Dungeon Tails, the latest offering from Timbermint Games, has been billed as ‘easy to learn, hard to beat’, but there’s more than meets the eye behind this bright and colourful rougelike 3D action adventure. For newcomers to this type of game, the learning curve can feel rather steep, even if the controls are straightforward enough. On the plus side, it’s exactly the type of game that’s likely to appeal to the whole family. So the worst case scenario is you have to ask your niece, son, sister or grandfather for help getting started.
In Dungeon Tails, at the start of each game you’re randomly assigned one of five heroes, each with their own unique personality and name (like Forgwald or Eggbelly). Your task is to lead your hero through 16 levels of increasing difficulty and complexity. Sounds simple enough right? It is, well until you realise that in true rougelike fashion, the levels are randomly generated using a selection of 50 rooms. This means that no two attempts at the same level number are going to be the same, making it harder to learn from your mistakes. It also means that on one attempt you might get to roam ten rooms collecting items before confronting a major monster, while on the next you can find yourself fighting for your life in room two.
The monsters, like the heroes, might look harmless or even friendly, but make no mistake, they sure do pack a punch! Attacks are telegraphed, meaning you have some idea of their range and power. Still, this often isn’t enough information to help you really battle strategically. In fact, sometimes the telegraphing is a hindrance more than a help because when you’re boxed in by objects all the indicators do is add insult to injury – there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. As a result, the fights have more of an arcade feel than the rest of the game.
For those new to rougelike games, it’s also important to go in with the understanding that when you’re ‘knocked out’ it’s game over. There are no second chances, not even for a fee. When you start your new game, if you’re lucky enough to get the same hero, you start back on the last level you beat. Otherwise, it’s back to the beginning, but with shortcuts through the levels already completed. Because the stakes are high, Dungeon Tails is a game to invest time in rather than a time-waster. There’s no way to win if you aren’t paying close attention.
If you do choose to invest your time in Dungeon Tails, you’ll be rewarded with a game that’s impressive in its depth and challenge. Even after dozens of attempts at the same level, there’s nothing that really feels repetitive about the game. Perhaps the best thing about it is that whether you’re taking turns with the family iPad and cheering each other on, or playing alone together in the same room, it’s a rare game that is likely to appeal equally to gamers of all ages. Dungeon Tails may not make many games of the year lists when 2017 is over, but the experience is unlikely to be forgotten by anyone that gives it a try.