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Indie Games Uprising III: Diehard Dungeon

Diehard Dungeon‘s retro aesthetic hurls unlucky warriors into a formidable underground labyrinth that riffs heavily on a range of classic titles. It’s a simple tale of man desires fame; man must kill and loot everything for fame. So as our hero awakens upon the dungeon’s cold stone ground there’s only one option: slay everything and keep moving forward.

Armed with a trusty short sword and accompanied by a rescued companion chest who’ll accumulate treasure on your behalf, each room must be looted for spoils and the inhabitants splattered to unlock the gate and proceed to the next location. And the native dwellers do splatter, chunks of flesh and red pixels of blood with every death: Rivers of gore indeed.

Most of the plundered items are displayed via the onscreen hub though not all, such as fire resistance, so during repeated playthroughs it can be hard to remember every skill you’ve acquired. And while the hand-cannon can be used diagonally the same doesn’t apply to the sword; however, its swipe does cover a 180 degree angle.

When taking damage there’s a potential to fumble and drop the item presently in use. A simple idea, it’s problematic when an intense battle builds onscreen and you’re hammering attacks unaware of being disarmed. A musical cue upon mishandling a weapon would have resolved this.

As well as giving the evil beings what-for with the range of weaponry available, the requirements to advance vary from picking up what is possibly the largest key constructed, to activating switches or partaking in a sweeping act of genocide against everything moving in the surrounding area. It’s quite fitting that on the same day I played episode 5 of Sam and Max: Season One, where a sarcastic joke was made about how unthreatening – and yet killed – blobs of goo are in the video game world.

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The first attempts to escape the dungeon will result in failure as the hero succumbs to an onslaught of enemies, self-inflicted death by fire or the many pressure plate activated traps. Journey deep enough and a guardian will be waiting. Defeat them and there’s the choice of taking stairs up or down, resulting in a different area in colour, design and creatures.

After taking the stairs, there’s a trapdoor that can be opened to entered. Opening the trapdoor casts the player into a mini-game in which the companion chest must run over one hundred fires in a top-down maze without hitting one of the patrolling red chests. Success grants a new ability to use in smashing skulls and detaching limbs.

There’s little of interest in the early sections of the dungeon and it’s upon moving into new areas that the game opens up. The soundtrack shifts as the new areas are discovered, with the boss fights accompanied by fitting battle songs that suit the 16-bit mentality. However, some of the pieces of music aren’t looped properly, causing brief pauses of silence before the sounds begin again.

Reaching the end of the dungeon, my reward was death. Like Sega’s 1986 game The Ninja, only swapping scrolls for another article of importance, failure to pick up all these items results in failure. With determination, I returned to the dungeon as a new warrior and knew what had to be accomplished. This time I was victorious.

As well as dungeon crawling, there’s a highscore mode – entitled Mayhem – in which the companion chest must kill, maim, slay and massacre as much as possible in three minutes flat. Get onto the online scoreboard and your name can appear in-game if the Champions mode has been unlocked.

Diehard Dungeon is a quick, enjoyable romp: A 16-bit inspired peusdo-predecessor to the dungeon crawl genre.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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