Just when I start to think I’ve had my fill of the roguelike genre, a game like Dicey Dungeons comes along and pulls me back in. Whereas other devious adventures have taken on the form of hack and slashers (Hades as a more recent example), relied on your ability to manage the crew of a space ship (FTL: Faster Than Light) or even move and attack to the beat of music (Crypt of the Necrodancer), Dicey Dungeons marks the first where – at least as far as I’m aware – your fates are left largely in the hands of dice.
Things are presented as a game show of sorts with contestants competing for the chance at a spin of the wheel to win their heart’s desire. Of course, earning this reward isn’t going to be easy with the odds tipped against your favour and six enemy-filled floors standing in your way… also did I mention you’re a dice? You heard right, each of the six different contestants you’ll gradually unlock take on the form of six-sided dice. Your cubed hero chosen, it’s then off to battle.
Combat is turn-based, each round seeing you roll a number of die and sliding them onto equipment cards in order to perform offensive and defensive manoeuvres against an enemy trying to do the exact same thing. Of course, you’ll need to meet certain requirements in order to use said cards whether that’s an even number, odd number or a number above or below a certain amount. Some more powerful cards may even require a much larger number that can be chipped away at with multiple die. The effects of these cards can be everything from simple attacks, to damage reducing blocks to chances at re-rolling your dice. Actions meanwhile can even afflict statuses on enemies such as poison and fire (the latter of which will set one of the opponent’s die on fire and then requiring two points of damage in order to extinguish). There’s a surprising amount of variety to what you’re able to do in battle and it’s all the more impressive when you consider the fact everything is revolving around simple dice rolls.
Each floor of a six-level dungeon you face offers some flexibility with its simple map system. You can move about engaging baddies in battle, venture out on enemy-filled split paths to chests or anvils offering the ability to upgrade your equipment but your end goal will always be to reach the steps leading down to the next level. Before going into battle, you’ll want to organise your equipment cards you will take in with you since the limit is a maximum of six (depending on their size). With the game rewarding you with further cards and shops scattered about your journey offering more should you have the coin to afford them, it definitely pays to experiment and change-up your loadout in order to put yourself in a stronger position for the next fight, especially if you want to take advantage of their weaknesses.
There’s a surprising amount of replayability in Dicey Dungeons not just because you can play as six characters – all of which play very differently to one another – but also because they each have six episodes to beat. The first acts as an introduction of sorts to the contestant – allowing you the chance to get a feel for their quirks and abilities – with the rest not just upping the difficulty but even introducing new rules. Rogue-likes are no stranger to extending their runtime through modifiers but the way Dicey Dungeons handles this feels more structured not to mention provides an incentive to revisit classes.
Speaking of classes, the Warrior will be the first contestant you venture out with, offering arguably the most straightforward experience of the bunch (using dice rolls and equipment cards as outlined above). I won’t go into too much detail about what to expect with the others, however, their differences are sizeable making playthroughs feel very different as you jump between the cast. The robot, in particular, proved to be a favourite, doing away with dice and using a different system entirely.
I really enjoy how brisk the pacing of Dicey Dungeons always feels. Runs never outstay their welcome while failures won’t leave you launching your controller across the room since it won’t take you long to get back to a similar point again on your next attempt. Even the turn-based battles flow along swiftly and since floors only have a small handful of enemies to take on, you’ll find yourself diving deeper and levelling up your character at an energetic pace. Put simply, this is a game that’s perfectly suited for the Switch, where a spare twenty minutes could see you slaying the boss and checking off another episode.
The chiptune soundtrack is a highlight of the game’s presentation, the tunes rather catchy both in and out of battle. The visuals while bright and colourful sport underwhelming enemy designs that for a game where these really feel like should be the star of the show is a shame. Rarely did I find myself surprised or excited by the enemies I would do battle with, instead new faces were met with a shrug.
Dicey Dungeons is another worthy roguelike experience for Nintendo Switch that’s not only incredibly satisfying to play but also features a unique hook in its use of dice. We may be a little spoilt for choice when it comes to the roguelike genre but Dicey Dungeons is an addition you’ll want to make time for.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Terry Cavanagh