It’s safe to say that Dungeon Escape is not for those that don’t like a challenge, or repeating the same ten seconds of gameplay over, and over, and over again in order to beat one level. DE might look simple enough on the surface but like the best of its ilk, looks can be deceptive.
Controlling a little yellow square, we must jump our way around single screen levels in order to collect the key and reach the goal. Simple enough, but there are coins to grab and enemies to defeat by bouncing on their heads, as well as many hazards such as saw blades, spike pits, and flying boulders – one hit by these and we’re toast.
The challenge then comes from clearing a level without being hit. All we have in the way of abilities is a double jump and a tight control scheme. Our character reacts swiftly to any inputs we enter, though in a mad panic this can hinder as much as it helps; an accidental double tap of jump might cause us to miss a platform, or bang out head on some spikes. But then that’s the joy of titles such as this – it’s all about perfecting our inputs and timing.
Early levels start off easy enough – though not without challenge – but it doesn’t take long to ramp up. There’s an achievement for clearing level 18, and seeing as there are 50 in total I figured this was just a way to incentivise cheevo hunters. Not so, as level 18 is a bastard to beat, and it only gets harder from there. In fact, at time of writing I’m only able to say I got to level 26 before becoming solidly stuck. It’s a tough old game, and even my fondness of the genre and what little skill I’ve amassed playing games like Super Meat Boy failed me here. I’m absolutely going back to try and get further but I’m concerned at how much tougher things will become.
Luckily, outside of the sheer challenge of beating a level there are no extra pressures. Collecting coins and defeating enemies adds to a score counter, but this seems to be of little consequence other than giving each player something else to aim for as there are no leaderboards or unlockable content. With no time limit we can plan our approach as long as we like as well. Restarts are quick, but watch out as some stages take advantage of this to kick of instantly.
As much as I usually enjoy the challenge of beating these levels one at a time, I did come across one aspect that nearly made me give up. Level 25 has the honour of featuring hidden spike traps that come up as we walk over them. Not an issue except for the fact that these are totally invisibly hidden, meaning there are not even slight hints that there might be something there to catch us out. I’ve never jived with this as a gameplay idea (something like The Impossible Game got deleted off my phone quickly for this reason) and that they are introduced without any warning soured me on it somewhat.
Other than that complaint though, I think that Dungeon Escape is actually a pretty fun game. Again, I like the challenge titles like this offer and even though I’m stuck right now I’ll continue to chip away at it until I beat all 50 levels. Even when I ended up dying – repeatedly – it rarely felt like I was not the one at fault (apart from the aforementioned level 25…), and collision detection with the hazards felt just right – an issue I’ve noticed in other titles before. The presentation is nice, with good use of colour and simple designs while the music is passable even if I ended up putting something else on after a few levels thanks to its repetitiveness.
Fans of Super Meat Boy would do well to check out Dungeon Escape. It’s not quite up there in terms of design or feel as that classic, but it’s still a solid title that offers up a good challenge to keep you coming back even after your hundredth death.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.