8-bit Diablo-Lite on crack is back
Released back in 2012, Bit Dungeon impressed with its old school graphics and Diablo- style loot system. Now Kinto Games are back with their second installment and it does not disappoint. Bit Dungeon II is the kind of sequel that leaves its predecessor forgotten. It’s essentially Bit Dungeon 2.0; the version that the developers had in their mind from day one, with more polished gameplay more varied graphics, and even more out of place frenetic retro music to spur you on as you hack and slash. This would be a problem if it occurred in almost any other genre, but in a roguelike action RPG, what else matters but how addictive the overall package is? And Bit Dungeon II from the first level is pretty damn addictive.
Hearkening back to top down SNES games of old, Bit Dungeon II is a visual treat. Character and monster sprites are sharp and cleanly animated and each background, from the frozen wastes to eerie forests, has a distinctive feel to it. They’re standard fantasy settings to be sure but they are largely rendered with skill and style. There were, unfortunately, occasional graphical glitches when viewing larger background sprites like tombstones, but these were minor and forgivable. The monsters, however, are anything but generic. Among the critters inhabiting this extremely hostile world are slime monsters, giant crabs, invisible assassins and lava dogs that can shoot laser beams.
Your character doesn’t look quite as exciting upon starting a new game. You don’t see them naked for long however, as all clothing and weaponry is represented on your sprite. This is an important touch and adds another addictive factor to the constant search for new loot. And search you will, seeing as how there’s no barely a thread of a story to distract you. Bit Dungeon II is an improvement on its predecessor in every way except the story which this time around is non- existent. Here, your character speaks to a ghost, promises to deliver her soul to her grave and away you go.
In true roguelike fashion, Bit-Dungeon II never holds your hand, and you’ll quickly come to grips with this face thanks to the game’s high difficulty. I spent most of my time cautiously whacking things and edging into new areas, wary of any angry monsters looking for a life to end. With roguelike Dungeons and a very large world, there are a lot of things to whack. Bit Dungeon II’s gameplay is its redeeming point and main draw. Players can equip themselves with a number of weapons. Ranged weapons have been added to the game, meaning if you want to pick up a bow and make this a shoot and loot, then go for it. If not there are still axes and staves and hammers and knives and swords to dice slice and smash with. If none of those seem appropriate then blast enemies with magic attacks.
The game’s controls are functional and tight. Tap to move, tap on an enemy to attack or let your character auto attack, tap longer to block, tap even longer to do a charged attack. Bit Dungeon’s one button combat system is a shining example of tablet combat done right.
Most of the game is spent crawling through the dungeons. Visually the dungeons are, again, very reminiscent of Legend of Zelda, except for the procedurally drawn aspect which hearkens back to the big daddy of Western-style ARPGs, Diablo. Characters will battle through rooms of tougher critters, scavenging health potions when they can and gathering keys, until they make it through to a boss room. The bosses are impressive screen- filling leviathans that don’t hesitate to kill unwary players. Their deaths results in the chance to pick up some top class loot, although again it will be randomized. Kill, loot, kill, loot, Bit Dungeon II does it very well, but it does get stale after a while, especially after you’ve leveled up a half a dozen times and the combat becomes too easy, which really derails the game off the roguelike track in a rather major way.
Herein lies Bit Dungeon II’s greatest problem: It doesn’t know how serious to take itself. It flaunts the fact it can and will permadeath your character, but gives you an extra life from the world jump as well as a way to restore it your extra life if you die. What’s more, when you delete your save file, you keep your wealth, making starting again even easier. The boss fights are tough, yes, but after the first five levels, minions will almost never be a threat to your character. Your character has a lot of stats – strength, constitution, dexterity etc. – but they hardly make any significant impact on your character. Any time I had an opportunity to upgrade my character I just poured everything into strength and crushed things with my hammer. My character was unstoppable after about an hour of playing. It isn’t a huge issue, but a bit disappointing, especially if you’re looking for something akin to Wayward Souls or one the many other mobile roguelike ARPGs that actually provide a bona fide challenge for your buck. A few hours in, Bit Dungeon II begins to feel like little more than a beefed up expansion of the first game. This isn’t an entirely bad thing by any means though, as Bit Dungeon numero uno was a very solid title. It’s still a lot of fun and addictive as pixelated hell, and at $2.99 it’s still very much worth playing.
Beautiful retro graphics, an elegantly simple combat system and more loot than you’ll ever need makes Bit Dungeon II a very enticing title.