Bit Dungeon+ is a two player action rogue-like adventure that I almost uninstalled after just two hours of play. Seriously, the first impressions I got from this game was far from inviting and I disliked nearly everything about it. The point however is that something just enticed me back for that proverbial “one last try” and I cant quite put my finger on what that was. Hell even now I couldn’t begin to fathom why I didn’t follow through with the uninstall, but a part of me is glad about that. Why? Because despite the unwelcoming initial phases of play, there’s actually a somewhat sub-par albeit enjoyable experience within.
In terms of story, Bit Dungeon+ doesn’t really have one, or at least not one that’s worth much of your attention. The premise is that you wake up in a prison cell, find a sword, and go on a revenge spree to seek out your missing friend and destroy the beasts that put both of you in this position. It’s from here that you have immediate control over your character, and soon after that you’re faced with the same nightmare that I endured. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be pulled from this game if you’re a serious player and you enjoy a tough challenge, but even then you’re going to need the patience of a saint to get through this.
Gameplay is not unlike Binding of Issac, as a matter of fact the isometric view and visuals look strikingly similar to that comparison. With that being said there are a few notable differences as to how the game functions. To begin with you’re hopelessly out of your depth, being that any attack you dish out will be capped at just 2 damage points, whereas just about every enemy in the dungeon will hand out twice that in return. You have the ability to melee, use a band of magic traits, or utilise power attacks. Though it really doesn’t matter which you go for because they’re all fairly inline with each other when you look at the big picture. By that I mean you could match the magic / power attack damage with heaps of button mashing melee attacks to achieve an equal result.
The presentation of each and every room you trek through looks just like any other, and if we didn’t have a basic mini-map to work with, it would be far too easy to get lost. The goal in Bit Dungeon+ is to clear and survive countless floors whilst juggling your equipment. Each time you die you will lose all of your progress and go back to the beginning. However if you manage to collect special runes, you can use these to increase your health, attack, or critical damage. It’s going to take quite some time before you even begin to feel like you’re making enough progression with your character to handle the hell that awaits, but as aforementioned, patience is key.
The loot system is like a watered down version of that found in Diablo. Items you can obtain will have a rarity to them, being the rarer the equipment, the better it typically is. Items also offer additional goodies alongside a boost to the stats, such as regeneration, more health replenishment when using a potion, one hit kill chances, and so on and so forth. Some of these items do go hand in hand with other items, meaning you can (if you’re lucky) find a complete set and benefit from a range of buffs. You can indeed build your character however you like and on that front, Bit Dungeon+ goes pretty far to give players enough choice to play how they like.
Magic spells and auras on the other hand can only be obtained following the ass kicking of a boss. These also come in a wide range of flavors and offer up a great selection of tools to tackle each dungeon room. You can summon mass damage from lightning, stun your enemies, or throw light magical attacks to tactically battle with a foe from a distance. When you’re not praying to RNGesus you’ll be revisiting rooms that you’ve already trekked and killing new foes to horde as much money as possible. Each room that you revisit will have purple coloured demons that are feasting on the corpses of enemies you have already beaten. These can be defeated very swiftly and effortlessly and have a high drop rate for money and potions. You also have a chance at beating lightning quick blue ghouls that bolt for an exit whenever you revisit a room. If you’re quick enough to beat them before they vanish, you’re guaranteed a potion drop.
I found it very helpful to switch rooms often just to get as much money as possible, which can be used in the shop. You can use the shop to buy magic or health replenishment, as well as purchasing a chest. Chests can also be found by smashing objects in the dungeon rooms, or by defeating foes. These will gift you with new weaponry and armour that will boost your stats and tend to climb gradually with your character for each chest that you open. Shops are positioned randomly, but they do make themselves apparent more often than not.
Enemies come in varying forms, strengths, and sizes. It’s not hard to identify their movements or attack patterns, making it somewhat easier for you to predict how they’ll respond to your approach. They can attack using both melee and ranged attacks, and many of them have their own specific abilities such as being able to teleport or hide from sight. Unfortunately there seems to be a slight issue with balance here. Many a time did I suffer a death due to being thrown into a room with far too many powerful foes, only to die in the next room with a handful of easier foes thanks to not having much health left over from the previous encounter. This happens a lot and it’s directly tied to the reason I had such a hard time getting into the game in the first place. I enjoy a challenge as much as the next gamer, but at least make the process of “rinse and repeat” fun, or else what’s the point?
Another issue that falls out of place is that there’s absolutely no way of checking what stats do what unless you’re in the process of swapping out equipment. It makes it really confusing and you never truly have a firm grasp on which direction you’re taking your character in. Would it of hurt to throw in a help menu so that you know which stat does what? Or how you can cater or lean toward a specific stat? It’s small issues like this that snowball together and create larger issues and inconsistencies. The lack of systems that even the basic of games house is the biggest downside to Bit Dungeon+ .
Combat itself is remarkably simple, being that you only have to keep on top of a few button commands. X is your main attack, A will bring up your shield, holding X will unload a super attack and increase your movement speed, Y is reserved for spell use, whereas B will bring up your menu. Enemies are typically themed based on the theme of the environment, which helps to keep you aware of which foes you will be facing off against. You can also stumble across mini-bosses that usually present themselves as larger (and tougher) versions of regular enemies. The main boss for each floor on the other hand is an entirely different beast. There’s not a great variety to look forward to on this front, but the battles are engaging nevertheless. Or at least more so than your standard and mini-boss fights.
The game does come with difficulty settings that (when set high) make health potions less frequent and enemies much more dominant. You can also enjoy two player mode or the Tower of Babel. Two player enables you and your buddy to enter the same experience as the single player portion of the game. The kicker here however is that only one player can achieve the permanent stat upgrade and both players will need to manage the resource system. You can indeed revive a fallen friendly, but this will only grant them a tiny fraction of health to survive with.
The problem with two player is that the developers haven’t implemented simple systems. First up, who ever holds the key to the next room is the only person that can open that door. Either player can pull up the menu which completely obstructs the field of play. Furthermore, and much more annoyingly, it’s far too easy to confuse your player with the other player when you sport similar equipment. The Tower of Babel is the same as single player and two player, only you’re racing against a clock. Interesting twists such as picking up extra time from certain enemies and using time as currency do make it that little more enticing. With that said, there’s hardly anything game changing within the extra offerings.
Visually there’s a lot to enjoy with Bit Dungeon+. Despite the lack of decent level / room design, the heroes and enemies with their varying forms are great to observe. It would have been nice to see more room size and shape variety, but beggars cannot be choosers, right? As for the soundtracks, I can’t say I cared much for them. In fact I was half tempted to turn the music down at certain points throughout. They’re not memorable, they don’t really suit the theme of the game or the environments, and before long they become irritating.
Bit Dungeon+ is a game that will test your patience to the limit, especially during the initial phases of play. It’s a constant rinse and repeat experience that just isn’t fun to begin with. Fortunately when you stick with it, it does eventually become mildly entertaining. I suspect many gamers that enjoy the likes of Binding of Issac will fit right at home here, but if you’re new to the formula, you’re certainly better off actually trying Binding of Issac instead, because Bit Dungeon+ is not a great starting point for the genre. The visuals are okay, the soundtrack is forgettable, and the lack of simplistic systems makes for some questionable moments of gameplay. This is definitely a game that caters for a specific crowd. There’s enough content here to justify the overly generous price tag, but even then the replay value entirely depends on how much you can endure.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.