The first game out of the Steaming Pile is Dungetris. What is it? As the title suggests is tries to be a mix of Tetris and RPG dungeon crawlers. You’re walking around on a grid in roguelike1 fashion, and once you think it is time to expand the dungeon, you let a randomly generated room fall from the sky. These rooms have various shapes, obstacles, enemies etc. From the title you’d think that it was possible to rotate and control the blocks while they’re falling, but you cant. You’ll battle enemies by clicking on them, or by using spells which you’ll find in the form of one shot playing cards.
The game is mission based; you start on a world map and choose a dungeon in which you have a specific task (kill 10 monsters or similar). The world map reminds me of Super Mario Bros 3. On the world map there’s also shops, a smithy etc where you can upgrade your character. There are usually several different dungeons to choose from, in case you’re fed up with one of the missions.
What did I think? Well I played Dungetris for 81 minutes, according to Steam. That’s not very long, but should be long enough to give an opinion. My first pass I played for about 30 minutes, and found it pretty uninspiring. It just wasn’t that fun placing the rooms, and that’s the game’s unique selling point. I decided to play for at least an hour, so I booted it up again and played some more. Now there were more interesting room shapes, so I had to consider where to put the rooms. I’m not quite sure if I enjoyed this or not, its sort of a weird mix of spatial puzzling and RPG tactics2 and even though its a perfectly playable game I think the mindset of those two aren’t quite the same.
The game has a problem with pacing; it should really be quicker to play. If you hurry when placing blocks you might find yourself in a dead end, but after a while you realize that you do not have to be that careful, okayish is enough. If you’re not careful the enemies will beat you down, but its easy to avoid them. The problem is that there’s somewhat of a grind placing blocks, in order to find the right pickups, in order to defat the enemies, so to me it seems like the challenge really is if you’re patient enough or if you just dive in headlong and risk dying.
I chose Dungetris as the first Steaming Pile game because of its experimental concept. I like that they tried something new, and there’s definitely a game and I wouldn’t say its a bad one, but perhaps not a good one either. I think it would have gained from being more frantic, like Tetris, or more tactical (or even action filled) like other dungeon crawlers.
Some would probably say its a roguelike, or a roguelite, but I think that may be because the buzzword status of roguelike. Dungetris has procedural generated content, in the form of the building blocks of the dungeon, but no permadeath, random items, etc.
Not quite sure if tactics is the right word, it might be to strong. Sure there’s tactical elements but pretty basic ones.