold onto it for dear life.  My performance was always best with a spear because it had a tendency to be able to reach enemies and knock them back before I fell within their damage range.

There is one place that can sometimes generate which will give you some item options: the store.  You might find skull coins laying around on the stages or dropped by enemies, and these are used to buy items from the store.  However, what appears in the store if you are lucky enough for it to generate is random, and whether you will find any coins at all is also random.  There was one time where I had the store appear, and almost every single display case had a fire staff 1 which also happened to be the staff I started the game with.

Buying a fire staff at the One More Dungeon shop
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Yet another Fire Staff 1. Thank you RNG gods!

One More Dungeon is in the first person perspective as I stated above, and you will just need to worry about looking from side to side with the camera.  There is no looking up or down in this game which will certainly appeal to fans of classic FPS games such as DOOM, and it allows players to focus more on simply keeping an eye out for enemies.  I found though that even though I was able to tweak the analog stick sensitivity, I could not get it set to a speed that I was comfortable with.  It is altered in sets of 20% up to 200%, so this ultimately means that there are just 10 speed settings.  I always ended up finding it to either be too fast or too slow for my tastes, though.

One More Dungeon has a strong late game.  By that point, you will be finding enemies of many types and you will have a wide variety of weapons and spells.  But the opening of the game is extremely slow and repetitive.  So much so that it completely drained me of all enjoyment of this game.  Too much time is spent repeating the weak opening game and far too little time is spent in the strong finish.  If it were possible to save at the beginning of each level then restart from that checkpoint should you die, I feel I would have enjoyed this game far more.  This could have easily been balanced by your score no longer increasing after a death, thus encouraging players to start over for a high score.  However, needing to restart after every death then spending over 30 minutes going through the first four stages for an extremely similar experience as the last time to eventually die and redo all of it over and over again just made me feel like it was a complete waste of my time.  Either being able to restart at each level or being able to choose one item to carry over to the next play through would have made the whole experience far more enjoyable.

The most positive aspect of this game’s gameplay was that your score essentially becomes a currency to be spent in the menu on game-altering “mutators”.  These are the main reason I found any incentive to play the game because you can unlock certain mutators such as starting the game with extra potions, halving enemy HP, having a broken cartridge color effects or having completely random enemies on each stage.  Unfortunately, very few of these mutators addressed the issues I had with the game and only added a small amount of satisfaction to the experience.

One More Dungeon Mutators
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I found the only way I could enjoy the game was to activate the mutators which give nearly double health and halve the health of monsters.  This was not because I prefer playing games on an easy mode.  It was because with these mutators turned on, I could play the game without the nagging thought in the back of my mind that if I died because of letting my guard down for a second or running out of magical energy, then I would have to restart the entire game over again to a run that very likely wouldn’t be any more interesting than the last.  For a procedurally generated game, you want each experience to be drastically different with loads of different items or greatly varied levels.  If you have to spend most of your time with a game in the first four levels and those are extremely weak levels, then it simply hurts the experience overall and makes it not worth the time investment.

value

One More Dungeon sits at a decent price of $8 in the US and £7 in the UK.  However, there are much better games on the eShop at or around that price range which you can get much more out of your time with than this game.  It has the strength of being randomly generated to encourage people to replay it.  The game ultimately discourages a massive time investment precisely because of the fact that dying means losing everything except for points to be spent of mutators, and then replaying the game again for a very similar experience to the last for the first half of the game.  The mutators do affect gameplay to some extent, but the only one which I found actually made it more interesting was having completely random monsters.  The problem with that is the balance of the game is completely thrown out the window because you will just keep of finding junk items that won’t help against the powerful monsters, and you will likely just end up dying quickly anyway.