Dungeon Crawlers Summons an Ambitiously Humorous Strategy Game with Attitude

Posted: January 26, 2012 in Strategy

What would you get if you somehow cloned a hybrid of Bill Murray and Conan the Barbarian?  If you’re the mad scientists at Ayopa Games and Drowning Monkeys, your creation would aptly be named Dungeon Crawlers, a quirky 3D turn-based love child, um, adventure.  Outdone only by its irreverent humor and a clunky, less-than-intuitive UI, Dungeon Crawlers is a smorgasbord of fun with slimy oozes, nasty goblins, weird science sorcery, testosterone-driven attitude and charming ineptitude.

The adventure is told through a rather engaging storyline that will have you missing the days of ectoplasm and Sigourney Weaver.  Inspired by the Ghostbusters movies, Dungeon Crawlers takes a line from that great franchise of yesteryear and puts a medieval spin on things.  Presented through cut screens, it’s engaging enough that you actually pay attention at least through the first go-around.

Visually, Dungeon Crawlers is a high-production package that pops off the screen.  In some ways, it’s like watching a low-to-mid range production of a Disney animated film because there’s a dose of familiarity that flows throughout.  Considering the game takes place in, well, a dark dungeon, the devs create an inviting environment that asking to be explored.  From the dark textures of the brick walls and the treasures throughout to the ghoulishness of baddies and the evilness of bosses, Dungeon Crawlers instills a good sense of claustrophobia in a cartoon kind of way.  And the sound effects from the clashing of weapons to the screams of agony make you feel at home.  Your bumbling heroes include Payter the UFC-like barbarian, Aegon the Harry Potter wannabe, Roy the gluttonous healer and Failston the dwarf warrior, each presented gloriously in the latest dark ages fashion.

Dungeon Crawlers has four multi-layer chapters with a total of 12 levels.  The game consists of 3 modes of difficulty—easy, normal and hard.  The game does feature an auto save function, but only one save slot, which is unfortunate.  It’s relatively easy to rotate and tilt the screen using finger swipes, and a camera icon is also available for rotating the screen if you prefer.

The battles themselves provide entertainment in their own sense since players will deal with a variety of different baddies including slime spitting oozes, arrow wielding goblins, hideous mummies and screaming banshees among others.  Each chapter culminates with a boss fight with monsters such as the Goblin King, Banshee Queen and my favorite Death Knight Shyamalan.

The gameplay is more or less what you would expect for a TBS with RPG elements which consists of fighting enemies, discovering/collecting treasure, acquiring skills and items and building up experience.  In Dungeon Crawlers, each dungeon floor is made up of tiles that players can move protagonists to via turn-based play.  Tapping a character indicates tiles that are available for movement which are highlighted in blue while attack tiles are highlighted in red.  Green highlighted tiles show which allow for healing.  Each hero and baddie has red bars to indicate the state of health.  Actions are indicated in the bottom right corner of the screen.  For example, an attack action button appears when an attack can occur, and by tapping, that action is then invoked.

One interesting aspect in Dungeon Crawlers involves movement of the heroes.  Unlike typical TBS games which locks a character’s movement after an action is invoked, players can move the DC heroes pre- and post-action.   In other words, once a hero has positioned a hero and destroyed a baddie, players can move him to another spot afterwards.  It’s a nuance specific to Dungeon Crawlers which in certain ways makes the game a little more forgiving.  Of course, it adds another layer to a player’s strategic planning.

It’s worth noting that the UI can be cumbersome requiring far too many clicks for things that otherwise should readily be accessible.  For example, rather than just visually indicating that a hero has completed his turn, players need to individually tap him to discover this.   In addition, TBS games inherently tend to be slow paced, and a typical way of cutting down some of that time is the ability to fast forward through the action during an enemy’s turn.  Unfortunately, the fast forward button doesn’t work in Dungeon Crawlers.  This is likely a bug that will be addressed in a future update.  Again, these are minor frustrations, but they serve as distractions that take away from the polish of the game.

As heroes dispatch the dungeon crawling scumbags, loot appears which are collected by tapping.  As players clear dungeons and levels, treasure chests appear which can contain a variety of items including gear, weapons, magical powers, skills, and maps among other items.  Also, items worth investigating will slowly blink until you actually wise up and maneuver heroes over.  To change individual hero skills, powers and weapons, simply tap on the hero to see an overview of statistics and scroll through available weapons and powers.   Considering how much I fumbled around initially to figure out the various parts of the game, adding a better tutorial or building out the Help section would be a worthy consideration for the devs.

Running the game on the iPad, the game runs smoothly with some occasional lag.  The AI in Dungeon Crawlers feels pretty balanced starting players off rather slowly and gradually ratcheting up the difficulty.  The tactic of barreling through to destroy baddies in Chapter 1 won’t work well in later chapters.  In fact, the later chapters will require planning ahead and using a balanced attack using the various heroes.  In general, Dungeon Crawlers is a good introduction for those new to RPG/TBS games because it doesn’t rely on skill trees or other RPG details which can be overwhelming for some.  For advanced players, the RPG elements in Dungeon Crawlers are satisfactory and even a little basic, but the cartoony characters and tongue-in-cheek humor should offset that.

The game is on GameCenter and there are 15 achievements mostly for completely chapters and finding trophies.

Dungeon Crawlers is certainly one of the best looking TBS games in the iTunes store with gameplay to match.  It’s easily one of the more fun and highly enjoyable games in the genre.  The cartoony characters and top-notch humor along with the familiarity that many players will have with the GhostBusters movie add to the appeal.  The clunky UI makes for a few frustrating moments, but all in all, Dungeon Crawlers is worth checking out.

Albie Meter:  4 Stars (slickly produced, fun TBS with an adequate dose of RPG elements; great visual presentation with humor throughout; UI could use some tweaks; slow paced gameplay so plan to spend some time; limited replay value)


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