One More Dungeon may look like an old school RPG from screenshots, but really it harks back to id Software's early first person shooters in its focus and pacing. Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were tense, claustrophobic affairs that encouraged you to creep around their blocky environments, expecting an ambush at any time. So it is with Stately Snail's fantasy action game.
You may find yourself crawling through randomised dungeons, steadily developing your character and collecting restorative potions. But the main button you should be interested in is 'L,' which serves to send a magical bolt towards whatever creepy crawly falls under your crosshair. There's a secondary melee attack bound to 'R,' but it swiftly becomes apparent that this is more of a desperate last resort and a tool for smashing open crates. At least, it is until you can do something about your critically low health and puny starter weapon.
Given the games we referenced at the outset, it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise to learn that there's no free-look aiming in One More Dungeon. The left stick steps you forward, back and to the sides, while the right stick serves to rotate your orientation. Aiming is actually One More Dungeon's weakest point. We can get on board with the focus on a single plane of movement, but modifying your view with the right stick operates in frustratingly imprecise increments. We found that we would constantly overshoot our targets, and would often have to aim at distant targets by literally side-stepping into position.
Fortunately, those targets are pretty dumb. The game's menagerie of bats, spiders, zombies and shamans are extremely short sighted, so if you spot them early you can always get the first shot in. When they do notice your presence, your enemies generally resort to running straight at you - though the likes of the bat can execute a nifty side-flap to evade your shots. Combined with that ineffectual melee attack, it means that one of the most powerful skills you can master here is shooting and navigating whilst running backwards.
One More Dungeon initially feels quite clunky, then. That's a feeling that's only heightened by the blocky random level design, which is prone to throwing up dead ends. Meanwhile the crude, pixellated textures might be a deliberate stylistic choice, but they don't help the game feel any more modern - though a fluid frame rate certainly helps.
Yet persisting with One More Dungeon reveals an exploratory action game that's easy to get sucked into and quite difficult to put down. It practically begs you to find out what's in the next room. Could it be a chest with a new weapon, a restorative vial, or the key-carrying boss creature that will let you move to the next level? You'll gradually find yourself inching further into the game's dungeons as your skills develop alongside your armoury. There are a whole bunch of additional weapons, items and secrets to uncover, including a whole alternative dark world accessed through faintly icky portal rooms.
Another thing that will aid your progress is One More Dungeon's Mutators system. These Mutators serve as perks that alter the starting state of your next game. The first few will extend your run significantly, whether by extending your life, halving that of your enemies, or by bolstering your potion or crystal (essentially ammo) supplies. Interestingly, the rest of these Mutators serve to make your next run more difficult or just plain interesting. One limits your sight range, making those sneaky sniping tactics trickier. Another increases the size of the levels, while another ramps up the number of exploding barrels. Actually navigating and selecting these Mutators has been poorly optimised for console, though, betraying the game's PC roots.
Still, it's all reflective of a game that seeks to capture the DIY spirit of the early home computer age. One More Dungeon would perhaps have benefitted from a little more deference to modern conventions and a good deal more honing for its new platform, but for the most part it's a murky trudge down memory lane that's worth taking.
One More Dungeon is a loving tribute to the first person shooters and dungeon crawlers of the early '90s, but with the kind of longevity-boosting roguelike touches that will be familiar to modern gamers. Whether deliberate or not, some of its retro touches feel a little too clunky for their own good, particularly when it comes to the controls and interface. Still, there's no denying how absorbing an extended run through its randomised environments can be.