Version Reviewed: 1.3.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
If I used all of the fingers and toes of everyone who lives on my street, I wouldn’t be able to count the number of fantasy themed, RPG-style video games where heroes go questing to defeat monsters, acquire treasure, and save the world. However, the number of games that let you flip the script and play things from the side of the bad guys is much, much smaller. And seeing as I tend to have just as much fun (if not more) when playing the other side, games like Welcome to the Dungeon are a refreshing change-up. It's just a shame it's not executed better.
Tabletop gamers amongst our readership will find that Welcome to the Dungeon bears a fair resemblance to Brotherwise Games’ card game Boss Monster -a game in which players lay out a dungeon in the hopes of enticing a greater number of hapless adventurers to their doom than their opponents. But Welcome to the Dungeon’s catacombs are pre-built, and there are no other players to compete against. Instead, it’s the player’s job is to stock a linear progressions of dungeon rooms with monsters to defeat a randomized party of heroes - a seemingly endless stream of which are generated via a sort of slot machine.
Both monsters and heroes have elemental affiliations that interact on a rock/paper/scissors system: fire > leaf > water > fire. There are a couple of extra elements (light and dark) that fall outside the system, but the basics are simple enough for most anyone to wrap their head around. New monsters can be summoned using gold or gems, and existing monsters can be fused with others to level them up. And the whole mess is wrapped up in a gorgeous, retro-inspired pixel style calling to mind some of the best 16-bit era RPGs.
But oh, the grind! The endless, interminable grind!
This is where Welcome to the Dungeon falters. In order to move on to the next dungeon in an area, the overlord in charge (i.e. you) has to raise their threat level up by defeating more heroes. The problem is, each threat level increase requires more experience than the one before it and by the time players are near moving on, the game’s visual charm has begun to wear a bit thin due to the endless, endless repetition. It also doesn’t help that the pool of special abilities to draw from seems rather small, and the fights are automated so they don’t really vary much in strategy. On top of that, the game has an "Adventure" mode that spends its time semi-buried in the back menus, unheralded and unexplained. And should I even mention all the instances of text bubbles going off the screen?
Much like the popular kids in school, Welcome to the Dungeon’s constant charm and good looks do their best to buoy it through the rough patches. It really only semi-succeeds, though. It took hours and hours of idle grinding to make it to the beginning of the second of the world’s four areas, and while I understand stretching the experience out when the game is free, it lacks real hooks (except for maybe that Pokemon-like urge to collect all the monsters) to keep players coming back.