Dungeonland review

Dungeonland review

Hack and slapdash?

Compact and single-minded, Dungeonland is very nearly a masterclass in sharply focused game design. There are two additional things you're going to need to get the best out of this scrappy hack-and-slasher, however. The first, weirdly enough, is a decent gamepad, as Critical Studio has somehow managed to fashion a top-down action RPG that feels cumbersome and imprecise to control with a mouse and keyboard. The second is a couple of friends: you can have a relatively good time bashing faces and looting chests with the game's rudimentary AI companions, but if you plan on getting serious - if you'd like to make it to a boss, for example - you'll need some genuine humans on your team.

With those elements taken care of, Dungeonland is free to explore a simple design brief: Gauntlet with jokes. The jokes - fairly standard riffs on silly old fantasy - aren't particularly good, sadly, but the Gauntletting is often wonderful, and you can experience it from a couple of perspectives. Where do you want to be? Down there in the heat of heroic battle, or up above the fray, as a sadistic dungeon master who calmly shuffles a deck stacked with horrors before playing them, one by one?

Either way, the game's gloriously chaotic. In the standard adventure mode, you pick a character from a tight little trio composed of mage, rogue and warrior, and together with two allies - real or AI-driven - proceed to race through various clutter-riddled battlefields, smashing up everything you come across. The game's aesthetic blends together standard D&D clichés with amusement park trappings, and the three mini-campaigns currently available offer a decent range of rickety villages and golden savannahs mixed in with gift shops, food courts, giant many-sided dice, and even the odd animatronic teacup.

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