Mighty Dungeons is an excellent choice for mobile gamers who enjoy Rogue-likes but could do without their punishing dark side.

Mighty Dungeons bills itself as a cross between old-school board games like Hero Quest and Warhammer Quests and videogames like Diablo and Dungeon Master, but the truth is that it’s a fairly straightforward roguelike. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and as roguelikes go it’s certainly gussied up in its Friday finest, but I think it’s important to establish what we’re really looking at here: a  top-down dungeon crawler with simple, repetitive gameplay.

That said, it’s definitely one of the prettiest top-down dungeon crawlers to appear on mobile devices. The graphics are sharp, colorful and very detailed, with characters and adversaries presented as portraits that move over varied and lushly-rendered dungeon backgrounds, like cracked brick and stone floors of various colors and textures. Like virtually all games in the genre, maps are composed of right-angled rooms connected by long, narrow corridors, and while furnishings are sparse – also a staple of roguelikes - there’s enough eye candy on tap to keep things interesting.

Movement is a matter of simply tapping where you want to go. Assuming there are no obstacles between you and your goal, like monsters, traps or closed doors, you’ll move there quickly and directly, no matter how far your destination is from your departure point. Opening doors and examining items is similarly easy: move next to them and then tap them, once to open or check them for valuables and then a second time, if you’re so inclined, to get a more detailed description of the object you’re looking at.

Mighty Dungeons     Mighty Dungeons

Things change up a bit in battle. Combat begins when you tap an adjacent monster (or wait for it to tap you), after which the screen changes from the top-down dungeon map to a split-screen view. The top half of the combat screen is a first-person view of the monster you’re battling, complete with randomized dungeon backdrop, while the bottom half displays your inventory, allowing you to quaff potions, change weapons, cast spells and take care of other such business in the heat of battle. Melee attacks are made by tapping the “attack” button in the middle of the screen, and battles can be turn-based or take place in real-time, depending on the setting chosen at the start of the game.

There are six character classes to choose from, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and weapon limitations, and the class you choose largely determines the difficulty of the game. Barbarians, by virtue of being incredibly strong and tough, offer an easy dungeoneering experience, while the Wizard, who can cast powerful spells but cannot use most armor and weapons, is much more difficult to play. A number of pre-game options allow you to adjust the challenge further by enabling or disabling perma-death and adjusting the relative strength or weakness of your hero and the monsters he’ll face, and characters can also be upgraded over the long term with points awarded for earning achievements, roughly a couple dozen of which are on offer.

Mighty Dungeons takes a rather novel approach to modeling the wear and tear of weapons and armor by assigning them a points value that decreases at a fixed rate with use. Items can be repaired in the village that serves as your home base between levels (although it’s really just the menu screen), which adds a set number of points to it for a particular price: 750 gold adds 200 “points” to a longsword, for instance, and each attack against a monster reduces the sword’s point total by one. Finding another weapon of the same type as one you already hold doesn’t give you two weapons, but instead provides a sort of “field repair” by adding the numerical value of the weapon you’ve found to the one you already have. Armor, rather oddly, doesn’t stack, and if you find a piece of armor in the same class as one you’re already wearing, you must choose between the two, and the one you discard is lost forever. It’s a rather unusual system but it’s actually quite simple and elegant, and more importantly, it works.

 Mighty Dungeons     Mighty Dungeons

The game offers four separate campaigns, each consisting of eight levels that must be played sequentially. It’s not a huge amount of content as far as roguelikes go but levels can be replayed (for a price, which developer Laylio Games says is to discourage excessive gold farming) and more content is promised. In fact, players can submit their own characters and quests for inclusion in the game, albeit for a fee, but weekly or bi-weekly content updates developed in-house are said to be coming soon as well.

Like most games in the genre, Mighty Dungeons suffers from repetitive and fairly shallow gameplay. Dungeons become more complex and challenging as you get deeper into the game, as monsters grow more powerful and things like secret doors fling you around to parts unknown, and managing your inventory takes a certain thoughtfulness, although it’s largely limited to ensuring you have enough health potions and that your weapons don’t break at the wrong time. But the basic elements of the game don’t change: open a door, kill everything in the room, tap on the one or two objects in the room to see what’s in them, then move to the next room and do it again..

On a four-inch mobile screen, it’s pretty small, too. A zoom function allows you to move in or out from the standard view, but zooming in to get a good look at the game’s impressive level of detail leaves an awful lot of the map out of view. You can see it all by scrolling around, but it’s really too restrictive for effective play. Mighty Dungeons is also slow to respond to screen taps when opening or switching between menus, at least on my admittedly not-top-of-the-line HTC.

Even so, as a roguelike for mobiles, Mighty Dungeons is very impressive, and has the added bonus of being accessible to newcomers or more casual adherents to the genre, who don’t always enjoy the hardcore difficulty that’s the default in most such games. Call it a roguelite, perhaps, although there’s plenty of punishment available for the more masochistic element of the fan base too. No matter which side of that line you fall on, if an old-fashioned dungeon crawl is what you’re after, then this is definitely a game you’ll want to check out.