From time to time, an odd duck slips through, a game with a singular enough artistic vision that it actually overcomes the rough attitude roguelikes are usually associated with and delivers an experience that some might even call “enjoyable.” In this case, Legend of Dungeon is that game. It’s the creation of husband-and-wife indie developer RobotLovesKitty.
They live in a treehouse.
I had the chance to sit down with Alix, the Kitty half of RobotLovesKitty, at PAX Prime. She explained to me that in the beginning, Legend of Dungeon was conceived merely as a game she and her husband Calvin could play together. That really helped to focus their creative process and contributed towards deepening many aspects of the game.
“The four-player local-only co-op here is incredibly fun, exciting and tough”
RobotLovesKitty has a history of games being created as means to overcome personal challenges. Their first project was an MMO built entirely in Visual Basic, for some reason, for which they won an award for technical excellence. Another, the delightful Tiny Plumbers, was an exercise in making the smallest recognizable sprites possible.
Both games approach their respective genres in a totally new way, and so too does Legend of Dungeon.
Legend of Dungeon oozes pleasant gentleness, favoring player enjoyment over gruelling difficulty. It eases you into its more hardcore elements with more than the usual amount of care for your mental well-being that most games practice. The concept of the game is simple. It’s a four player beat-’em-up with roguelike features. So, randomly generated dungeons and collectible treasures and equipment.
You start off in a tavern, with a character who’s also randomly generated, and you’re tasked with making it down to the 26th floor, grabbing the treasure and making it back up. That is literally all you need to know to get through the game, but where it really shines is in exactly how it feels to play.
“there’s a great sense of humor, with a lot of fun to be found in the design and naming of the weapons, the magic and the equipment.”
The controls really have character in Legend of Dungeon. They provide a floatier, lighter-than-normal feel that’s unusual for beat-’em-up. The inventory and the levelling system feels so much deeper than most games of its kind, and it requires a lot more skill and practice, too. The beat-’em-up was invented to be played in bursts at an arcade between pizza slices and beer. Legend of Dungeon is an epic adventure. It’s a game you have get a feel for quickly, and then settle into for a few solid hours. It just feels nice to play.
It also looks fantastic. The aesthetic is a very well-developed modern-twee pixel art style, with the added bonus of dynamic shading and real-time shadows. It’s colorful. It’s focused. Legend of Dungeon feels like it was a pixel art game by choice, rather than necessity, and it looks very polished and very post-modern and self-aware, perfect for a mash-up of such old-fashioned types of gameplay.
There’s even a little bit of lore lying around for people who want to find it. Post-apocalyptic futuristic ruins, anyone? Beyond that, there’s a great sense of humor, with a lot of fun to be found in the design and naming of the weapons, the magic and the equipment. The visual aesthetic complements all of it perfectly.
Weirdly enough, the music is also randomized and dynamically generated from 244 different tracks that were all written in the same key. Every single combination of tracks I ever encountered sounded like a real song, and each one created a palpable sense of place and emotion. The sound effects are cool too, like they’re from an old arcade cabinet that never existed.
The point is, no part of this game was at any point ever taken for granted. Sure, it’s largely an old formula, but Legend of Dungeon feels like it’s innovating, not treading over old ground, the old becoming new again. The four-player local-only co-op here is incredibly fun, exciting and tough; never for a moment does anything feel old-fashioned or limited or unfair. It’s clean. It’s good. It achieves everything it sets out to do. Even setting up four controllers at once was the easiest I’ve ever found it to be.
Legend of Dungeon is asking you to do it a favor by forgetting how you usually play video games. It wants you to come back with it to a simpler time, grab a few friends and some controllers and sit around and try and “beat the game.”
Sure, it would be easier to just play online and talk to each other over Skype or something, but isn’t it kind of charming that you can’t? Legend of Dungeon is ten bucks over on Steam or on the official website. You’re going to want to check it out.