Bit Dungeon+ Review

Bit Dungeon+ is a top-down roguelike action game, which might immediately set off warning flags for some. After all, most gamers don’t like losing progress, and roguelikes are notorious for forcing you to restart from the beginning after a Game Over. Bit Dungeon+ is no different, except with the added frustration of occasional game-breaking bugs that trigger data loss regardless of your skill level.

You play as a nameless avatar, whose only characteristics are the equipment he wears and the stats they bestow. As the title suggests, you spend the entire game traveling through 16-bit dungeons in a top-down view, bearing nostalgic resemblance to old-school dungeon crawlers. Each maze-like dungeon is procedurally generated (i.e. random) and divided into multiple rectangular rooms, similar to what you might find in The Legend of Zelda. Don’t be fooled by the game’s alleged procedural generation, though. Aside from a palette swap of colors and enemies and a randomly generated layout, dungeons are indistinguishable and not at all intriguing. Unlike the Zelda series, the focus is purely on action, and the only way to unlock the next door is to defeat every enemy within a room. This loop continues until you can find the boss’s lair hidden within the dungeon.

Combat is simple, perhaps overly so. The majority of battles involve a mix of swinging your melee weapon and blocking the enemy's attacks. Since a properly upgraded shield grants you invulnerability, there isn’t a real strategy beyond being patient. You also possess a magic ability and a charge attack, but since both take time to activate, you’re usually better off with simple hit-and-run tactics. Most enemies are functionally identical, and as a result, the action quickly gets tedious. Even the bosses offer very little deviation and are essentially larger foes that can be defeated in the same fashion.

Since there is no clear story, the major draw is leveling up your character via random equipment rewards. You can only wear one of each type of equipment at a time (i.e. helmet, boots, etc.), and you leave behind your previous armor when you gain a new one. Thankfully, the game always informs you which stats will change if you pick up new armor. Otherwise, some rooms will also offer you a boost to either your attack, health, or critical stat, giving you incentive to explore the entire dungeon, even if you’ve found the boss’s location. The bottom screen displays all of your statistics, including your chance of nailing a critical hit and your run speed, so you can easily track progress.

Unfortunately, as Bit Dungeon+ is a roguelike, that progress can easily be lost. Get a Game Over and you lose your character forever, no matter how far you were. You can customize the looks of future avatars based on any equipment you picked up, but you otherwise must start anew. There were times when the game became exhilarating due to the high risk, but oftentimes it was more stressful than enjoyable. At least there are three difficulty settings to accommodate different skill levels. Additionally, weaker enemies inhabit completed rooms, and you can farm them for health and money (to buy equipment at hidden shops) in a bind.

The game is not endless and eventually, concludes after you complete a handful of dungeons. However, the game is buggy and downright unfair. Sometimes, I was suddenly surrounded by enemies upon entering a room. Occasionally, I would accidentally go through doors or buy the wrong item simply because I was near it. The worst issues were the game-breaking bugs that crashed my game and forced me to restart my entire adventure. This happened to me a couple of times, but the worst offender was when I finally, painstakingly defeated the final boss and was rewarded by the game immediately crashing and bringing me back to the Nintendo 3DS menu. Yeah, thanks, Bit Dungeon+.

In the end, I didn’t feel that Bit Dungeon+ respected my time. Much of the gameplay is tedious, and the dungeons are very simply designed. The repetitive and annoying grungy chiptunes and the lack of story didn’t do anything to motivate me either. The roguelike structure is more stressful than entertaining, mostly because death can await at any turn, including via game-crashing bugs caused by errors in the programming. There are better dungeon crawlers and roguelikes out there, so while this is a cheap option, you get what you pay for.

I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!