So, understandably, WordTrap Dungeon is in early development, and the developers are doing the right thing and allowing anyone to play it, provided they sign up to their on-site beta program. This is mostly for the purposes of testing (and security), so it would seem. It’s all optional once you get into the game – you don’t have to fill out the small questionnaire at the end of the alpha demo if you don’t want to. However, it is courteous to do that, and it only takes a minute. Not that I’m one of your parents of anything. Don’t be weird like that.
“WordTrap Dungeon is a crossover, word spelling game, mixed with classic dungeon RPG mechanics.”
As you can probably muster from the game’s title, WordTrap Dungeon is intended as a first-person dungeon crawler with attacks against the many foe you’ll find managed by assembling words from the letter you’re given. So basically it’s Scrabble with aggression. Oh, wait – I just remembered our last family get-together when we played said board game. It was 1997. My sister won by making up a word that didn’t actually exist, but because she was the young one of the family, she was “allowed to do that”. What bollocks. That was the last time I ever did play that stupid game. Luckily, she’s not around to ruin this one for me too – heaven forbid!
Three Letter Spells
The concept behind WordTrap Dungeon isn’t original, though I’m sure that many people will attempt to tell you that it is. It has a rather strong competitor in Dungeon Scroll, which was a finalist in the IGF all the way back in 2004. A rather good game with difficulty and proper dungeon-crawling to do – treasures to find and magic spells to cast from creating words in a spell book. At the moment, WordTrap Dungeon is a hollow mimicry of that with a first-person view. But that’s fine – they’re taking feedback and still working on the game to make it better. The feedback form was pretty limited, though, so I may as well just ramble on here…as usual.
While the idea is a pretty solid one, the execution lacks half of what is proposed – the dungeon-crawling side of things. Sure, you’re walking through a dungeon, but that’s about all of the relation to a “dungeon-crawling” RPG that there is. You can’t actually move around by yourself, so you end up just being escorted around a dull stone environment until you meet another enemy. There’s no treasures to find, nothing to explore – you may as well just have a screen where enemies show up and you fight them. Essentially, the dungeon crawling aspect is non-existent, and what is there just detracts from the whole thing as it only manages takes up your time, thus feeling pointless.
So onto the battles themselves. You can’t really go wrong here, though a little more variety in the words and making the enemies tougher, I think, would improve the game somewhat. On the top of the book at the bottom of the screen, you have 8 words to make words out of – when you make one, a spell appears in your right hand, which you can fire when you want. Upon defeating an enemy, they’ll either drop an extra letter for you, which has an effect like ice or poison, or some health. This variation is good, and there should be more of it. Otherwise, you’re stuck with 8 letters for the entirety of the level and without too much pressure during fights (it takes a while to do), the experience is entertaining, but only just, and certainly needs some more peril.
See if you can make a word out of these letters – you know, practice the game by attacking me: A L S O H S E