Diehard Dungeon

Update: Diehard Dungeon now costs 240 Microsoft Points. 

After Diehard Dungeon, it’s safe to say the Uprising is back on track.  Comparing it to Sententia is like comparing flying in a private luxury jet to having your head stuffed up the ass of a burrow and trotted across country with your legs dangling the whole time.  And here’s the funny part: unlike the Sententia, the argument of “it’s just not for everyone” is actually valid here.  Roguelikes are not for everyone.  And I’m generally among those that they’re not for.  So it might surprise you to hear that I actually kind of enjoyed Diehard Dungeon.  Then again, the only other Roguelike I tackled this year was Spelunky.  Double D wasn’t nearly as sadistic.  If both were school bullies, Diehard would be content to wedgie you and move on.  Spelunky would trap you in a locker with live tarantulas while stealing your date to the Prom.

Which is not to say that Diehard Dungeon is all sunshine and lollipops.  It’s got a mean-streak that might be the result of some design flaws.  The idea is “Roguelike-meets-Zelda.”  Only instead of an obnoxious fairy following you around, you have a mute treasure chest.  Sure, why not?  Levels are randomly generated, but all adhere to the same principle: fight enemies, find key, go to next room.  Occasionally you’ll pick up items or spin a slot machine for upgrades, but really, Diehard Dungeon is all hacking, all slashing.  The mechanics of this were done well enough that somehow the part of my brain that knew I was playing a Roguelike shut off.  As a result, I was practically euphoric during my first play-through.  I had built up twelve hearts, was having good luck with the slot machines, had absolutely slayed all three “upgrade” minigames that play out like a really shitty version of Pac-Man (these have GOT to go), and had the smuggest of smiles plastered on my face.

And then something that looked like an armed Cabbage Patch Kid knocked me into a corner and drained my entire stockpile of life in about four seconds.  I had gone from not taking any damage to being dead before I could even process what was going on.  There’s no temporary “immunity” when you take damage, so if you get pinned into a corner, you’re fucked amigo.

Games give you immunity for a reason: because the other way isn’t fun.  Imagine if Mario didn’t blink after taking damage in the original Super Mario Bros.  If you went from being big Mario, getting shrunk, and then dying because of the lack of blinking, that game does not become the all-time classic that it did.  Hell, you might as well not have a life system and make all hits instant-death.  But since you numbskulls can’t seem to grasp that, I’ve arranged a deal with Microsoft.  From now on, all XNA starter kits will come with ankle monitors that must be worn to use the program.  If you even think about allowing enemies to gang-bang you in the corner without having any means of defending yourself, you get a 50-volt shock.

Of course, word is this is already getting patched out, along with a few of my other complaints.  The game frequently skips.  This formed a “fuck me over” tag team with the aforementioned killer Cabbage Patch Kids.  Well, it’s being fixed.  Keys slow you down too much when you have them.  That’s getting fixed.  Bonuses don’t stack.  That’s getting fixed too.  Grumble.  You guys are kinda ruining my schtick here.  Oooh, I have one that I don’t think is getting fixed: you can’t slash diagonally.  What the fuck is up with that?  Do we live in a world where diagonal doesn’t exist?  Bullshit.  I saw something that looked like a triangle.  You can’t have triangles without having diagonal.  But I’m being nitpicky.  Even in its present, non-patched state, Diehard Dungeon is pretty fun.  It’s not only one of the best hack-and-slashers on XBLIG, it’s also one of the best twin-stick shooters too.

Wait..

Huh?

Yea, as it turns out, the developers tacked on a seemingly half-assed (at least compared to the main game) TwickS minigame as an afterthought and it could very well be the most fun TwickS on the entire marketplace.  Go figure.  It even has online leaderboards, which is more than qrth-phyl had to offer.  I’m not complaining or anything, but it’s kind of weird.  It would be like if Lord of the Rings had 1996 Chicago Bulls highlights play over the credits.

I’m guessing they never got over the whole Garbage Pail Kids thing.

Diehard Dungeon could very well be in a Beta state right now.  Other planned changes include improving the graphics (which I had no complaints about, besides not being able to tell blood apart from hearts), fixing some of the cheap trap placement issues that happen when shit is random, improving the odds of getting the rare “gold keys”, and  a whole slew of other things I never even thought to complain about.  Mind you, Diehard Dungeon is already pretty damn good and well worth your money, but that’s not enough for the developers of it.  They want it to be better.  As opposed to deflecting critiques back with “It’s not for everyone, and I wouldn’t change anything.”  It’s actually encouraging to see a developer so much on the ball that the ball can claim its personal space is being violated.

Diehard Dungeon was developed by Tricktale

IGC_Approved80 Microsoft Points refuse to not capitalize the “T” in “Tricktale” even if they won’t do it in the making of this review. 

Diehard Dungeon is also available for PC on Desura for $4.99.  This version is unverified by Indie Gamer Chick.  The XBLIG version is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

Check out what the rest of the dorks are saying about Diehard Dungeon: TheXBLIG.com, Indie Theory, and more to come!

qrth-phyl

Last year’s Uprising started with Raventhorne.  It took me about fifteen minutes to realize that the promotion was in trouble.  When I played qrth-phyl, I took an instant dislike to it and thought “oh shit, here we go again.”  But, while the reality of Raventhorne’s badness slowly sunk in, I didn’t even begin process how entertained I was by qrth-phyl.  I’m not sure how many hours passed before I realized it was good.  It was probably around the time that I told my dog “oh just go on the carpet!  Can’t you see I’m busy here?”

Speaking of dogs, doesn’t this look like an advertisement for worm medication?

qrth-phyl does a lot of things right.  Not the name though.  I’m not even sure how to pronounce it.  Probably just by clearing your throat.  No really though, come on.  qrth-phyl?  What is that?  Mr. Mxyzptlk’s pet snake?  Sure, it obeys the Google Rule in a major way.  But it doesn’t exactly lend itself to word-of-mouth advertising.  I could picture the following conversation taking place:

Gamer A: I just found this really cool version of Snake on Xbox Live Indie Games.  It’s in 3D and it has some of the most bizarrely hypnotic gameplay I’ve ever seen.

Gamer B: Really?  What’s it called?

Game A: It’s called, um, qarrrrr.. qerrrrrrth.. fuck it, have you ever heard of Dead Pixels?

It’s such a pretentious name, to the point of distraction.  I get flak for calling artsy games as such, but what else can you say about it?  If you give your game an unpronounceable name that doesn’t seem to connect to the actual gameplay at all, you probably smell like stale vaginal run-off on account of being a douchebag.

But, enough about the name.  Let’s talk about why qrth-phyl has set the perfect tone for the Uprising.  First off, the concept sounds ludicrous: Snake in 3D.  Insanity I tells ya.  Unless you account for the roughly six million (give or take) versions of Snake already on XBLIG.  Suddenly, a 3D, single-player version seems like the perfect way to say “see, we can be different” that the community so desperately needs.  Of course, that point would be lost if qrth-phyl sucked.  Thankfully, that’s not the case at all.  In fact, it’s pretty dang good.

Remember in the late 90s to early 2000s, back when every classic was getting a bastardized modern remake?  I had them all, from Robotron 64 to Centipede to Defender.  Well, qrth-phyl is probably better than any of those.  However, it’s not as strong as the reigning champion of retro classic re-imagination on XBLIG: Orbitron.  What qrth-phyl does right is the atmosphere.  The bright, colorful, trippy graphics and electric soundtrack make this feel like what someone in 1976 imagined games of the future would be like.

But gameplay is king, and qrth-phyl does this well too.  It reminded Brian of Rattler Race, a game that anyone who had early Windows computers probably wasted a little bit of time with.  Gameplay starts on flat playing surfaces set on a cube or rectangle, but shifts to a fully 3D environment once you meet certain scoring benchmarks.  You’ll continuously bounce between the two play styles, with the transition between the two typically a little rough around the edges.  Disorientation was the main problem I had with qrth-phyl, especially in the 3D environments.  The levels seem randomly generated, including the color schemes.  Depending on the layout, I couldn’t get a good feel for things like depth or scale.  Even playing on a TV large enough to double as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man’s iPad, I was constantly braining on walls without realizing that I was close to them.

Raise your hands if this picture reminded you of Cubixx HD.

I’ve never been super comfortable endorsing any game where I can say “the controls take getting used to” and literally mean “it takes more than a couple of hours to really get the hang of them.”  However, in qrth-phyl’s case, it almost seems appropriate.  I went from being constantly frustrated to not even noticing that I was making hairpin turns and squeezing between tight spaces with honest-to-goodness ease.  I almost wish I had never realized I was doing it.  Once it stuck me that “hey, I’m doing bad ass at this!” my mojo went the way of the dodo and I could barely press start without losing a life.  I wish I was kidding.  I never did beat that cunt Hurley’s score either. 

Yea, I busted the developer’s ass for being a fart-sniffer, but I don’t deny that he’s created something very special here.  It’s not perfect, but qrth-phyl outranks all but one of the games from last year’s Uprising on my leaderboard.  I would say that’s a hell of a start to the promotion.  I don’t know if qrth-phyl will be the type of game you go back to.  Still, I got over three hours of playtime with qrth-phyl and was totally hypnotized by it.  It’s a perfect time waster, especially if you’re waiting for the carpet cleaners to come clean up the mess the, ahem, dog made on the carpet.  Yes, that was the dog.  I wouldn’t, say, just take a dump right on the floor because I’m too absorbed in a game to walk ten feet to the bathroom.  Come on now, I’m totally civilized.

qrth-phyl was developed by FUCK YOUR ACCUSING EYES, IT WAS THE DOG!  BAD DOG!  BAD BAD DOG!

*cough*

qrth-phyl was developed by Hermit Games

80 Microsoft Points ztkpty jqwbcv psld in the making of this review.

qrth-phyl is ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  Click here to see where it landed.

Check out these other qrth-phyl reviews from The Indie Ocean, Clearance Bin Review, The Indie Mine, TheXBLIG.com and Indie Theory.

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