There’s a lot of debate these days about what constitutes a ‘complete’ game. Is a game complete when it launches, or does it only cross that threshold when the developer finally stops updating it? If it’s neither of those, how many updates or how much content have to be added until it is done? What about when a game is ‘content complete’, and new updates only address minor balance or performance tweaks? Such a debate can’t really have any neat answers, as it really depends on each unique case. One thing that’s for sure, however, is that Dungeon Munchies is not a complete game. That isn’t to say it’s a bad one, nor is it to say that it won’t eventually become a good one, but there’s a distinct feeling here that you’re playing a game that was pulled out of the oven a little too early.
First, some important context. Dungeon Munchies was initially revealed in the December 2021 Indie World Showcase, and it was released that same day. To most viewers it would seem like another neat, quirky indie RPG, and in many ways it is, but there was some critical information left out of that portion of the Direct. It turns out Dungeon Munchies began life in 2019 as a Steam Early Access title and as of time of writing, it still hasn’t left Early Access. What we have here is thus a game that’s still actively being worked on, even though it’s being presented as though it’s feature complete. Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it feels a little underhanded given that Dungeon Munchies very much feels like a game still in beta.
We’ll start with the good news. Dungeon Munchies places you in the role of a zombie brought to life by the ghost of a necromancer named Simmer. Simmer was evidently an excellent cook while she was still alive, and she simply refuses to die until she can raise a protégé who she feels can adequately carry on her legacy of preparing excellent cuisine. It just so happens that sourcing most of the materials for her dishes requires you to battle all sorts of monsters and food-based mutants, so you set out on an adventure across a grimy, underground world in pursuit of recipes and ingredients to build your cooking acumen.
It’s an amusing premise right from the off, and it’s written with plenty of humor and wit all the way through. It turns out most of the food you’re after isn’t a huge fan of your voracious consumption habits, so you’ll often be reprimanded and debated with by all kinds of fruits and vegetables who resist your efforts to become a cook worthy of Simmer’s legacy. This moment-to-moment humor is quite compelling, though the underlying story is unfortunately rarely up to the task.
You’re rarely (if ever) given any reason for why you’re in this weird complex, so you just kind of drift from place to place because there’s nowhere else to go and not for any concrete story reasons. What’s evidently supposed to feel like one big, connected complex quickly devolves to feeling like a set of levels that are just tossed at you one after another. This lackluster story isn’t too much of a negative, however, as this is primarily a gameplay-first action platformer.
The problem, of course, is that the gameplay isn’t all that great either. The typical flow of a level consists of you platforming through a series of claustrophobic tunnels filled with various creatures and foods that you fight in straightforward action combat. Every now and then, you come across a camp that gives you a chance to heal and tweak equipment, then you move on to the next gauntlet. Think Dead Cells, but just way less polished.
The first problems rear their head with the movement, which feels much too loose and shoddy for a game that often demands precision. Jumping between narrow platforms or around harmful spikes can often be an exercise in frustration because your zombie doesn’t always go where it feels they should. Sometimes you land on a platform and then slide off the side. Sometimes the arc of your jump is weirdly short. Sometimes your double jump just doesn’t work. You never feel like you’re fully in control of your zombie, and this can lead to plenty of moments where mistakes feel unearned.
Beyond this, the combat is relatively shallow and doesn’t feature the kind of visual feedback you’d expect. You can dodge roll and use various equipment like swords, bows, spears, and shields to overcome your foes, but combat is often a confusing and rather unsatisfying amalgamation of effects and attacks. Your attacks don’t make the enemies flinch or react in any meaningful way, nor do enemy attacks produce any sort of stun effects or reactions in your zombie. Combat thus feels stilted and unnatural as you basically trade blows and watch the same extremely basic attack animations play out while health values slowly decrease.
Felled foes will often drop goodies, and these can then be taken back with you to a checkpoint where you can then convert them into food items or equipment to give you an edge in battle. It’s a rote crafting system that you’ve seen done a billion times before in games, but it introduces some needed variety to the stiff combat. Food items are especially interesting, as you can only have seven bits of food in your stomach at one time. They stay there indefinitely, but you can switch them out any time in camps to give yourself new effects. For instance, maybe you don’t need that poison effect on your attacks anymore and switch the food out instead for one with a passive regen effect. Food items allow you to create soft ‘builds’ for your zombie, and unlocking more as you find new ingredient types gives you more potential options. This food system thus helps to make combat a little more dynamic as you can introduce new effects over time, but there’s only so much that this rather basic crafting system can do to salvage the generally weak combat.
As for its presentation, Dungeon Munchies definitely leaves something to be desired here. We feel special mention needs to be made of the terrible performance, which often can hinder the already middling gameplay. It seems Dungeon Munchies is targeting 30 FPS, but it wildly dives and soars depending on what’s happening on the screen, and this can throw you off quite a bit. There were many instances we encountered where dropped frames caused the game to misread our inputs and caused us to miss a platform or roll too late to dodge an attack. For a game as visually simple as Dungeon Munchies, this is simply inexcusable.
Meanwhile, the visuals are decent, though the overall effect is once again underwhelming. For one thing, there’s nothing like cool backgrounds or adjusted color palettes to meaningfully differentiate zones from each other, so it just feels like you’re traipsing through one very long, very repetitive cave. Worse yet, it feels like there are many animations that are just plain… not there. For example, you obtain the ability to wall jump after defeating a certain boss, but when you actually do this maneuver, your zombie just keeps their same basic standing animation as they awkwardly float/hop their way up the side. It’s a shame, too, as many of the sprites are drawn with some nice detail and genuinely look good, but the overall art direction is just lackluster — at least at this stage.
Dungeon Munchies is the kind of game that feels like it might be good in another two or three years. Despite the shoddy visuals, awful performance, sloppy movement mechanics, and unoriginal crafting systems, it feels like there could be a good game somewhere in here. With a few tweaks, this combat system might have some promise, and the core loop of crafting—fighting—repeat seems like an interesting riff on the main idea of Monster Hunter. Unfortunately, that potential has yet to fully present itself here — this is an Early Access release with all the issues and lack of cohesion that implies. We’d recommend you pass on Dungeon Munchies, and instead suggest either looking into Dead Cells or Dragon: Marked for Death. There are some quality traits here, but it’s not enough to redeem Dungeon Munchies.