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App of the Day: Dungeon Raid

The Mines of Moreish.

This time last year, we gave a hearty thumbs up to Dungeon Raid, a roguelike RPG delivered via the mechanisms of match-three. The core of this smart little game remains unchanged, but in the intervening period it's received a slew of updates that expand its variety and customisation options, before finally launching on Android devices in early February. More additions are planned, too, along with a free HD update, expected to arrive at the end of March.

Not that it really needs to be viewed in high definition to be appreciated - Dungeon Raid is not a game that trades on its extravagant looks. Instead, its simple cartoon iconography is part of what makes the game so instantly accessible, and its basic interactions chime neatly with touchscreen ergonomics. In other words, it gets its hooks in pretty quickly, and then tugs them deeper as the roguelike cruelty of the game slowly recedes to reveal its strategies.

It's tempting to sweep the board clear of a single item - but bear in mind it may then be filled with less desirable things.

It looks like any other match puzzler: tiles descend from the top of the screen to fill a grid of six by six. You can match three or more tiles of the same type by tracing your finger through them, moving diagonally, too, drawing a greedy, snaking line through as many adjacent collectibles as you need. Potions refill your health and shields patch your armour, while gold fills your purse. Swords can be matched both with other weapons and fanged, demonic skulls, which represent the monstrous dungeon denizens who take a bite out of your armour and health pool between each move. The more swords you match with a skull, the heftier your attack on it will be.

As you snaffle more goodies, you get to upgrade your kit, exchanging your broken halfplate or dull warhelm for slightly snazzier options which commute stat buffs, powers of regeneration or similar. You can also accrue a four-strong selection of special powers, each with a lengthy cooldown, to help you out of scrapes: one allows you to teleport, refreshing all the tiles on the board, while another lets you hoover up all the available health potions.

You'll need such extreme measures when the game deals you a boss monster. Most are several times as tough as regular enemies, and each comes with its own particular rules. Some break a shield each turn, some transform your swords into additional foes, some poison your health potions. Perhaps one of the most dastardly critters can only be damaged if your matching line terminates on one of the three tiles above it. If the game has not been kind enough to deliver a convenient batch of swords in that location, it is time to bid farewell to this vale of tears.

But that's alright: roguelikes are all about being murdered by cruel happenstance and the strategies that emerge with repetition. The more special monsters you slay, the more classes, races and kit options are available for your next sojourn - each adventure prefaced with a snippet of pithy fantasy parody. And every time you know how it will end: facing a deluge of skull tiles with only a chipped scimitar and a couple of health potions to stave off your demise. Here, as in any roguelike worth its salt, death is no deterrent - just one more reason to delve ever deeper.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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