As fast as video games have developed over the past few decades, when it comes to value for money the amount of replay value within a title remains an important factor when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. This is where Bit Dungeon+ excels, offering a one to two player roguelike endless adventure.
Starting out as a free web browser game and then released by Kinto Games and Dolores Entertainment as a paid title on digital platforms including Android and Steam, Bit Dungeon+ pays homage to the likes of The Legend of Zelda and the Diablo series to provide a more compact but streamlined dungeon brawling experience. Although the 16-bit Wii U eShop port does little to improve upon existing versions of the title, it feels right at home on the couch.
Taking on the role of a mere mortal, one or two players are tasked with saving the soul of a loved one who has been captured by demons. Starting out with only a sword and a key to unlock a cell door, the nameless protagonist must fight their way through infinite hordes of devilish beasts, collecting more keys and upgrading both their armour and weapons, so they can become stronger and eventually destroy the God of the souls.
Bit Dungeon+ is very easy to pick up and play. Simply defeat all the enemies in a room to unlock a key and then progress to the next room of your choosing by selecting one of the locked doors to go through. Continue this until a red door is reached, and enter to initiate a boss battle if you think you are prepared for the challenge. Rinse and repeat and you'll eventually become unstoppable. Despite how straightforward this may sound, the title is bolstered with many interesting gameplay ideas, including the ability to upgrade the character's base stats and also visit the local dungeon shop to buy recovery potions or new gear. You can also view your gear on the Wii U GamePad, along with the dungeon map and continually rising character stats.
It's many of these finer points that make Bit Dungeon+ a charming roguelike adventure. The constant search for better weapons and armour is a main driving force in terms of progression; slaying skeletons and hostile mages leads to better gear with increased stats. If you find a chest with an axe that happens to be better than your sword, or a helm that is aesthetically more pleasing than your existing one, a single button press will equip that new item. Enemies also drop currency from time to time, which can be used at the dungeon shop.
Another incentive to explore every room of a dungeon is in order to locate vital stat upgrade orbs. These orbs offer three different areas of improvement for your character's base stats - attack, health and critical damage. These are irregularly dropped when you clear a room, with the player only able to select one orb per drop. This same rule applies to the two player adventure, meaning you'll have to manage who takes what orb and when. Gear and currency is also distributed in the same fashion across the cooperative mode - requiring players to put some thought into what they collect, and when they pick it up.
It's these smaller features that bring Bit Dungeon+ to life. Even when returning to a previously cleared room, devils will be occupied feasting on recently slaughtered corpses of enemies; this becomes a great opportunity to kill them and collect additional money or potions. Each level also has pillars, rubble and unhatched monster eggs - or whatever matches the theme of the particular dungeon - that can be destroyed to collect additional potions and items.
All this attention to detail works in harmony with a top-down battle system reminiscent of screens from The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. The level of polish to the combat is equally as impressive. The protagonist is able to attack, block and use magic. The attack can be powered up to unleash a spin attack, and can also be used to allow the character to run whilst delivering critical hits. The magic wand is powered by a gauge and can also be charged up to let loose a circle of damage. The wand ability is defined by the magical power-up collected by the protagonist in the safe room between each dungeon. These power-ups include the usual elemental types such as lighting and fire. Lastly, the shield when held up is primarily used to stop incoming projectiles. Players will need to learn quickly that defense is a vital part of surviving from room to room, else they will be punished.
The challenge on offer in Bit Dungeon+ is broken up into three levels of difficulty. There is also a separate infinite mode which transforms the game into a race against the clock. The enemies vary in combat - some are long ranged archers, while others are heavily armoured knights. There are also giant skeletons to deal with and serpent bosses with multiple heads to defeat. The challenge depending on the level you are playing on is very much dictated by the way you make use of your weapons. If you're able to get in that vital shield block before a barrage of fire balls or strike an enemy with your sword at a speedy pace, increasing your strength becomes a lot easier over time. The two player mode becomes a balancing act with the way players must divvy up items, weapons, potions and currency.
The fine detail is also present in the visual department. The 16-bit pixel aesthetics are exceptionally charismatic, and while the theme is meant to essentially be the underworld, the overall look of the game is far from grim. It's no Binding of Isaac, but at times becomes a grotesque experience, with red stained floors and the protagonist even treading bloody footprints. The sound is by no means dreary just because it's a dungeon crawler. It's actually very upbeat, edging the player to delve deeper and deeper into each dungeon. The music does loop quite often; thankfully the beats are more catchy than annoying. There is a nice range of music throughout the game, with each dungeon having its own unique song. Adding to this, the sound in general is crisp, with arrows clinking off shields, and swords making that satisfying slashing sound.
Bit Dungeon+ is an absolute blast if you're in the mood for some single or cooperative dungeon crawling. The accessible modern touches makes the entire package that much more enjoyable, and much less punishing than the classic titles of this genre. If you're a fan of limitless playability and are willing to embrace what this game has to offer, you're sure to enjoy it. If you bring a friend along with you on your adventure - even more so. There's plenty of replay value in this title, and due to its pick up and play nature, that makes it an approachable game to come back to time and time again.