Developer: Substantial Inc.
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Sometimes creativity is more than just coming up with new ideas. Dungeon Highway‘s gameplay, atmosphere, and even its artwork are (legally) taken from other sources. However, the resulting combination feels more interesting and original than expected.

dh 2Dungeon Highway is basically a vertical shoot ‘em up like Xevious but played from the perspective of a behind the back endless runner like Sonic Dash. As a lone explorer forever runs forward into an infinite dungeon tunnel, the player’s job is to tilt him out of the way of obstacles and have him blast foes into bloody bits by tapping the screen. Adding to the retro shooter vibe is the steep challenge, especially on hardcore mode or in the daily challenge. It’s a game about testing twitch reflexes and gunning for the high score. There are also numerous power-ups to help make this task easier; like a growth potion that lets players sustain one more hit, a potion that slows down time for easier moving and shooting, and various weapons that change the size or shape of the player’s fire blast.

However, none of these runner or shooter ideas are particularly innovative. They just look kind of cool when seen from this different angle. The same applies to the game’s art style, which projects flat 2D sprites in a scrolling 3D environment. Seeing enemies fly towards the screen as giant pixelated planes is a really neat effect, but the medieval sprites themselves are taken right out of the MMO Realm of the Mad God. The artwork was purchased legally, but knowing its source does make the otherwise interesting visual aesthetic a little less impressive. Meanwhile, runs are segmented into distinct, randomly-generated levels – like a Roguelike, but the only graphical difference between “Dungeon Cave” and “Murky Waters” is the color of the floor pixels. There is one unqualified success in Dungeon Highway‘s presentation though and that is its upbeat and energized chiptune soundtrack.

dh 3Dungeon Highway presents a nifty new way of looking at a familiar framework. Unfortunately, it’s just a little too derivative to be anything more than pretty good.

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