I’m a big fan of developers being allowed creative license, but even I think that sometimes they go too far. Dungeons & Bombs is a prime example of the mind of a team running wild with ideas. Developed by PigeonDev and published by Sometimes You, this retro, arcade, puzzle title follows the basic concept of the genre well, but with a weird twist chucked in for good measure.
Using the influence from the Sokoban puzzle games, Dungeon & Bombs asks the hero to work his way around small maps, avoiding traps, placing bombs, and destroying crates. So far, nothing too unusual with that, right? Bear with me, though. The calm and prosperous kingdom becomes overrun with orcs, necromancers and other unworldly creatures. The beautiful Princess has been kidnapped, and only you can save her. Here is where it gets weird! As a knight you do not have a sword, so, armed with only your wit and bombs, you must enter each dungeon and save the bearded…..yes bearded Princess.
50 levels of weird timed action.
Oddly, you save the bearded lady once, but then she gets captured again. This happens across each of the 50 levels, so you’d think they’d have learned after it happened twice, but obviously not! Each of the stages has a movement counter, and every step reduces the figure, as does being hit by monsters or spikes. You must plan your route to your glamorous prize, but if you take too long, the world blows up, and all is lost. Sad times indeed.
Though the story is silly and absurd, the puzzles are well designed and require a fairly high amount of logic skill. As with all games in this genre, the difficulty increases on a gradual curve, and you regularly have to rethink your approach to a stage. PigeonDev clearly likes a bit of a challenge. They offer no hint or solution system at all, so if you find yourself stuck, you must either cheat (more on this later), get a solution, or give up playing.
It’s good until you find out you can cheat.
I’ve played enough games to realise that programming errors occur, and I’ve come to terms with this. What I can’t accept, however, is when issues impact the gameplay. Players can cheat from start to end if they wish. Puzzle games are supposed to be challenging, but a method seen on YouTube allows you to run from start to finish without solving a single stage. How this got through testing is beyond me! If I was to rate the game based on this, it would score at most a 2.
Obviously, cheating isn’t required, so let’s put that to one side. In the first 10 stages, you are shown all the game mechanics. These failed to evolve from the moment they were introduced until the title ends. The puzzles got more complicated, but the lack of new ideas and the continued use of the same stage layouts make it repetitive. It was as if the developers spent all their creative ideas on the wonderfully odd storyline.
This sense of Deja Vu continues with the old-school look and sound. If you’ve played enough indie titles, every part of this will feel familiar. A pixelated 2D fixed screen arena awaits you on each level, and dark, earthy tones make up most of the colour palette. Each of the sprites has a light resemblance to their description, and are pleasant to look at. However, you won’t be blown away by the presentation, and though it is perfectly serviceable, it offers nothing new.
“Bah dah dah dah daaa, Bah dah dah dah daaaaa!” Get used to that beat, that repeats over, and over, and over again. This bassy audio really suits the atmosphere of the game, and creates a sense of peril. Even though there is limited movement, the audio adds pressure to complete each stage quickly. The sound effects of; doors opening, players moving and bombs exploding suited the style of this game. The simplicity and repetitive sounds helped to emphasise the retro nature of this title.
Simple game, simple controls.
Move, drop bombs and move again. That’s it, that is all you do! The complexity does not lie in the control system, but the puzzles that you solve, and I liked that from PigeonDev. It was easy to pick up, and I was concentrating on the problems and not how to play it after stage 2.
When a game offers 50 levels for around £3, you think that’s pretty good value for money. If you don’t cheat your way to victory, it really is. The solutions aren’t easy to come by, and though the concept and the level design are repetitive, it’s an enjoyable if not odd casual experience. It lacks replay value as its achievement list is unlocked through natural progression. So, once you’ve finished this, I can’t see you wanting to return to play it again.
A game of 2 scores.
It’s rare for me to split my thoughts over two very different scores, but for Dungeons & Bombs there is little choice. If I was to ignore the glaring issues with the coding that allows players to cheat, then I give this one a 6 out of 10. The cheating is unforgivable, which results in a score of 2 out of 10. I’m going to guess that it will be patched out, because of this I will stick with my higher rating.
A tough puzzle game awaits anyone brave enough to take on this title with a very odd storyline. Plan your approach to each stage, blow up boxes, kill monsters and save the Princess. Do I recommend it? Even with its issues, yes. A copy can be purchased here! Enjoy it for what it is and don’t cheat your way to victory!